Friday, February 5, 2010
One of the first major unmanned drone planes was the Radioplane, invented by Hollywood actor and remote-control toy plane hobbyist Reginald Denny.
Denny was well known for screen appearances in the 1922 production of Sherlock Holmes, George Cukor's Romeo and Juliet, Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca, and the Cecil B. DeMille musical Madam Satan (a film noted for, among other things, an amazing zeppelin sequence, as seen below). But he soon found himself wearing the hat of a major military contractor when the idea of his Radioplane took off - literally - during World War II.
15,000 Radioplane drones were manufactured by Denny's company for the Allied Forces during World War II, and there was an young woman working at the Van Nuys Radioplane factory named Norma Jeane Mortenson (pictured above). In 1944, Army photographer David Conover took her picture in the assembly plant for Yank magazine, and told her she had star potential as a model.
He was right. After a bleach job, a makeover and a name change, Mortenson went on to worldwide fame as Marilyn Monroe.