Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Miami Love Triangle Alights in Australia

In 1928, Captain Bill Lancaster and his female financier, Chubbie Miller, landed Down Under. Due to some mechanical problems along the way, they had lost out to another aviator in their quest to become the first to fly from England to Australia. However, their personal relationship endured. The co-pilots, both married at the time to others, became an item and wound up, four years later, at the center of a sensational Miami murder trial.

On Thursday, June 11th, a documentary about all this, The Lost Aviator, makes its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival (with an encore screening June 12th). An Australian miniseries was made about this story in 1990, and that is in fact part of what inspired the film's director Andrew Lancaster.

The 1932 murder trial was front-page news in The Miami Herald. When Lancaster's movie screened in March at the Miami International Film Festival, the paper naturally revisited the subject matter:

"I’ve heard stories about my great-uncle all my life," said Lancaster, whose grandfather Jack was Bill’s brother. "We definitely talked about it in the family, but it was along the lines that he wasn’t guilty. He was more of a hero who didn’t get his hero’s due.”
Intrigued, Lancaster and producer Nonie Couell spent two weeks in 2012 in Miami, interviewing and researching the trial that nearly ended his great-uncle’s career. For years, he had thought that the dashing aviator had, quite literally, gotten away with murder.
"But doing the documentary, I realized it was a little more complicated than that," he added. "The story told in the courtroom wasn’t the real story."

When Lancaster's great-uncle crashed in the Algerian desert in 1935 and waited, hoping to be rescued, he wrote many letters to Miller. At no point in those artifacts does he mention Haden Clarke, the ghostwriter Chubbie hired to write her biography, became involved with romantically and whose murder Lancaster was charged with.

[The Lost Aviator]

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