Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Come Fly Away With JK! Pt. II

"A Pilot, On Stage and Off" continues:

JK waits as technicians check the light (that's co-star
Lauren Bacall in the foreground)

"As a mechanical malfunction in the sound recording system shut down filming temporarily, Kelly explained, 'The first flight I ever made was as an enlisted weather forecaster for the USAAF toward the end of World War II. We were to go from Great Falls, MT, to Anchorage, AK, as passengers in a C-46. Some of my buddies were also making their first flight and were admittedly scared. But when you've done professional acting, there's always the challenge of making the part believable. So, I lied like a trooper and told my fellow passengers that I'd been flying for 15 years and that there was nothing to worry about.'

"'Actually, I'm afraid of heights--close to the ground--and a 10-foot diving board gives me the shakes. However, I never have a bit of trouble in the air.'

"For an amateur light plane pilot, actor Kelly has had more than his share of misadventures as a passenger.

"'I was riding in a C-47 one day on a landing at Cold Bay--that's out on the Aleutian Chain--when the pilot ground-looped because of extreme surface winds. We finally slid to a stop off the runway in about six feet of icy water. However, we could walk ashore by climbing up the wing before the cabin filled with water.'

"The actor's military background for flying included riding and occasionally piloting C-47s on 'buzz-jobs' of Alaskan moose. 'In looking back, I guess the experience was a blessing in disguise, since we lived through it,' Kelly said. 'It called for a type of precision flying that you don't especially need in the traffic pattern at Burbank.'

"Kelly completed his military service as a non-commissioned officer in charge of the weather station at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. 'I can still read a synoptic chart,' he said, 'and I've found the early training I had in weather has been a great help since I've had a chance to begin to learn to fly.'

"While Kelly is probably best known for working with one-horse-power films (he played the part of 'Bart' in the Maverick series on TV for several years), he has had the opportunity to portray a pilot or co-pilot in productions other than 'Double Jeopardy'. During the filming of FBI Code 98 for theater release, there was a North American 'Sabreliner' used for a 'set-dressing' and two Hughes 269A helicopters used on location. Kelly was able to fast-talk long enough and fast enough to get a Hughes pilot to give him 11 hours of dual [instruction] and he then spent 45 minutes solo in the helicopter.

"During the filming of Julie nine years ago, Kelly portrayed an airline [co-pilot] and was able to spend several hours in the United DC-6 simulator at Oakland. 'If you are going through the motions of operating a transport, you want to know which levers work the throttles and which work the props.'

[Bartista here: JK also appeared in the aviation-related feature film The Wild Blue Yonder in 1951.]

"It wasn't until the Maverick series came along that Kelly was able to stay in one place long enough to learn how to fly. He went to several instructor before B. G. O'Hara, a Flying Tiger Lines captain who worked with the Sky Roamers between the Pacific flights, took over and helped the actor smooth out his pre-solo problems.

"'Good instruction is important in everything you try to do, whether it's golf, swimming, flying or what', said Kelly. 'That ability to teach the right psychological approach makes all the difference in the world between just an airplane driver and a good instructor.'

"'After I'd shot just one landing with O'Hara, he pointed out that I was coming in with my left wing a little low because I was handling the wheel of the Cessna 150 by the hub instead of the outside. After a few minutes of practice, my landings improved 100%.'

"Jack Kelly looks upon flying as something active. 'My idea of flying isn't just to go out on a long cross-country trip where you climb to an altitude, turn on the autopilot and turn off your mind. I love to navigate by dead reckoning and, actually, I'm looking forward to the day when the omni goes out.'

"Kelly's other avocations are golf and fishing. 'Someday I hope to produce a 'home movie' on the fishing grounds of the Southwest because it's going to be a long time before they're fished out. I hope to take aerial footage of each of the locations and then follow up with scenes of actual fishing from the surface.'

"While he's an enthusiastic angler, Kelly admits that there's one species of fish that he honestly doesn't like to catch: the multicolored dolphin* that are found in great numbers in waters off both sides of the peninsula of Baja California. Dolphins are brilliantly-hued fish while in the water but lose much of their color once they're landed.

