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)"
09 March 2007

Women's History Month + Us !

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When you're creating a project like this one, that chronicles the life of a dynamic woman, it's hard to miss the fact that March is Women's History Month. One thing we've learned in the course of making this film, is that Pancho inspired a whole generation of women to go forth and achieve, both in the air and on the ground. Whether it was Babe Story, who became a Women's Air Service Pilot, or Shirley Hufstedler who became our nation's first Secretary of Education, or authors Gene Nora Jessen or Lauren Kessler, we've sure met some truly dynamic and wonderful women while making this project. Next week we'll be up in the Antelope Valley for two days, shooting additional interviews for the film. More on this later on! One little tease, however, is that among our interviewees is a former mayor of the City of Lancaster...and it happens on this film...she turns out to be the very first female mayor of that fair city.

If you're interested in the story of women in aviation, then you need to visit the International Women's Air & Space Museum website. IWASM link. This Museum, located in Cleveland Ohio, is a terrific resource. Although I've never visited, I understand they have wonderful exhibits and a strong and growing collection of memorabilia. The 99's Museum in Oklahoma City also has a website, 99's link. We're hoping to visit the Museum sometime later this year to look through their collections, meet their staff, and do some filming.

While we're on the subject of Women's History Month, people often ask me, "Is there a book that recounts the history of women in flight?" The answer is, yes! A good book to seek out, either on eBay or through a site like Bookfinder, is "Women Aloft" by Valerie Moolman. This book was published in 1981 as part of a Time-Life series of books entitled "The Epic of Flight". Fortunately you don't have to buy all twenty-odd volumes of the series nowadays as you did when these books first came out!

"Women Aloft" presents a great overview of the history of the aviatrixes, beginning in 1784 when Elisabeth Thible of Lyons, France first soared into the air in a hot air balloon. It's filled with a lot of incredible photos, memorabilia, and riveting commentary. Sadly, the book ends in WWII, so it does not discuss the achievements of folks like Jackie Cochrane, Sally Ride, Jeanna Yeager, Eileen Collins and the list goes on. Perhaps one of the younger readers of this journal will take it as challenge and write a sequel?

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