Film taken before Amelia Earhart's last flight surfaces

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Film Shows Amelia Earhart Before Last Flight


LOS ANGELES (AP) — It was a clear spring day in 1937 when Amelia Earhart, ready to make history by flying around the world, brought her personal photographer to a small Southern California airport to document the journey's beginning.

Al Bresnik took dozens of still photos, including a few that have likely been seen by millions. His brother John, who tagged along, made a very dark, grainy 3.5-minute home movie almost nobody saw — until now.

The film, "Amelia Earhart's Last Photo Shoot," is being released this month by The Paragon Agency publishing house, along with an 80-page book of the same name that documents a journey that ended tragically short of the finish line when Earhart's plane vanished somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

A downloadable copy of the film is being provided to those who buy the book. Paragon publisher Doug Westfall said he eventually plans to donate the fragile original given to him by John Bresnik's son to an archive or museum.

The film, taken with a 16-millimeter camera, sat on a shelf in his father's office for more than 50 years until his death in 1992, said Bresnik's son, also named John. After that, it sat in the younger man's home in Escondido, California, for about 20 more years.

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Amelia Earhart's life and career
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Film taken before Amelia Earhart's last flight surfaces
In this May 20, 1937 photo, provided by The Paragon Agency, shows aviator Amelia Earhart on the wing of her Electra plane, taken by Albert Bresnik at Burbank Airport in Burbank, Calif. It was a clear spring day in 1937 when Amelia Earhart, ready to make history by flying around the world, brought her personal photographer to a small Southern California airport to document the journey's beginning. (Albert Bresnik/The Paragon Agency via AP)
In this May 20, 1937 photo, provided by The Paragon Agency,shows aviator Amelia Earhart and her Electra plane, taken by Albert Bresnik at Burbank Airport in Burbank, Calif. It was a clear spring day in 1937 whenAmelia Earhart, ready to make history by flying around the world, brought her personal photographer to a small Southern California airport to document the journey's beginning. (Albert Bresnik/The Paragon Agency via AP)
In this May 20, 1937 photo, provided by The Paragon Agency, shows aviator Amelia Earhart with her Electra plane's propeller, taken by Albert Bresnik at Burbank Airport in Burbank, Calif. It was a clear spring day in 1937 when Amelia Earhart, ready to make history by flying around the world, brought her personal photographer to a small Southern California airport to document the journey's beginning. (Albert Bresnik/The Paragon Agency via AP)
In this May 20, 1937 photo, provided by The Paragon Agency, shows plane navigator, Fred Noonan, with his wife of 55 days, Bea, posing for photographer Albert Bresnik, next to aviator Amelia Earhart's plane at Burbank Airport in Burbank, Calif. It was a clear spring day in 1937 when Amelia Earhart, ready to make history by flying around the world, brought her personal photographer to a small Southern California airport to document the journey's beginning. (Albert Bresnik/The Paragon Agency via AP)
In this May 20, 1937 photo, provided by The Paragon Agency, shows aviator Amelia Earhart at her Electra plane cabin, taken by Albert Bresnik at Burbank Airport in Burbank, Calif. It was a clear spring day in 1937 when Amelia Earhart, ready to make history by flying around the world, brought her personal photographer to a small Southern California airport to document the journey's beginning. (Albert Bresnik/The Paragon Agency via AP)
American aviator Amelia Earhart smiles May 22, 1932 upon arriving in London, England having become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic alone. Carlene Mendieta, who is trying to recreate Earhart's 1928 record as the first woman to fly across the US and back again, left Rye, NY on September 5, 2001. Earhart (1898 - 1937) disappeared without trace over the Pacific Ocean in her attempt to fly around the world in 1937. (Photo by Getty Images)
Noted Aviatrix Amelia Earhart, is shown standing beside the red and gold monoplane which she brought down to become the first women to ever complete a solo flight across the Atlantic, May 21, 1932, Londonderry, Ireland. (AP Photo)
Aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan pose with map of the Pacific showing the route of their last flight, in Los Angeles, May 1937. (AP Photo)
American aviatrix Amelia Earhart waves from the Electra before taking off from Los Angeles, Ca., on March 10, 1937. Earhart is flying to Oakland, Ca., where she and her crew will begin their round-the-world flight to Howland Island on March 18. (AP Photo)
This is an undated photo of aviator Amelia Earhart. (AP Photo)
FILE - An undated file photo shows American aviatrix Amelia Earhart. A $2.2 million expedition is hoping to finally solve one of America's most enduring mysteries. What happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart when she went missing over the South Pacific 75 years ago? (AP Photo, File)
American aviatrix Amelia Earhart poses with flowers as she arrives in Southampton, England, after her transatlantic flight on the "Friendship" from Burry Point, Wales, on June 26, 1928. The tri-motor "Friendship" was piloted by two men as Earhart served as the commander, making her the first woman passenger to fly across the Atlantic. (AP Photo)
Amelia Earhart is shown climbing out of the cockpit after piloting her plane from Los Angeles to Oakland, Ca., on March 10, 1937. Earhart and her crew will begin their around-the-world journey from Oakland to Howland Island on March 18. (AP Photo)
This is an undated photo of Amelia Earhart with husband George Putnam. (AP Photo)
Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega surrounded by crowd after she became the first woman to fly solo from Hawaii to California in 1935. Courtesy Air and Space Museum. (AP Photo)
Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, is seen in this undated photo. (AP Photo)
This is an undated photo of Amelia Earhart. (AP Photo)
Amelia Earhart, 40, stands next to a Lockheed Electra 10E, before her last flight in 1937 from Oakland, Calif., bound for Honolulu on the first leg of her record-setting attempt to circumnavigate the world westward along the Equator. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this undated photo, Amelia Earhart, the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by plane sits on top of a plane. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is wading into one of the 20th century?s most enduring mysteries: the fate of American aviator Amelia Earhart, disappeared over the South Pacific 75 years ago. Clinton is meeting March 20, 2012, with historians and scientists from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which will launch a new search in June for the wreckage of Earhart?s plane off the remote island of Nikumaroro. (AP Photo)
Amelia Earhart, the American airwoman who is flying round the world for fun, arrived at Port Natal, Brazil on June 6, and took off on her 2,240-mile flight across the South Atlantic to Dakar, Africa. Happy picture of Amelia Earhart just before she left Port Natal, for Dakar, on June 6, 1937. (AP Photo)
FILE-- In a 1937 file photo aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, pose in front of their twin-engine Lockheed Electra in Los Angeles prior to their historic flight in which Earhart was attempting to become first female pilot to circle the globe. A $2.2 million expedition is hoping to finally solve one of America's most enduring mysteries. What happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart when she went missing over the South Pacific 75 years ago? (AP Photo, File)
Amelia Earhart, noted flier, awaiting a call to the stand as an expert witness in an airplane accident case in which Paul Mantz, her technical adviser (shown with her), is involved in Los Angeles on May 16, 1937. (AP Photo)
The patch is shown on the plane under this yellow arrow. (TIGHAR)
This patch, found on a remote Pacific Island by researchers with The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, is believed to have come from Earhart's plane Electra. (TIGHAR)
The shredded patch being held up against a reproduction of where on the plane it would have fit. (TIGHAR)
The patch covered the special window denoted at the back of the plane. (TIGHAR)
(Image courtesy of: Miami Herald)
Vietnamese Air Force Col. Pham Minh Tuan uses binoculars on board a flying aircraft during a mission to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand, Thursday, March 13, 2014. With no distress call, no sign of wreckage and very few answers, the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane is turning into one of the biggest aviation mysteries since Amelia Earhart vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. (AP Photo)
A cabin crew of the Vietnam Air Force is seen onboard a flying AN-26 Soviet made aircraft during a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 plane over the southern sea between Vietnam and Malaysia Friday, March 14, 2014. Vietnam says it has downgraded but not stopped its search for the missing jetliner in the South China Sea and has been asked by Malaysian authorities to consider sending planes and ships to the Strait of Malacca. (AP Photo/Na Son Nguyen)
A Vietnamese air force pilot touches the controls of a transport plane on Sunday March 9, 2014 during the search and rescue operations for the Malaysian airliner vanished early Saturday on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Military radar indicates that the missing Boeing 777 jet may have turned back, Malaysia's air force chief said Sunday as scores of ships and aircraft from across Asia resumed a hunt for the plane and its 239 passengers. (AP Photo)
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"I didn't even know what was on the film until my dad died and I took it home and watched it," Bresnik said recently. "It just always sat it in a plain box on a shelf in his office, and on the outside it said, 'Amelia Earhart, Burbank Airport, 1937.'"

