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.

Information Sign up

Sign up to be on our mailing list for updates.


Women in Aviation
"Read Nick Spark's article about Pancho
from Women in Aviation magazine (.pdf)"
15 March 2007

Hopalong and Pancho

Print Email

Recently, I posted some mystery photographs found in the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive, featuring Pancho on the set of an unknown movie. Well, Carl Bennett, who is the editor of the very cool website , took a look at the photos. His conclusion? The actor in the photo is Sessue Hayakawa, one of the most famous Japanese-American stars of the silent era. He frequently worked with famed directors Cecil B. Demille and King Vidor. Carl Bennett noted that the actress in the South Seas costume could actually be Vidor's wife, Florence. Hayakawa and Vidor made the following films together, and perhaps this still is from one of them: Hashimura Togo (1917), The Secret Game (1917), The Bravest Way (1918), The Hidden Pearls (1918), The Honor of His House (1918), The White Man's Law (1918).

In her lifetime, Pancho Barnes was affilated with a number of actors and actresses. She was good friends with director and actor Erich von Stroheim, flew with gleaming bright star Ramon Novarro, and once rescued Duncan Reynaldo ('The Cisco Kid') from the clutches of the U.S. Immigration Service. One actor she had a lifelong friendship with was William Boyd, better known to most as Hopalong Cassidy. Before he was Hopalong, however, Boyd tried hard to be a real leading man. One of his major roles was in "The Flying Fool", a cute cherry tomato of a picture. Boyd plays a brother who tries to protect his sibling from falling in love with a girl who he believes may be trying to take advantage of him. Of course, he ends up falling in love with her himself! The movie featured quite a bit of flying, and Pancho got a job working on it as a technical director.

The flying stunt crew on the movie included Frank Clarke, one of Pancho's good friends and quite simply one of the best stunt fliers of his generation. (In the photo at right, Clarke is the second from right, and Boyd appears to his right wearing the black sweater.) Pancho was apparently thrilled with the picture and her role in making it. When a banquet was held for the participants in the 1929 Powder Puff Derby all-women's air race in San Bernardino, "The Flying Fool" was shown as part of the evening's entertainment.

Facebook Box

You Can Help

Your tax-deductible donation can help make "The Legend of Pancho Barnes!" a reality.


News Letter

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