Tuesday, June 25, 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)"
28 November 2006

Discoveries in the Pancho Barnes Archive

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For the past few weeks, I've been going thru the "Pancho Barnes Archive". This is an amazing collection of Pancho Barnes' personal papers which are maintained by Dr. Lou D'Elia and Mike Salazar. Without the forethought of these two men, in fact, the Pancho documentary would not be possible. I'll write a bit more about this later. In short, Pancho's personal papers and photographs were kept in storage by her fourth husband, Mac McKendry. He intended to open a museum in Pancho's honor, but never did do it! After he passed away, it looked like Pancho's estate would be entirely liquidated through an auction. All of the materials in the archive would be dispersed, without anyone having an opportunity to really assess the contents. Fortunately, Lou and Mike stepped in, purchased Pancho's estate, and are now cataloging it. As part of our film effort, Amanda Pope and I have joined in. Each day we've been opening up boxes, sorting materials, and making amazing discoveries. Yesterday, it was an entire box filled with hundreds of newspaper clippings related to the Powder Puff Derby of 1929. Included in the articles were many photos we had never seen before. Most of these clippings had not been looked at by anyone in the seventy odd years that have elapsed since Pancho pasted them into her scrap book...

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