Friday, July 19, 2024

The Emmy™Award-Winning Documentary Film

"Broadcast" version now airing on most public television stations.

"Uncensored" version now on DVD and in film festivals.

Synopsis: A charismatic figure featured in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff, Florence "Pancho" Barnes was one of the most important women in 20th Century aviation. A tough and fearless aviatrix, Pancho was a rival of Amelia Earhart's who made a name for herself as Hollywood's first female stunt pilot. Just before WWII she opened a ranch near Edwards Air Force Base that became a famous -- some would say notorious -- hangout for test pilots and movie stars. Known as the "Happy Bottom Riding Club", it became the epicenter of the aviation world during the early jet age. Chuck Yeager celebrated breaking the sound barrier there in 1947, and Howard Hughes and Jimmy Doolittle caroused in the bar. The Club's destruction by fire in 1953 is seen by many to mark the end of a Golden Era in post-WWII aviation. In the same fashion Pancho herself has become something of a legend, a fascinating yet enigmatic icon whose swagger is often celebrated, but whose story has been largely unknown. Until now.

A documentary film produced and written by Nick Spark and directed by Amanda Pope. Featuring interviews with test pilots Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and biographers Barbara Schultz and Lauren Kessler. Narrated by Tom Skerritt with Kathy Bates as the voice of Pancho Barnes.

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Women in Aviation
"Read Nick Spark's article about Pancho
from Women in Aviation magazine (.pdf)"

Who is Pancho Barnes ?

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Pancho Barnes


Pancho Barnes has been the subject of several books, including Tom Wolfe's bestseller The Right Stuff. She was portrayed in the film made from the book, and her life served as inspiration for the television movie "Pancho Barnes" featuring Valerie Bertinelli. In the past, attempts were made to make a documentary about Pancho, but with only mixed results. Unfortunately, few documents and other materials related to Pancho seemed to have survived the devastating fire at the Happy Bottom Riding Club in 1953, and therefore much of the context of Pancho's life seemed to be irretrievably lost.

While conducting research for an article about Edwards Air Force Base, Producer Nick Spark met Dr. Lou D'Elia. By happenstance, Dr. D'Elia had recently acquired a large archive of "lost" materials relating to Pancho, including rare photos, personal letters, a rough draft of an auto-biography, voice recordings, even Barnes' student pilot license.

Nick Spark recruited filmmaker and friend Amanda Pope to take a look at the Pancho materials. After some discussion they agreed that it represented a truly significant window in Pancho's extraordinary life, and that they had to make a film about her.

Thus the Pancho Barnes documentary project came into being.Through careful research by the production team, new artifacts and important materials have surfaced to supplement the project, including never-before-seen film footage and even FBI records related to Pancho's legal case against the Air Force.

In February of 2005, KOCE-TV PBS of Orange County agreed to assist the production and, thanks to a matching / challenge grant made available by a California non-profit, funding now exists to produce this project. Your tax-deductible donation can help make "Pancho Barnes!" a reality. See the "How to Help" page for more information.


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The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club ©2008-2010 Nick Spark Productions, LLC.