Wednesday, April 24, 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)"
16 December 2009

A Terrific Time at Niles

Print Email

AviatorsinEarlyHollywoodThe Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum was the site of another awesome event (see Facebook for all the photos), and joining us for all the fun was Shawna Kelly.  Shawna is the granddaughter of B.H. "Daredevil" Delay, who was one of the pioneer aerial stuntmen.  Delay is credited with being the first stuntman to, get this, transition from the saddle of a horse to the front seat of a biplane in flight.  He later did an update going from an automobile seat to an airplane cockpit.   Anyway, Shawna is a pilot herself and the author of Aviators in Early Hollywood, a neat picture book from Arcadia Press that is chock full of photos of stunt pilots and their exploits, and yes Pancho is in there!  You might want to consider it for your holiday shopping list, as it's a whole heck of a lot of fun and the photos are simply gorgeous.  (Incidentally, Arcadia is the publisher of Michael Patris' book about the Mt. Lowe Railway -- another stocking stuffer for you). 

Niles2Before the screening, Museum Director Dorothy Bradley and Michael Bonham provided a tour of the Niles Essanay Museum.  It's located in an historic district near where Charlie Chaplin shot "The Kid", inside a storefront that once housed a Nickelodeon.

Michael introduced me at the event, and I in turn introduced both Pancho and Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels.  It was nice to have an excuse to talk a bit about Pancho's career in the movie business.  She began before she was 20, working as an animal trainer on the silent Rin Tin Tin feature Lighthouse by the Sea.  It was only natural that once she developed a passion for aviation, she'd find a way to combine movie-making with airplanes.  Even after her flying days were over, Pancho remained connected to Hollywood.  In the short time it operated, half a dozens movies were shot at or around her Rancho Oro Verde, including Westward the Women, Johnny Stoolpigeon and the TV show Cowboy Slim.

Photo (above): Nick Spark (l) poses with Shawna Kelly and a bunch of 99's women pilots who came out for the screening.  Michael Bonham is visible second from the left, in the rear.

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.