16 December 2009

A Terrific Time at Niles


AviatorsinEarlyHollywoodThe Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum was the site of another awesome event (see Facebook for all the photos), and joining us for all the fun was Shawna Kelly.  Shawna is the granddaughter of B.H. "Daredevil" Delay, who was one of the pioneer aerial stuntmen.  Delay is credited with being the first stuntman to, get this, transition from the saddle of a horse to the front seat of a biplane in flight.  He later did an update going from an automobile seat to an airplane cockpit.   Anyway, Shawna is a pilot herself and the author of Aviators in Early Hollywood, a neat picture book from Arcadia Press that is chock full of photos of stunt pilots and their exploits, and yes Pancho is in there!  You might want to consider it for your holiday shopping list, as it's a whole heck of a lot of fun and the photos are simply gorgeous.  (Incidentally, Arcadia is the publisher of Michael Patris' book about the Mt. Lowe Railway -- another stocking stuffer for you). 

Niles2Before the screening, Museum Director Dorothy Bradley and Michael Bonham provided a tour of the Niles Essanay Museum.  It's located in an historic district near where Charlie Chaplin shot "The Kid", inside a storefront that once housed a Nickelodeon.

Michael introduced me at the event, and I in turn introduced both Pancho and Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels.  It was nice to have an excuse to talk a bit about Pancho's career in the movie business.  She began before she was 20, working as an animal trainer on the silent Rin Tin Tin feature Lighthouse by the Sea.  It was only natural that once she developed a passion for aviation, she'd find a way to combine movie-making with airplanes.  Even after her flying days were over, Pancho remained connected to Hollywood.  In the short time it operated, half a dozens movies were shot at or around her Rancho Oro Verde, including Westward the Women, Johnny Stoolpigeon and the TV show Cowboy Slim.

Photo (above): Nick Spark (l) poses with Shawna Kelly and a bunch of 99's women pilots who came out for the screening.  Michael Bonham is visible second from the left, in the rear.