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The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club (2009)

Buzz Aldrin , Kathy Bates , Amanda Pope , Nick T Spark (Producer)  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Buzz Aldrin, Kathy Bates, Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover, Gene Nora Jessen
  • Directors: Amanda Pope, Nick T Spark (Producer)
  • Format: NTSC, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Nick Spark Productions LLC
  • DVD Release Date: October 1, 2009
  • Run Time: 64 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002NHX1YK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,807 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews


If you haven't seen the film, and you love aviation history ... you need to see it. --PilotMag, July 2010

Aficionados of aviation's golden age will find a life and times tale here that is as entertaining as it is comprehensive. --Aviation History, March 2011

A thoroughly entertaining look at a very unconventional life. If all you know of Pancho Barnes comes from Kim Stanley's portrayal of her in The Right Stuff, well, you've come to the right place. --After Ellen, July 2009

Product Description

Winner of an Emmy and multiple film festival awards including Best Documentary Film and Audience Awards in 2010, The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club is a fun-filled documentary romp through the life of one of the most colorful and accomplished female pilots of the early 20th Century. Florence ''Pancho'' Barnes was the first woman stunt pilot in Hollywood in 1929 and shattered Amelia Earhart's air speed record in 1930. In the 1940's and 50's, Pancho entertained the greatest test pilots in the world, the men with the right stuff at the infamous ''Happy Bottom Riding Club'' guest ranch near Edwards Air Force Base. When Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 in 1947, he partied with Pancho. A friend of the fast and the famous, Pancho Barnes was a swaggering, forceful, ill-behaved woman whose exploits and accomplishments are truly the stuff of legend.

Featuring never-before-seen photographs and film footage and interviews with many of Pancho's friends including astronaut Buzz Aldrin and famed test pilots Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager, The Legend of Pancho Barnes is an unforgettable, exciting, and poignant romp through aviation history. Narrated by Tom Skerritt, with Kathy Bates as the voice of Pancho Barnes.

This multi-award-winning film has screened throughout the United States on public television (PBS), in Australia, and in nearly a dozen film festivals. Celebrated within the aviation community, it was specially screened at the EAA's AirVenture in 2010 and 2011, at AOPA's annual convention, at Sun 'N Fun, the Arlington Fly In, NASA Dryden, and at scores of air museums nationwide.

This deluxe DVD features both the broadcast version (as seen on public television) and the special uncensored film festival version of the documentary, along with nearly 18 minutes of additional video including deleted scenes. It also features commentary from writer/producer Nick Spark and director Amanda Pope, a study guide for secondary school students, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We got your prime pilots, & we got your pudknockers. October 8, 2009
If you saw the classic movie "The Right Stuff", and were interested in the rough-hewn female bartender who ran the local watering hole "Pancho's Happy Bottom Riding Club" and put Gordon Cooper & Gus Grissom in their place at the bar at Edwards AFB, this film is for you. This amazing documentary has been years in the making, and was well worth the wait. The life and times of the legendary, inimitable, Florence "Pancho" Barnes is told by many of the people who knew her best, America's finest test pilots of the era- including Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and Bob Cardenas, among others who worked & actually lived with Pancho. More than just a biography, this film for me was also a history lesson studying the early years of female aviation, as well as a glimpse at the men who risked their lives daily at Edwards, testing 'hurtling pieces of machinery', some with no method of ejection from when things went wrong, which they often did. The DVD is loaded with extras, including 2 versions of the film, the longer 64 min. one a little racier for adults, as well as 18 min. of bonus scenes, and a rare audio track where Pancho relates some of her experiences in her own voice during an interview for a student. Chock full of vintage photos & video, this film delves into the character of a woman who lived her own dreams and never gave up, an individual that many would consider larger than life. In her own words, "We have more fun in a week than other weenies do in a lifetime". Narrated by Tom Skerrit, with the voice of Kathy Bates as Pancho, this is an entertaining, informative look into an era that could never happen again. A fine addition to the video library of the aviation enthusiast.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Full Story of Pancho Barnes April 6, 2010
I heard of the "colorful" Pancho Barnes when I moved to
the Antelope Valley in 2000. This movie tells her story more fully with interviews by her contemporaries and material from her estate.
I did not know her grandfather was the famous Thaddeus Lowe. She is
still a presence in aviation circles at Edwards Air Force Base.

This film is for anyone interested in American aviation history.
Yes, there was Amelia Earhart and Jackie Cochrane, but there was also Pancho Barnes who made contributions to the development of flying that should be better known. This movie does just that.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pancho Barnes November 24, 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Great educational video. But most of all Pancho was one of the Greatest American's that ever lived. I just wish the video "Pancho Barnes" with Valerie Bertinelli was on DVD too. I think Kim Stanley in "The Right Stuff" had a better grasp on how Pancho acted. Though Bertinelli had no idea how to pro tray Pancho because Pancho really could get her own way at times, and she much louder than life it self. This video that was put out gets as close to Pancho as you can imagine.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pancho Barnes Happy Bottom Riding Club February 27, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The docummentary is a well done mix of old footage and film. I owned the grocery store in Boron, CA and knew Pancho. We saved all produce trimmmings for her animals and meat scraps for her dogs. She was a great character. She helped me stop chewing my fingernails by shaming me, telling me I looked like a monkey. This film brought her back to life for at least 64 minutes. Thanks
Mr. Jiminny, Pat Patterson
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story about a magnificant lady aviator! August 9, 2010
The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club is a wild romp through the Golden Age of Aviation. Florence Lowe "Pancho" Barnes was an aviation legend in her own right as well as a personal friend of many of the aviation greats of the 20th Century.

