The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) Script

Come on, Mike!

Hello, good people!

Hi, there!

You better all grab your courage, everybody, 'cause this is flyin' weather.

Now, I'm talkin' $5 for the best five minutes of your lives.

And when you die and Saint Peter says to you, "Hey, when were you happiest down there?"

You're gonna say, "Well it was okay the day I got married, "and I didn't much mind the day I first fell in love.

"But seein' the sky with the Great Waldo Pepper, "that beats 'em all."

But first, first, who wants a free ride?

Me! Me!

Well, boy!

Usually I try to pick somebody that shows more enthusiasm.

But in your case, I'll make an exception. What's your name?

Scooter. Scooter!

You look big and strong to me, Scooter and that's the main thing.

I'm gonna need a lot of gas.

I can tell there's a lot of riders here today.

Tell you what, you just take this to the nearest gas station, every time I need it, when we're all done, at the end of the day, I'll give you a free ride. How's that?

Okay. Atta boy.

Okay, folks, If you'll just step right up here now...

Praise the Lord.

Go ahead, get in. But what if I don't like it?

If you really hate it, I'll give you a second ride free.

Go on. Go ahead.


Attaboy, Scooter. Keep it comin'.

No, no, no. I've changed my mind.

Oh, no. No, it's okay. Now, go ahead.

Yes, sir, now who do we have here?

Okay, Scooter.


What about my free ride?

Oh, I just told you that to get you to work for me.

I never take kids up alone.

You must've done pretty good today, if what Scooter says is right.

Yes, sir.

Best in over a year.

Right after the war finished, barnstorming was like this all the time.

I've been flying Nebraska for quite a while now.

Things are sure getting tough.

I guess people are just gettin' used to airplanes.

That all you plan to do the rest of your life, just cash for rides, that's it?

Oh, no. No, sir.

Every penny I make goes into the building of a brand new biplane for air acrobatics.

Are you the best flyer in the world?

Hush, Scooter.

Wouldn't I like to be!

But there's so many amazing pilots around that have done so many feats with their airplanes.

Sorry to disappoint you, Scooter, but I'm gonna be honest with you.

There's just no way that I could say I'm the best pilot in the world.

I'm the second best flyer in the world.

Who's better?

In the first place, I'd have to put the German Ace Ernst Kessler.

He shot down 70 planes and lived to tell the tale.

That don't seem right.

Shooting down Americans, that don't make a man a hero to me.

Well, maybe not, but Kessler was special.

An honest day's work, that's what I call special.

Were you in the war?

In the last part of it.

Did you fight Kessler?


We were flying patrol over the Hurtgen wood.

There were five of us, and we saw Kessler flying below us with one escort plane.

Now, he didn't see us, and we dove on him.

Now on the first pass, we shot down the escort plane.

But Kessler was too fast.

I followed the escort plane all the way down, just to make sure he was finished.

As I started climbing back up, well, I said to myself, with those odds, Kessler'll try to make a run for it, but he didn't.

He took 'em all on. One against four.

And he was doing the attacking!

By the time I got back up, he had shot down three of 'em.


Well, Landis and Swaab were kids and...

Let's see, Curtin...

Well, Curtin couldn't have been more than 19.

Well, they panicked.

By the time I got back up, he was after McKinnon.

He shot a burst into him, and Mac's plane caught on fire.

Now, Mac said that he would never, ever go down in flames, so he jumped.

Didn't he have a parachute?

Nobody had parachutes then, Scooter.

No, he just would rather fall to his death than burn going down.

Then Kessler dove in on me.

Weren't you scared?

Don't be dumb.

Well, it's crazy, but...

I was happy.

It was just me against him.

God, he was all over the sky!

He could snap around the head of a pin.

One minute I'd think I had him, the next, he's comin' right at me.

And then, I don't know, he was behind me and my guns jammed.

And I pounded on the handles and just pounded on them until my fists were bleeding but I couldn't unjam 'em.

I was just there. I was helpless.

In his gun sights.

But he didn't fire.

He could see me pounding on my guns, and he pulls up alongside of me.

Just like... Just as close as you are to me.

And he looks at me.

And he did it. Did what?


Just like that.

Over the Hurtgen wood, Ernst Kessler saluted me.

And then he peeled off and dove back towards his lines.

I can take you folks high or low, fast or slow, anyway you want to go.

And I can land you as soft as an old maid getting into her feather bed.

And I can fly you over your house so you can see who's visiting your wife.