""I really hate to catch a dolphin,' he said quietly. 'When it's possible, I'll unhook them and put them back in the water.'

[*Bartista again: I think JK is actually referring to "dolphin fish", also known as "mahi mahi" or "dorado". They are fish and not dolphins like Flipper, which are mammals. A notable attribute of dolphinfish is their multi-hued iridescent coloring which fades when they're removed from the water.]

STAY TUNED FOR PART III and learn the main reason JK liked to fly.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Come Fly Away With JK! - Pt I :)


I hope everyone's recovered from the party. :)

Now, fasten your seatbelts...because we're going flying with Jack Kelly!

An amazing article about JK finally landed (pun intended) in the Kellection the other day after I'd diligently searched for it for several years. When you read it, you'll agree it was worth the wait!

Published in an aviation magazine, this profile from the mid-1960s offers a fascinating look at JK's interest in flying. It also reveals information about his military service and about some of his appearances as an actor which involved aviation. Above all, it provides a different perspective on JK than the usual "fan" magazine story. It proves once again that he was far more than just a handsome face.

As an introduction, let's watch this clip from "Double Jeopardy", a 1965 episode of Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater in which JK starred as detective Fred Piper. The article explains how the flight scenes in this clip were filmed:

And, away we go:

"A Pilot, On Stage And Off
Written and photographed by

 Don Downie (c) The AOPA Pilot

Actor Jack Kelly enjoys flying as an avocation,

but he'd also like to be more closely involved with aviation in his television and screen activities.

"While filming a special television show for Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater, actor Jack Kelly shares the cockpit of a Piper Aztec with Fullerton, CA,  pilot J. Tom Brody." (Photo by Don Downie)
"It was quiet on the soundstage at Universal Studios near Hollywood, CA. In front of the cameras was a meticulous 'mock-up' of a new Aztec C. Actually, the motion picture prop was a production Piper fuselage from nose to baggage compartment, opened up like a sliced orange for proper camera angles.

"In the pilot's seat was Zsa Zsa Gabor, but her co-pilot knew a great deal more about flying than the Hungarian glamour girl. Flying right seat for Zsa Zsa was actor Jack (John A.) Kelly (AOPA 133779) who starred in the Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater TV film titled 'Double Jeopardy'. In addition to Kelly and Miss Gabor, the film included Lauren Bacall and Tom Poston.

"It would have been much more practical from a flying standpoint to have the roles in the cockpit reversed. Actor Kelly is an eager and active member of the Sky Roamers Flying Club of Burbank, CA, and an expert meteorologist.

"While he's working in Hollywood, Jack Kelly finds the Sky Roamers an ideal flying club for his purposes. 'There's everything a new pilot needs, including a Link trainer and lots of instruction,' he explained between takes of 'Double Jeopardy'.

"In this particular scene, which took 12 retakes, Kelly had to have a makeup artist remove Miss Gabor's lipstick each time. But Kelly is a professional actor who can switch quickly from camera capers to hangar flying.

"'I use the Sky Roamers' Cessna 172's and 175's to go golfing at Palm Springs or Borrego Springs, but I like to fly pretty high through Banning Pass,' he said.

"The basic idea for the script and lead character for 'Double Jeopardy' was Jack Kelly's.

"'I feel if we can keep private flying in the foreground of entertainment, we can influence more people to try it themselves,' he explained. 'At first, we kicked around the idea of having the lead character have the capability to fly himself. However, there seemed to be better plot opportunities to have him as an interested passenger involved with a great deal of flying and, of course, a great number of most attractive gals.'

"Even with his relatively brief experience in flying, Kelly doubled in brass as technical director on the set.

"'But what am I supposed to do, darlink,' asked Zsa Zsa, 'when I'm supposed to be piloting zis machine?' (Her on-camera accent is for real.)

"Kelly explained what the control movements would be to correspond with the rear projection color background that showed a landing at the Monterey, CA, Airport."

STAY TUNED FOR PART II and learn about JK's adventures (and misadventures) with military airplanes and some of his high-flying film roles!