Saturday, September 14, 2019

Upcoming screenings, plus close encounters with the maker of Play-Doh & Mr. Potato Head

A still photo of Bronson Potter's railroad trestle fly-over in 1979. On Friday, Sept. 20, see newly rediscovered home movie footage (silent, but with music by me) at the Aviation Museum of N.H.

This Friday (Sept. 20) brings an unusual program at the Aviation Museum of N.H., then a spate of weekend screenings in three different states.

At the museum, we're doing a 'Movie Night' program that includes recently rediscovered home movie footage of a local pilot's daring stunt flight under a railroad trestle.

It's silent, but live music will be provided by the museum's executive director, who happens to be me!

We're rounding out the aviation-themed program with 'Flying Luck,' a rarely screened 1927 comedy starring Monty Banks as a wanna-be pilot inspired by Charles Lindbergh.

Although Monty isn't counted among the silent era's great comics, I think he's underrated, and 'Flying Luck' holds up pretty well. Come see for yourself!

Details below. But first, a few words about last night's planned outdoor screening of 'Steamboat Bill Jr.' in Pawtucket, R.I.

Planned an outdoor event, it had to be moved inside at the last minute over concerns about the EEE virus.

The new venue, Lyman B. Goffe Middle School, turned out to be in an interesting location: right across the street from the world headquarters of Hasbro, the iconic toy and game maker.

Yes! Our screening was next to hallowed ground: the maker of Play-Doh, Mr. Potato Head, My Little Pony, and hundreds of other branded lines of playthings.

It's only the largest toy company on earth, as measured by sales volume, which in recent years has averaged about $5 billion annually.

I didn't notice this at first, because the HQ is in a renovated factory building with no obvious exterior signage at its front entrance on Newport Ave. I thought I was passing a plumbing supply warehouse, or something like that.

But later, when I was pulling out, night had fallen, and you could see the inside through the big glass windows: brightly colored displays announcing to visitors the company's mission and promoting its product lines.

Wow! It was like passing by Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. (Although I'm sure nothing Hasbro markets is actually made at HQ.) But rather than use Oompah-Loompahs, the company employs 1,600 people in the area, making it one of Rhode Island's largest employers.

Found online: it wasn't visible to me, but Hasbro does have a Mr. Potato Head statue outside its world headquarters in Pawtucket, R.I.

Looking online, turns out that there's a big question as to where Hasbro will move the corporate offices out of the area, where it was founded in 1923 by three Polish brothers named Hassenfeld. (Hence the name.)

Check out this news story for a slightly outdated look at the potential move.

Here's a more recent story about Worcester, Mass. being a potential new home for Hasbro.

Should Hasbro stay or should they go? I couldn't find anything more recent, but they were definitely still there when I drove by last night.

Okay, here's the press release about 'Movie Night' on Friday, Sept. 20 at the Aviation Museum of N.H. Hope to see you there! And after that, it's screenings in Vermont, Massachusetts, and then New Hampshire again, but more specifics on these later.

* * *

Original poster art for 'Flying Luck' (1927) starring Monty Banks.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Rediscovered film of N.H pilot's stunt flight under trestle to be screened at Aviation Museum

Live music to accompany footage; Movie Night program on Friday, Sept. 20 includes 'Flying Luck,' vintage aviation comedy

LONDONDERRY, N.H. — It was a highlight of the summer of 1979: an aerial stunt that attracted crowds from throughout the region.

It was a local pilot's daring flight under an enormous railroad trestle that once spanned Route 31 and the Souhegan River in Greenville.

Now, 40 years later, local residents can relive local inventor/pilot Bronson Potter's legendary aerial feat via recently rediscovered movie footage.

The long unseen 8mm home movie film, taken by Dave Morrison of Mason, N.H., will be screened on Friday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Aviation Museum of N.H., 27 Navigator Road, Londonderry, N.H.

The Aviation Museum's 'Movie Night' program will also include a rare screening of 'Flying Luck,' a silent aviation comedy starring Monty Banks and Jean Arthur.

Live music for both films will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, the museum's director and also a musician who specializes in silent film accompaniment.

Admission to the screening, a fund-raiser for the museum's student plane-building partnership, is $20 for the general public; $10 for members.

Local pilot Bronson Potter in mid-fly-under.

Morrison's long-lost home movie footage received its "world re-premiere" last month at a packed house at Mason Elementary School.

The show led to requests to run the Bronson Potter film again, this time at the Aviation Museum.

"Because of demand, we're making it a highlight of our 'Movie Night' on Friday, Sept. 20, which will give more people a chance to experience the film with a large audience and live music," Rapsis said.

In the annals of N.H. aviation, Bronson Potter's fly-under stunt is an intriguing chapter, in part because no one is entirely sure why he did it.

"We've been trying to get the real story from local residents who knew Potter and were there," Rapsis said. "Some say it was done on a bet. Others say it was a tribute to his flight instructor, who had recently died."

Over time, the fly-under became subject to varying interpretations, somewhat like a piece of performance art, Rapsis said.

The trestle was taken down in 1984, and Potter died in 2004. But the legend of his stunt has endured.

The movie footage of Potter's flight was unearthed earlier this year by Mason resident Dave Morrison, who found the film in storage when the Aviation Museum was planning to celebrate the stunt's 40th anniversary.

"We had no idea anyone had filmed it," Rapsis said. "But when Dave's spectacular movie footage came to light, it quickly became the centerpiece of our program."

The film's first screening last month attracted the notice of WMUR-TV Channel 9's 'New Hampshire Chronicle,' which is scheduled to air a segment on Bronson Potter on Monday, Sept. 16.

"The Aviation Museum's screening will give people a chance to experience the film at its best—with an audience and with live music," Rapsis said.

At the museum's Movie Night, the Bronson Potter "Fly-Under" film will be preceded by a screening of 'Flying Luck,' a vintage aviation comedy from 1927.

A lobby card for 'Flying Luck' (1927), an aviation comedy starring Monty Banks.

In 'Flying Luck,' hapless aviator Monty Banks, inspired by Charles Lindbergh's solo flight over the Atlantic, joins the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Once enrolled, it's one aerial disaster after another in a movie filled with biplanes, stunts, and the flavor of aviation's early days.

The program is family friendly and all are welcome. Popcorn and drinks will be sold, with all proceeds to support the Museum's plane-building partnership with the Manchester School of Technology.

Guided by Aviation Museum volunteers, MST students are building a two-seat RV-12iS light sport aircraft during the 2019-20 school year.

The innovative program gives students a chance to apply math and science knowledge in the workshop with a unique hands-on experience.

For more information about 'Movie Night' and the student plane-build partnership, call the Aviation Museum at (603) 669-4820 or visit the museum's Web site at

The Aviation Museum of N.H. is located at 27 Navigator Road, Londonderry, N.H. The museum is open Fridays & Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m.

The Aviation Museum is a non-profit 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization dedicated to celebrating New Hampshire's role in aviation history and inspiring the young aerospace pioneers and innovators of tomorrow.

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