B. H. DeLay
name = B. H. De Lay
imagesize = 300px
caption = Aviator Actor B. H. De Lay
birthdate = birth date|1891|8|12|mf=y
location = flagicon|USA San Francisco Bay Area, CA, U.S.
deathdate = death date and age|1923|7|4|1891|8|12|mf=y
deathplace = Venice (Ocean Park) L.A., CA, U.S.
birthname = Beverly Homer De Lay
othername = B. H. DeLay
BH De LAY
notable role =
spouse = Juanita Smyth (Mason)
children = Patricia De Lay (King) & Beverley De Lay (Berg)
Beverly Homer DeLay, known as B.H. DeLay, (
August 12, 1891 Alameda, California- July 4, 1923 Venice Beach, Los Angeles) was an American aviatorand actor of French descent.
DeLay was an engineer educated at the Engineering School of the
University of Californiaand at the University of Heidelbergin Germany. DeLay's first worked as a gold mine manager, then became a racecar driver, and later airport manager and owner, which evolved into performing for motion pictures. DeLay's early daredevil style was theatrically demonstrated in his high-speed race moves in the domed dance pavilion on Pickering Pleasure Pier near Venice in Ocean Park, California. His theatrical family entertainment history reaches back over 100 years to Europe, including stage actors, dancers, musicians, and theatre impresarios.
Aviation Advancement & Promotion
DeLay tirelessly promoted aviation, while pushing the limits in the entertainment industry, especially through innovative performances. He implemented the first lighted airport in the United States on DeLay Airfield. ["DeLay to Have the First Lighted Aviation Field," Venice Vanguard, May 15, 1921.] He also initiated the first aerial police in the nation in
Venice, Los Angeles, California. DeLay was inspired to this action after a marine rescue attempt was thwarted. He proposed that his aerial forces, equipped with flotation devices, be ready for rescue at a moments notice. This force was approved through the Board of Directors of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. ["Venice to Have First Life-Saving Aerial Patrol: Aviator De Lay to Keep Pilot and Plane Equipped With Buoys on Duty at Beach," Venice Vanguard, March 14, 1921.] When DeLay took charge of Ince Airfield (Venice Airfield) he was on a mission so that “the passenger service will be advanced to a degree of perfection and safety never before attained.”
DeLay was a constant aviation promoter through staging exhibitions (including
barnstorming) and through performing aviation firsts for the movies. Some of his airshow expertise included the nose dive, ghost dive, Immelmann turn, barrel rolls, tail spins, multiple loop-the-loops, mock battles, racing, and flying fireworks. DeLay pioneered several aviation firsts for the motion pictures. (details in the next section)
During his ten years of flying experience, DeLay conducted aerial rides with politicians, actors, and unusual personalities, such as opera diva (
Luisa Tetrazzini) and a princess (Tsianina). He threw out the game opener baseball from his plane to DeLay Field as he flew over. The semi-pro baseball team he named for Venice, was called the Highflyers. ["Venice Players to Be Called "Highflyers"," Venice Vanguard, May 3, 1921] He dropped event tickets, flew city engineers to produce aerial maps of Venice, and showered other promotional or ceremonial objects for events, such as masses of flowers over the ocean as tributes to war heroes. ["Airship Floral Offerings for Chas. Dewey (World War Hero)," Venice Vanguard, June 18, 1921.] DeLay and several of his planes were also in movie aviator Ormer Locklear’saerial funeral procession. ["Last Tribute (B.H. DeLay Commands Six Planes in Aerial Funeral for Lieutenant Locklear)," Venice Vanguard, August 1920.] In a promotion of Venice as a leading entertainment destination, DeLay flew a night loop-the-loop “fire ride” with fireworks on the back of his plane, while 20 navy destroyer ships flashed their search lights upon the horizon for his performance. DeLay was driven to advance aviation with continuous feats, such as proving that loop-the-loops could be performed at night. ["DeLay Will Do Rare Stunt at Night, Venice Vanguard," May 24, 1921.]
The current developed site of DeLay Airfield is bordered by Venice Blvd., Abbot Kinney Blvd. and Washington Way: [http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=venice+blvd+and+abbot+kinney+blvd,+venice,+ca&sll=33.988478,-118.462084&sspn=0.003243,0.007135&ie=UTF8&ll=33.989052,-118.462438&spn=0.003243,0.007135&t=h&z=18&iwloc=addr&om=0 GOOGLE Satellite Map of DeLay Airfield site.]
Aviation Firsts for the Motion Pictures
B.H. DeLay performed at least half a dozen stunt firsts for the movies, including the first change from plane to train and train to plane. Another DeLay first was from saddle to plane, as well as auto to plane. "Daredevil" DeLay was the first to knock down a building with a plane on screen as well.
