“When you find a dream to call your own, all it takes is one leap of faith and our heart takes flight…and sometimes that dream will carry you further than you ever imagined.” –Eula Pearl Carter-Scott
Those are the inspirational words that open the movie Pearl. Based on the true story of a Pearl Carter, a Chickasaw girl from Marlow, Oklahoma, who became the youngest licensed pilot in the U.S. in 1928. Pearl was a head-strong and independent young girl who learned from her father to never say you can’t do something. Despite being blinded at age 16, George Carter Sr. was a very successful businessman who encouraged his youngest daughter to follow her dreams.
Pearl starts driving at 11 years old to chauffeur her father to his business meetings all over the state of Oklahoma. At the age of 12 Pearl meets and is befriended by the famous aviator, Wiley Post. With her father’s permission, Post gives Pearl her first flight lessons. Eventually George Sr. agrees to build a hanger and buy Pearl her own airplane. With the help of a full time flight instructor she earns her pilot’s license at the age 13 and starts performing as a barnstormer and commercial pilot by age 14.
Never Give Up
Pearl was a ‘daddy’s girl‘. It is clear that his youngest daughter was George Carter’s favorite. Much to frustration of his wife Lucy and Pearl’s older sister Opal. Perhaps due to his blindness, George Carter learned the hard way how to achieve his dreams; and he instilled in Pearl his drive and strength of will. He also taught her not let anything get in the way of her dreams. Andrew Sensgenig is the Dallas actor who plays George Carter Sr. As a Native American in Oklahoma , Pearl and others of her tribe were victims of racism. And even though it is only touched on briefly in the movie, you can see that she was taught how to deal with it.
Pearl’s mentor, world-renowned aviator Wiley Post, lost his eye in an oil rig accident when he was a young man. But instead of retiring to a quiet life, he used his settlement money to buy his first airplane. He was another person in Pearl’s life that showed her the sky was the limit for her.
In 1929 the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl hit Oklahoma, causing financial difficulties even for the wealthy Carter family. Pearl who earn money chaffering business men around the state and barnstorming, takes on a part-time job as a waitress at the local diner. This is where she meets and falls in love with Lewis Scott. They eventually marry and Pearl gives birth to the first of her three children. Despite her husband’s wishes, she continues to fly as a daredevil pilot in barnstorming shows.
Featuring beautiful cinematography and rich period settings, Pearl is a family friendly historical drama about a spirited, young girl. She pursues her dreams against the backdrop of the deepening Depression and catastrophic Dust Bowl and comes to value the love and support that flows from strong family ties. Pearl is an independent film, so there are no big Hollywood stars or fancy sets. In fact, the movie was s filmed on various locations in Oklahoma, including the historic Harn Homestead, the El Reno Municipal Airport, the Jude and Jody Airport and several locations in and near Guthrie,Oklahoma. This gives the movie an air of truth. You believe that young Elijah de Jesus is Pearl. The fire in her eyes when she takes her first flight gives you insight into what the real Pearl must have felt.
What makes Pearl such an amazing story is not because a 14-year-old girl in 1920s rural Oklahoma became the world’s youngest licensed pilot. When you think of the obstacles she must have faced, it is amazing she even dared to dream of being a pilot at all.
How wonderful for Pearl Carter to have people in her life that did not stifle her dreams, but give them wings and never give up!
Interview with Director, King Hollis and the film’s star, Elijah deJesus with Pegasus News in Dallas