But first, for the bravest of the brave...

Look there! Look at him!

All right, folks, never mind.

He's just passing through. Passing through.

Now, for the bravest of the brave, I'll do some stunts first for free.


Excuse me, folks.

A fellow lover of the blue may be in trouble.

I'll be right back.

Hello, good people! Thank you. Thank you.

Before we get started, son, I want you to know I consider your presence here an act of aggression.


This is my territory.

Smile, son. We don't want to disconcert the masses.

Then fly your crate the hell outta here.

For what conceivable reason?

Nebraska's mine, I've been working it for two years.

Friend, you just got yourself a new partner.

But these people are mine.

Then you're not leavin'?

You grasp things very well, I can see that.

But don't you leave, either.

If you carry my gas can into town for me I'll give you a free lesson at the end of the day.

Judging from that landing, you need all the help you can get!

Forgive the intrusion, good folks, now, let's remind ourselves where we were.

Some people would say that what you're about to see is probably the greatest exhibition of aeronautical skill in history the world.

I myself wouldn't go that far.

It is probably only the greatest since the invention of the airplane.

Now, this'll be the order, folks.

First, the falling leaf, then the barrel roll, then an inside loop.

And finally a daring low-level pass.


There he goes. Son?



I'd be obliged if you'd prop me, son.

Glad to.

You're a good loser, and I like good losers.

Then again, you've probably had lots of practice.



Little change in the program, folks.

My partner and I have a little surprise planned for you folks.

How would you all like to see the famous Axel Olsson crash?

The pond! The pond's the safest place, Axel!

That's his signal, folks.

Means he's just rarin' to go.

Everybody down to the pond.

Everybody, everybody, the thing of it is, it really makes Axel feel appreciated, if when he's done, assuming he's alive, there's a reward waiting.

In Wichita folks gave $15 to $20 just to see a crash like this, up close.

But you all decide, whatever you like, I'll take it.

Thank you. Thank you.

They love it, Axel! They're good people!

Now, down to the pond, everybody.

That's the best spot to see it from.

Thank you.

Be sure and give the captain a nice round of applause when he's finished.

It just means the world to him, knowing you care.

Hey, you! Come back here!

Come back here!

That was a mistake.


He shouldn't have taken off his gun.

Why not?

Arabs behind those rocks.

You like movies?

Mmm-hmm. If the clothes is nice.

Is this your sweater? Uh-huh.

No, no! Don't worry. Don't worry.

You know what I'd do if I was him? What?

Throw sand in their eyes, blind 'em.

And you could tell It was Kessler, because he had a black and yellow plane, it had three wings and looked like a wasp.

Oh, that could sting you, you mean?

And he had... Huh?

Right. Aw!

And he had the name of his girlfriend, Lola, painted along the side of the plane.

Honest? Yeah.

Oh, that would've been the highlight of my life.

Seeing my very own name flyin' through the...

Oh, there's Axel. Hi, Axel!

My goodness, he's hurt himself again. Poor thing.

Hi, honey. Axel, what happened to you?

Oh, it's a long story.

Don't tell me. I'll be too upset.

I want you to meet a friend of mine, now, he's a pilot, too, and he's been telling me one exciting thing after another.

Waldo, this is Axel. Axel, this is Waldo Pepper.

Smile, son, never disconcert the masses.

Oh, why don't you sit down, dear?

Oh, I can't hardly believe it.

Me sittin' here with two aces.

Well, why don't you tell him about when you fought the black and yellow German.

No, no, he wasn't...

He wasn't black and yellow, Mary Beth. His plane was.

That's right. And it had "Lola" written on it.

Lola was Kessler's truest love.

Ernst Kessler? Uh-huh.

You fought Ernst Kessler?

He sure did. And was it ever exciting.

Just wait 'til you hear it. Go ahead, tell him, Waldo.

No. Later. Later, maybe.

No, please.

No. Do it, Waldo.

Kessler could have killed Waldo, but he let him go on account of Waldo's guns jamming.

When Kessler and Waldo tangled, Kessler had such respect for Waldo, that he just gave him a salute and off he went.

That must've been some thrill.

Uh, well, it went by so fast.

But looking back on it, I guess I'd have to say it was kind of exciting.

Oh, he's just being modest, Axel.

That was a very dangerous thing.

That German had already shot down four other planes before Waldo could stop him.

Landis, Swaab, Curtin, McKinnon.

Right, and...

How did you know?

