‘Pan Am’ re­vis­its air travel’s golden age


Fas­ten your seat belt for a flight back to the 1960s.

By def­i­ni­tion, a se­ries ti­tled “Pan Am” would have to be set in an ear­lier era, since the ti­tle air­line went out of busi­ness in 1991 af­ter 64 years of op­er­a­tion. How­ever, it’s now back in busi­ness for ABC: With an em­pha­sis on es­capism, a drama about the per­son­nel and pas­sen­gers of Pan Amer­i­can World Air­ways pre­mieres Sun­day, Sept. 25.

“What re­ally locked in for me when we were de­vel­op­ing the project,” says se­ries cre­ator and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Jack Or­man (“ER”), “was this con­cept of the Jet Age. The idea that you could get to go on an air­plane was part of the whole trip; it wasn’t some­thing you wanted to ‘get through.’ It al­most feels like sci­ence fic­tion now. You went through no se­cu­rity, there was a lounge, they were hav­ing mar­ti­nis. It was a lot of fun, and it was real.”

Christina Ricci, Margot Rob­bie, Kelli Gar­ner and Karine Vanasse play stew­ardesses, with Mike Vo­gel and Michael Mosley among the pi­lots. Known for of­ten-edgy roles in such movies as “Mon­ster” and “Black Snake Moan,” Ricci em­braces the idea of play­ing an air host­ess with­out her char­ac­ter, Mag­gie, be­ing any sort of stereo­type.

“There is sort of this mis­con­cep­tion,” she re­flects, “be­cause in re­al­ity, the job al­lowed these women to have a free­dom they weren’t re­ally given in a reg­u­lar role in life at that time. Yes, they did have to pass through the gir­dle checks and the groom­ing checks ... but hav­ing met the ed­u­ca­tion qual­i­fi­ca­tions and all these other things, they were then al­lowed to travel freely and see the world in a way that other peo­ple didn’t, and be in charge of their lives in a way that women at that time weren’t nec­es­sar­ily.”

An­other ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of “Pan Am” knows that well, since Nancy Hult Ga­nis ac­tu­ally was a Pan Am stew­ardess from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. “We would be­come friends with our pas­sen­gers,” she re­calls of that era. “We would know them by name, we would know about their chil­dren, where they were go­ing. Be­cause the flights took more time and there wasn’t en­ter­tain­ment or iPads or any of that, it was much more in­ter­ac­tive.

The Pan Am ex­pe­ri­ence played a role in an­other sig­nif­i­cant ca­reer: Patricia Ire­land was an­other stew­ardess who even­tu­ally would serve as pres­i­dent of NOW, the National Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Women.

Karine Vanasse, Michael Mosley, Margot Rob­bie, Mike Vo­gel, Christina Ricci and Kelli Gar­ner (from left) star in “Pan Am,” pre­mier­ing Sun­day on Chan­nel 4.

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