Amelia Earhart and her twin-engine Lockheed Electra disappeared on July 2, 1937. Now, nearly 80 years later, Discovery News reports that the plane has been rediscovered—in a 1936 film cameo.
The MGM romantic comedy Love on the Run, starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, features spies, a runaway bride, and an undercover reporter. The film also contains a scene in which Gable and Crawford don flying suit disguises and make a great escape in an airplane, to much comedic effect. The actual flying stunts were performed by pilot Paul Mantz, who was Earhart’s technical advisor. It’s the flyer's only appearance in the movie; in other shots, a scale model was used.
The scene was shot eight months before the plane’s final flight over the Pacific Ocean. Not long after its stint in Hollywood, the Lockheed Electra was delivered to Earhart for her 39th birthday. It’s unknown whether she was aware of its role in the movie.
The cameo was recently uncovered by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a group dedicated to investigating Earhart’s disappearance.
In the clip of the scene below, you can see the registration number R1602 on the right wing of the aircraft at around the 1:08 minute mark. The quick appearance is how the plane was spotted and identified.
While this discovery is an exciting one for Earhart biographers and researchers, the hunt for the actual plane is still underway to this day. Next summer, a new expedition called Niku IX will send two submersibles to comb a one-mile-long stretch off the coast of an island called Nikumaroro.
Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, told Discovery News: "An abundance of archival, photographic and artifact evidence suggests that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan made a successful landing on the island's fringing reef.”
Gillespie believes the pair died on the uninhabited, waterless atoll and that the plane was washed out to sea. The teams—with the help of technology like high definition cameras, mechanical arms, and lights—will search for plane fragments in the area as deep as 6500 feet. Niku IX will be the group’s 12th search around Nikumaroro.