Because they were with me in the 14th Scouts, Mary Beth.

And when they took off that morning, I didn't see any Waldo Pepper taking off with them.

You didn't?

There was five of 'em in the flight.

Kessler shot down four, but he let the flight leader live.

His name was Captain Frank Madden.

He died in combat only a couple of months later.

I don't get it.

You've been sitting here with a four-flusher, Mary Beth.

He's been telling you stories, getting you drunk, so he can work his way with you.

Come on.

It should've been me.

Ladies and gentlemen...

It is my pleasure, as the head of the Dillhoefer Flying Circus, to present to you, on his first and his foremost and his final tour of America, the greatest flyer, the most courageous ace of aces, the most foolhardy aerial stunt performer in this entire civilized world, the black knight of Germany, Ernst Kessler!

Goddamn Kraut!

All right now!

He's made his turn out there, ladies and gentlemen.

And now, he's coming back. So keep your eyes on him.

He's about to perform a spectacular victory roll!

Thank you.

What are you doin' here, Ezra? It'll be a monoplane.

Here he comes, now, gaining speed vertically.

A monoplane?

You mean to tell me you're building me a plane with only one wing?

Oh, I thought you'd like to know, the bi-plane Is as dead as a dodo bird.

And now he comes, gaining speed. Pulling up!

And there it is.

It's a roll going straight up into the heavens.

And now he comes out of it on the top.

In case you hadn't noticed, Ezra, that was a biplane.

Exactly, it's an antique.

Another death-defying maneuver!

Monoplanes fall apart. Mine is cantilevered, it can't fall apart.

They can't pull high Gs. Absolutely untrue!

It's unstable and unmaneuverable and...

And they can't do that.

When we were 10, who built a glider that flew a 176 feet off the top of the Johnson barn? You did.

And who busted his butt jumping out of a second story window with a parachute made of bed sheets? I did.

Then don't lecture me on aerodynamics.

Was I lecturing you? You were.

He's going now for altitude, ladies and gentlemen.

That means...

It really is a brilliant concept, Waldo.

Wait a minute. Let go of that.

DILLHOEFER Okay. Now, here's something to tell your grandchildren.

At an altitude of 3,000 feet, the only man alive today to do 10 full, complete revolutions without a crash, the death spin of Ernst Kessler!

Now, look, Waldo, you're worried about maneuverability.

Look at the size of that aileron... Shut up!







Hurry up! You're running out of room.



He is the best, isn't he?

You can beat him, Waldo.

In my monoplane.

Here he is, folks. He's coming in to land.

The greatest aviator in the world. Ernst Kessler!

Ladies and gentlemen, a short intermission, during which time, for a nominal fee...

Have you test flown it yet?

As soon as it gets an engine.

I got a line on a surplus Liberty. All it takes is money.

Here, I got lucky last week.

Then that'll do for a down payment.

Don't worry. I'll get more. All right.

Mr. Dillhoefer. Yeah.

I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Waldo Pepper.

Please to meet you, Pepper, but the answer is no.

I thought we might discuss... The answer's still no.

Look, I know who you are.

You're a damn good pilot. Right?

But barnstorming ain't what it used to be.

So, now you want a job in my Flying Circus.

But do you got an act? No! Right.

Well, the answer's no, unless you got an act.

Look up there.

Do you think that pack of jackals want to see a good pilot?

They want blood.

Sudden death is my business, Pepper, not good pilots.

Wait a sec, give me a chance, would you please?

Ah, come on.

I'll give you the same deal I give everybody else.

Now, I'm gonna lose the Kraut to a Western outfit at the end of this month.

That means there's an act free.

Now, you dream up a stunt where people think you're gonna die.

No. Where people are sure you're gonna die, and I'll take you on.

You might try wing-walking. I hear it's very popular down south.

Good luck!

Yoo-hoo! Hey! Yoo-hoo!

Hey, Waldo, how you doin'?

Well, it's an inferior model, but it'll suit my purposes.

What do you mean? I'm borrowing your plane, son.

What? Yep, you wrecked mine, remember?

And it won't be ready for a month.

Hey, hey, take your hands off that.

Dillhoefer's promised me employment provided I come up with an act.

So I'm using your plane to improvise with.

You're not using my plane for anything.

Seems the least you can do for someone who was in combat while you were sitting it out.

I was in combat with the 6th Pursuit in the Calais sector.

And the only reason I got there late was because they made me an Instructor at the time. Son.

And I couldn't get away. Son.