In one of DeLay’s contracts he was engaged to rescue the heroine from the top of a burning building and at the same time he was to crash into the burning tower where the villain was hanging on to a flag pole, knocking over the tower and dashing the villain to his death. This scene was successfully performed with the aid of a setting constructed at the Venice Field.7
Motion Picture Performing
DeLay Field (Venice Field) was previously owned by
Thomas Harper Ince, the director and producer who is well known for inventing the motion picture studio system. B.H. DeLay managed Thomas Ince's field before owning it. DeLay was in numerous motion pictures, including westerns, comedies and dramas. He acted and performed aerials with Ruth Roland, Oliver Hardy, Larry Semon, Milton Sills, Agnes Ayers, Florence Vidor, Al St. John, Helen Holmes, Viola Dana, Warner Oland, Thomas Ince, Ormer Locklear, [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0932957/ Al Wilson] , [http://www.answers.com/topic/frank-clarke Frank Clarke] , and many other notables. DeLay’s character was also well respected by the Warner Bros.Jack Warner wrote that DeLay was a "real flyer..."
B.H. DeLay conducted a movie stunt pilot training school at his airfield in Venice. DeLay worked with over 25 motion picture companies including the original
Warner Bros., Pathé, Vitagraph, [http://www.imdb.com/company/co0037577/ Astra] , Universal, and Fox. [Ace Magazine "Aviation and the Moving Picture Industry: Airplanes Play Important Part in Up-to-Date Movies", November, 1921. (B.H. De Lay featured)] [Wynne, Hugh. (1987) "The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots & Hollywoods Classic Aviation Movies", Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing. ISBN 0-933126-85-9 De Lay Pages: 8, 20, 22, 24, 28, 30, 34)] (B.H. DeLay Aircraft Company advertising cites several of the following movies (below) to encourage the glamorous role of stunt aviation for the movies.)
B.H. DeLay was only 31 when he died (along with passenger aviator, R.I. Short, President of the Essandee corporation) in a sabotaged plane crash performing in front of crowds of thousands at Ocean Park on
July 4, 1923. He was in the middle of a loop-the-loop in his plane, the "Wasp", when the wings folded back; barreling them nose first into the earth. The plane burst into flames shortly after they were pulled from the wreckage. Pins in his wings were found to be a substandard size of only 3/8 of an inch, rather than 1/2 or 3/4, indicating wing tampering. Several headlines from Venice and other Los Angeles newspapers state that DeLay was murdered through sabotage while performing on 4th of July in 1923. ["Police Investigating First Aerial Murder: B. H. De Lay", The Coshocton Tribune, July 15, 1923.] ["Sheriff Suspects Aerial Murder (of B. H. DeLay, Well Known Stunt Aviator)," The Indianapolis Star, July 7, 1923.] ["Last Rites for De Lay Tomorrow: Services for Famous Flyer Have Been Arranged for at Los Angeles Crematory," Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1923. ("DeLay was nationally known for his daring stunts in the air.")] It remains an unsolved murder mystery.
He was also shot at in Clover Field (now
Santa Monica Airport) days before his crash. A couple of other incidents occurred before the crash as well. In 1921, DeLay and seven others (including his lawyer, Francis J. Heney), were brought into court. [* (10) DeLay Airfield Case & Lawyer: Francis J. Heney] C. E. Frey, who insisted that he bought DeLay Airfield --yet he had no proof-- had a couple of his thugs plant posts in DeLay's airport so that planes could not take off. After DeLay had his crew remove the posts, C. E. Frey's gang dug trenches so that the planes could not take off. C. E. Frey ended up in jail with B.H. DeLay, C. Y. DeLay (B.H.'s father), G. F. Stephenson, Howard Patterson, along with others such as stunt performers, Frank Clarke and pilots Wallace Timm and Glen Boyd. DeLay had purchased the airport from the Crawford Airplane Company in September, 1919. [Hatfield, 1973 p. 7]
Not only was B. H. DeLay an innovator, he was a humanitarian who frequently organized and performed in aviation or actor benefits for individuals and organizations in need. ["Venice to Aid Families in Distress," Venice Vanguard, July 15, 1920.]
Movies with DeLay
DeLay was involved (acting, aviation & stunt directing/coordinating) with over 50 movies including:
* "Skin Deep" (A.K.A. Lucky Damage) 1922 (
* "Border Scouts" 1922 (Directed by
Bert Hall-who was represented in the 2006 movie Flyboyssince he was one of the original seven of the courageous Lafayette Escadrille)
* "A Dangerous Adventure" 1922 (
Warner Bros.) Starring Grace Darmond& including Jumbo the Elephant
* "The Bell Hop" 1921 (
Oliver Hardy& Larry Semonmovie –including aviation footage, which is impressive by today's standards. It is also still available to the public.)