He can't say with certainty that his father took the film, although he knows his uncle didn't because he's in it.

So is Earhart, looking jaunty and more playful than the public persona she sometimes projected. Dressed in a smart pantsuit rather than her standard flight jacket, she shows people around the plane, clambers on top to pose for still photos and occasionally grins broadly, something she rarely did in her official photos.

"It shows a more feminine side of her," says Nicole Swinford, who wrote the accompanying book.

Like all things Earhart, it comes with controversy.

Richard Gillespie, executive director of the International Group For Historic Aircraft Recovery, said the film is obviously authentic, but he believes it was taken in March 1937 and not in May, as Swinford concludes.

It was in March that Earhart made her first attempt to become the first woman to circle Earth when she left from California. She only got as far as Hawaii, where she crashed her twin-engine Electra L-10E on takeoff and had to have it shipped home for repairs.

"You can tell from the way the airplane's configured," said Gillespie who has studied Earhart for nearly 30 years. "The airplane as shown in the film is very clearly the pre-repaired airplane."

Whatever the date of the photo shoot, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, left what's now known as Bob Hope Airport in Burbank on May 21, 1937, for a second try, this time heading east. Gillespie doubts there was a photo shoot before that flight because she left quietly that time.

Earhart and Noonan were about two-thirds through their journey when they left New Guinea on July 2 for Howland Island, a tiny speck of land in the Pacific, midway between Australia and Hawaii. In one of her last radio transmissions, the pilot said she thought they were near but couldn't see the island and were low on fuel.

The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, Earhart was one of the most recognizable celebrities of her time, and Westfall acknowledged that plenty of people may have taken her photo during stops on that trip.

But this appears to be the final film heralding her departure from California on the first leg of what would be her final flight.

"Then she left us forever," Westfall said.

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This story has been corrected to show that the spelling of the Pacific island Earhart was heading to is Howland Island, not Howell Island.

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