I'm not a vindictive man.

You learned your lesson the other night and there's no need for you to apologize.

Who's apologizing? You're both starving!

Well, you are, practically!

So, why don't you just try helpin' each other?

Well, what the hell would we do, anyway?

You're half crippled, my engine's giving me fits.

Actually, I have some ideas on the subject.

Mary Beth, can you drive?

What? Can you drive?



Go straight, Mary Beth! Got it. Going straight.

To the left! You want me to go to the left?

No, you go straight! Not me.

Slow down! You want me to slow down?

Now, go faster! Faster, okay!

Right! What?

Right. Turn it to the right!

Wait, you go straight! Okay.

To the left!

What the hell are you doing?

Well, you told me to go faster!

Do you want me to go faster? Not you, you're fine.

Here! Here!

You got to slow it down. I can't, I'll stall out if I go any slower.

No, you won't. Just come across the field, go as steady as you can and as slow as you can and we'll adjust to you.

Okay. I hope I don't ruin everything.

Don't worry, Mary Beth, we're doin' a great stunt!

I don't want to be a stickler for accuracy, but you're just flying, she's just driving.

I'm the one doing a great stunt.

That's true, son and that's why you're getting all the glory.

Up to the right. Okay, to the right.

Get over. What?

More. Oh, okay.

Get over. I'm going over.

No, no, no, don't run over it. Oh. Oh.

Faster! Faster.

Come back here! Faster, Mary Beth!

Oh, I'm going as fast as I can! More!

Waldo. Not now!


You're doing fine, Mary Beth! Just go straight.

Waldo, I think you better listen to me.

Damn it, I said not now!

Waldo! I got it!

What about Maudie? You told her? No.

Why not?

My sister worries enough about you as it is.

Go on, go on.

It'll be okay, go on, go on.

Ezra, if you want your lunch, it's waiting for you inside.

Guess who's home.

You bastard! You rotten bastard!


Every time you come home, you do this!

You got some nerve! Get out!


I'm sorry, Waldo. I don't know what got into me.

I think it was seeing you all bandaged up again that did it.

Well, I never get to see you unless you're all banged up.

Still, I guess it's kind of mean to throw things at a crippled man.

I'm sorry, Waldo. I really am.


Scratch my back and I'll forgive you.


Scratch my back and I'll forgive you.

Okay? Okay.

Be careful. This itching is driving me nuts.

There? No. Higher.

Okay. Ah! Yeah, yeah.

You're forgiven.

Waldo, is it always gonna be when something's broken?

My comin' back home, you mean?

Your comin' back home, I mean.

You could fly with me.

Waldo, I get sick!

You think, still?

Well, the last time I went up with you, all I saw was the inside of a paper sack the whole time.

Yeah, I guess.

Besides, I don't think it would look proper.

We could get married.

Well, think of all the pretty girls you'd be missing.

I'd try very hard to cut down.


That's very sweet of you, but no thanks.

If I'd have married you, it would have been before you went off to war.

You were awful cute in those days. I'm still awful cute!

And you practically promised me you'd get killed.

I know. I know.

Sorry about that.

Well, I guess you're still trying.

I really do love you, Maudie.

Except in flying weather!

Oh, Waldo.

Hey, Maudie...

Now you got to remember that this thing is so different and genius like, that you might not think it's perfect.

It is perfect, I'm not saying that.

But you might think it needs to be touched up here.

Oh, God damn, if you don't hurry up, I'm gonna call it off.

Will you just hold on? Well, I haven't had a...

We're coming, Ezra, as fast as we can.

I haven't had an unlimited budget, you know.

It's not gonna look like something out of a museum, all clean and dusted.

I'm a designer and I don't give a damn about clean.

And that's what's so unique about this plane, it's the design.

Concentrate on that. The design.

Well, there it is, the Stiles Skystreak!

Don't you think it might be a little nose heavy, Ezra?

Ah, uh-huh, here, here.


An elevator trim tab you operate from inside the cockpit.

What about the horse power? 80.

Will it take a 120?

Well, If you send me the money for a 120, it'll take a 120.

Hell, it'll take a 180. Do you like it?

What about the wings with a 180? I'll buttress the wires.

I'll get an extra set of flying wires for the wings.

Don't worry about the god damn wings. Do you like it?


I could do an outside loop in this, couldn't I?

Couldn't I? Of course you could.

Hell, even I could do an outside loop in this plane.

But then, I'm a superb pilot.

