Earhart of the Matter

Amelia Earhart (1897--1937), the aviatrix who broke records and hearts, had  an aerodynamic "shingle" bob and a streamlined figure. She was built for the speed, altitude and endurance records she set. Given her celebrity during her lifetime and her influence on the pilots, male and female, who flew in her slipstream, it's curious that her first fullscale big-screen biography is Mira Nair's barnstormer  Amelia (opening October 23), starring a weedy Hilary Swank. (Pictured, right, next to the real-life Earhart.) Maybe this is Earhart 's renaissance year, as she also figured (played by Amy Adams) in A Night at the Museum 2: The Battle for the Smithsonian earlier in 2009.

Though Earhart was the subject of two movies-of-the-week, Amelia Earhart (1976) with Susan Clark and Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight (1994) with Diane Keaton, her life was more often the stuff of fictionalized accounts of modern adventuresses. Most famous was Dorothy Arzner's Christopher Strong (1933) with Katharine Hepburn as Lady Cynthia, a dashing aviatrix who gets involved with a married member of Parliament and contrives a unique way to put an end to the affair. (Memorably, Hepburn dons a sleek silvery jumpsuit that makes her resemble a moth drawn to the flame of love.) There was also Women in the Wind (1939) with Kay Francis as the flier trying to earn prize money to pay for her brother's surgery. After Earhart's demise, Rosalind Russell played an Amelia-inspired pilot lost in the South Pacific while doing covert intelligence work for the U.S. Navy.

I'm guessing that this year's Earhart revival has less to do with the aviatrix than it does with filmmakers -- such as Anne Fontaine who directed Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel and Nora Ephron who helmed Meryl Streep in the Julia Child film Julie & Julia -- interested in 20th-century heroines who trailblazed new careers for women. Your thoughts?