Brow Beat

Here’s Some 1926 Newsreel Footage of a Stuntman With a Faulty Parachute Driving a Motorcycle off a Cliff

In a still frame from a 1926 newsreel, a man on a motorcycle flies off a cliff.
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
British Pathé

There are two types of people in the world: people who are looking for the perfect visual metaphor for 2019, and people who love watching motorcycles go off cliffs. Whichever type you are, this incompletely preserved silent newsreel from Britich Pathé is exactly what you’re looking for. It depicts stuntman and aviator Fred Osbourne flying off a cliff in Santa Monica on a motorcycle, utterly failing to open his parachute in time, and breaking his fall by landing in a snare of telephone and telegraph wires. According to an Associated Press story that only the Quad-City Times of Davenport, Iowa seems to have published, doctors said “he probably will recover from his injuries.” He did: In 1930 he made the news again, testifying about the plane crash that killed Kenneth Hawks during the production of Such Men Are Dangerous. Osbourne—who had nothing to do with the plane crash, to be clear—was working on the film as a parachute technician and observed the mid-air collision from another plane. And now, a taste of Osbourne’s parachute technician work, as filmed on Nov. 18, 1926:

The paths of glory lead but to a lot of broken telephone wires and a cremated motor bike.