* "Fighting Fate" 1921 ( [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0242139/ Bill Duncan] )
* "Skirts" 1921 (Fox)
* "The Baby" 1921 (Fox Sunshine)
* "A Western Tenderfoot" 1921 (Fox/ [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0309163/ Louis Gasnier] )
* "Ruth of the Rockies" 1920 (
Ruth Roland) A.K.A. Broadway Bab
* "Tiger Band" 1920 (
* "Go Get It" 1920 (
* "Aerial Nut" 1920 (Fox/
Al St. John)
* "He Married His Wife" 1919 (
* Also dozens of
Fox Film CorporationSunshine Comedies
" [In 1922] DeLay dominated stunts in the motion picture industry." (Wynne 1987:28)
* DeLay performed live at actor benefits with
Douglas Fairbanks, Tom Mix, Harry Carey, Will Rogers, William S. Hart, Buck Jones, Hoot Gibsonand other notables. ["Good Exhibition," Venice Vanguard, February, 1921.] ["De Lay to Give Fire Ride for Gigantic Actors' Benefit," Los Angeles Times, c1922.]
* B. H. DeLay's daughter, Beverley De Lay, was a [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1334939/ Meglin Kiddie] dancer like
Shirley Templeand was in the "Land of Oz" 1932 movie. His daughter, Beverley, also attended Hollywood High Schoolat the same time as Judy Garland. Beverley also performed live at the still glorious Pantages Theatre (Hollywood).
* DeLay attended the famous Fly-in (only) Party of the Brand Estate, where he was nearly involved in a head on collision with
Anita Snook(Teacher of Amelia Earhart.) He was aerial performing for the crowd, but Snook had to leave early and ended up in his flying path. At the last moment, DeLay dove under Snook's plane. His propellers were shaved off in the trees, but both of their lives were saved. (Underwood 1984:21)
* B. H. DeLay had various aircraft specially designed for him and he owned a set of
Curtiss JN-4(JN-4D specifically) at his airport.
* Aviators who worked with or for DeLay's Venice Airfield included: [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0932957/ Al Wilson ] , [http://www.answers.com/topic/frank-clarke Frank Clarke] ,
Ormer Locklear, Dick Grace, Otto Timm, Art Goebel (winner of Dole Air Race), "Fronty" Nichols, Frank Tomick, Ivan Unger, Al Johnson, Wallace Timm, Howard Patterson, Glen Boyd, Mark Campbell, Otto "Swede" Myerhoffer, Bob Lloyd, E. L. Remelin, Waldo Waterman, Fred Hoyt, Gil Budwig, Sam Greenwald, and many more.
* Aerial Nut Movie [http://www.aerofiles.com/film-a.html Aerials by BH DeLay]
* Skirts Movie [http://www.aerofiles.com/film-s.html Aerials by BH DeLay]
* [http://www.aerofiles.com/airports-CA.html DeLay Airfield:] "Home for the leading aerial stunt men of their day." (Listed Under Venice Airfield)
* Kelly, Shawna. (2008) "Aviators in Early Hollywood", United States: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0738559025
* Stanton, Jeffrey. (2005) "Venice California: Coney Island of the Pacific" California: Donahue Publishing. ISBN 0-9619849-3-7.
[http://www.westland.net/venicehistory/articles/Index-2005Ve,niceBook.htm Printed book index is online:] De Lay has many book index entry pages: 114, 129, *140, *141, 148, 150 *=illustrated
* Wynne, H. Hugh. (1987) "The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots and Hollywood’s Classic Aviation Movies." Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing. ISBN 978-0933126855
* FARMER, James H. (1984) "Celluloid wings", Blue Ridge Summit, Pa: Tab Books. ISBN 9780830623747
* Underwood, John. (1984) "Madcaps, Millionaires and Mose", California: Heritage Press. ISBN 0-911834-16-8
* D. D. Hatfield. (1973) "Los Angeles Aeronautics 1920-29", California: Northrup University Press. ASIN B0006CB8ZI (Illustrated DeLay photo, filmography & airport aerial pages: 6 & 7)
* Dwiggins, Don. (1966) "The Air Devils: the Story of Balloonists, Barnstormers, and Stunt Pilots" Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company. ASIN B0014WYTXW
* Caidin, Martin. (1965) "Barnstorming: The Great Years of Stunt Flying." New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce. ASIN: B000VEJRNQ
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