Actor Tom Skerritt narrates the documentary which is filled with fascinating background information about this magnificent lady in her various guises. As a young woman initially constrained by the mores of her day, Florence threw off the shackles of her cheerless life and quite literally reached for sky as Pancho.

Wonderful interviews from the likes of Buzz Aldrin and Chuck Yeager, great stills and movie clips of the day answer many questions about the sometimes lurid tales of the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Actress Kathy Bates, gives voice to Pancho's dreams and accomplishments, and unabashed sense of humor. This excellent documentary is deeply personal and a wonderful tribute to lady who expanded the bounds of womanhood and flying.

From the author of:

China Clipper, a Nick Grant Adventure
Flying Boats & Spies
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite a Character! September 23, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a great film for anyone interested in aviation, such as myself, or anyone interested in a fascinating slice of 20th century culture. I first heard of Pancho Barnes in the film "The Right Stuff" and was aware of her presence in early aviation, but I had no idea what an intriguing, outrageous and larger-than-life character she was. This is a very well-done and enjoyable film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pancho Barnes - Brought to Life September 13, 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I cannot top the previous reviews, especially Ben's which very well sums up the documentary. If I could ever travel back in time I would love to go back to the late 1940's or early 1950's and walk through those doors. What a place and what a time. Her life was just amazing, if ultimately sad, from being a stunt pilot right through to her last days. Why is it that people so often become famous after they have passed away in virtual obscurity? If only Tom Wolfe had written his book a few years earlier, if only....

The documentary has so much in it of interest. I found myself freeze framing some of the documents that are very briefly shown to read them. One brief shot is of the Happy Bottom Riding club's guest book with an entry dated 12-10-46 from Slick Goodlin ! If only that book could be reprinted ! I once had the pleasure of meeting Cliff Morris (whose color photo is briefly shown stading in front of the "Air Force" fountain at Pancho's). This was in Lancaster CA in 2005. He used to work at NACA and part time at Pancho's. Cliff was very frail but his son showed me momentoes including his membership card and a music score written by Pancho called "Ghosts of The Badmen" with a note to Cliff. Cliff kindly signed my copy of Barbara Shultz's biography of Pancho which I recommend.

Once again a fascintaing and perfectly produced documentary which was exactly what I had hoped for. The audio interview by Don Kuhns is a great bonus. Pancho sounds so much more articulate and thoughtful than one might have expected given the hype. It is good to have that additional perspective on her life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars AN AVIATION LIBRARY MUST.
One of, if not the MOST IMPORTANT FEMALE AVIATORS EVER. Yes, much more important, a better pilot, and definitely more
interesting than Amelia Earhart ("that empty headed... Read more
Published 1 month ago by paul mc
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great insight into some of the last "seat of the pants" pilots. A bygone era that shouldn't be forgotten.
Published 2 months ago by James E. Dannettell
5.0 out of 5 stars You Only Live Once, So Do So With Gusto!
Okay, I admit I'm a sucker for pilot and/or airplane films. Hey, I love to fly planes, especially the kind that Pancho Barnes flew. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kathleen Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the amazingly interesting story of a woman who ...
This is the amazingly interesting story of a woman who did things that most men would never dream of or accomplish. I saw it first on PBS and sought it out on Amazon. Read more
Published 2 months ago by D. E. Brumley
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous story of a true female rebel what was ...
A marvelous story of a true female rebel what was once called a "Tomboy" by her actions, a crack pilot who lived a fast paced dangerous life who had a true soft spot for... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dues'y H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare peek into the past.
Never heard of Pancho Barnes until I saw this on Wisconsin Public Television. It was such an insightful look at an Historic Character I wish I could go back and share a beer or... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Harold Garner
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Life of an Amazing Woman!
Consider Florence (Pancho) Barnes. Born around the turn of the century into a world of wealth and privilege, she was expected to follow the prime and proper rules of her... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Dawn Albrecht-parys
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story
Nice story, nice history, good interviews. Historical video was nice to watch. Story was well written and easy to follow.
Published 5 months ago by AV8R
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT
If you love true stories about smart, independent & successful women or just "characters", this one's for you! If you love flying, this one's for you! Read more
Published 5 months ago by J. Erin Dugan
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend this movie.
Well done and informative movie. I knew of Pancho Barnes but did not know the full story of her life. I now have a much greater respect of her.
Published 5 months ago by Larry E. Steenstry
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