|Kirby Grant (left) with Gloria Winters and Ron Hagerthy. Courtesy Wikipedia.|
Monday, August 19, 2013
Here’s a bit of Montana trivia. Kirby Grant Hoon Jr., who used the stage name Kirby Grant, starred in the 1950s television series Sky King. Remember that? He was born in Butte in 1911 and grew up in Helena where his father, Kirby Grant Hoon Sr., was postmaster. Kirby Jr. was a 1929 graduate of Helena High School. In the series, he played wealthy Arizona rancher Schuyler King, nicknamed “Sky,” who fought bad guys and rescued people with his airplane. His niece Penny, who lived with him on the Flying Crown Ranch, was his sidekick on these adventures. Kirby was a pilot in real life and learned to fly the airplanes in the series. Early television demanded simultaneous filming of multiple episodes, and so Sky wore the same clothes on every show. File footage, especially of the plane flying, was often used numerous times, and sometimes the film would be reversed so that the plane appeared to fly in the opposite direction. On these occasions, observant fans could notice that the numbers on the aircraft would be backwards. Seventy-two episodes aired on ABC in 1953 and 1954. CBS later rebroadcast the series.
Kirby Grant did little acting after Sky King. He and his wife founded a ranch for orphaned or abandoned children, and he was often honored at aviation events. On October 30, 1985, Kirby died in a traffic accident in Florida en route to the last successful launching of the space shuttle Challenger. Astronauts had planned to honor the Montana native for his encouragement of aviation and space flight.