What's an outside loop? The last great stunt.

Even Kessler hasn't done it. Why not?

He's never had a plane that could take the stress.

Do you realize if you build the first plane to do it, and I'm the first guy to fly it, that we could both be very rich and very famous?

Do you think you'd just mind that, Ez?

I need some more money. Oh! I'll get the money.

He likes it!

Any time you're ready.

Come on, now. Look. We flipped and you lost.

You gotta go first.

We gotta find out if we can do this.

Dillhoefer won't give us a job unless we can wing-walk.

Go on!

Come on back.

Get back in.

I didn't like it much!

All right, get back here and we'll switch.

Come on!

Hey, take the stick.

Take the stick.

Now, what in the... Watch it.

Ladies and gentlemen!

The unbeaten, untied, unethical wing-walking wonders of the world.

Olsson and Pepper!

Guy came through here last week did that standing on his head.

Folks, I have always had a warm spot in my heart for the lovely town of Pauth.



And for your entertainment memories, we have a special guest, who has agreed to take the first flight with us this afternoon.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world-famous opera star, Madame Jessie Lund!

Folks, I always tell the boys our annual sojourn to Great Rapids is the climax of the year.

So just crowd right in! Just crowd right in!

Excuse me for a moment.

Well? Is she gonna help us out or not? Yes or no?

No! It's too dangerous.

Well, we need new stunts. Where's the hell is this outside loop of yours?

The plane'll be ready by the Muncie fair.

That's several weeks from now. We could starve by then.

We need something to bide us through.

Duke, I'm going to make you legendary.

I've been legendary all month, Doc.

All right, then I'll make you unprecedented.

I could go roller skating on the wing.

It's no good. Gates done that this season.

Okay, Doc. How about if I parachute off and then play the harmonica on the way down.

It's no good. Gates done that, too, and he tuted a flute.

What the hell do you want, Doc? Sex!

That's what's gonna pull us through.

Well, I am all the time saying how I just crave adventure.

Then it's yes?

Honey, don't let him bully you into doing something you don't want to do.

Oh, she's gonna do it! She's gonna pull us through.

All right now, here's what we do.

We put her up on the wing... Yeah. And she'll fake bein' afraid.

Right. And the wind will blow her clothes off.

Yeah. Yeah.

Wait. Why would the wind blow her clothes off?

When I'm wing-walking, the wind doesn't blow my clothes off.

Nobody wants to see you with your clothes off!

Her, they'll come runnin' to see what happens, if you know what I mean.

A good gimmick!

We'll just shred her clothes beforehand, and you're a good girl.

I get to pick the clothes.

What was that, honey?

And I get to pick what words you're gonna use about me on the sign.

I want my name higher than anybody else's and I want my name bigger than anybody's.

Let's see. I want to be the "It" girl of the skies!

That's what I'll be.

No, no, that isn't so good. Stop her, Doc.

Nobody's gonna stop me, Buster Brown!

Now, this is what you're gonna write.


I want it higher than anybody's and bigger than anybody else's name on the sign.

Go ahead. Fabulous. Fantastic. Mary Beth Mclllhermy, the "it" girl of the skies.

All right. All right!


Now, honey, now!

Help me!

Somebody, help me, please!

Please, help me! Somebody, please help me!

Help me! Oh, God! Somebody, help me! Please, help me!

Help me, somebody! Please! Help me!

Oh, my God! Axel! Axel!

They're coming out!

Terrific, honey!

You can come back now!

Okay, come back now!

You don't want to go and freeze on me, do you?

Come on in before you catch a cold!

Mary Beth!

This is work to get it up.

Hey, they're coming back.

Hey, what the hell's he trying to do?

He can't land with her out there. He'll cartwheel.

She's frozen. Come on!

I knew she wasn't worth top billing.


Contact. Contact.

What are they doin'? How the hell do I know what they're doin'?

They don't know what they're doing!

We're both gonna die if you stay out there!

Please, crawl to the centre and get out of there!

Mary Beth!


I'm going across.

I can't keep it level with both of you out there.

Put it into a shallow dive.


Mary Beth, I'm gonna help you.

Here, take my hand.

I'm gonna help you back, Mary Beth.

Take my hand!

Mary Beth!

Take it! Take my hand!



You'll notify her family?

Oh, yes, sir. We know exactly what to do.

Don't worry about that.

Ah, I hate to say this, but I am in the business, and an accident like this does bring the people out, so if you'll just excuse us.

Nobody's goin' no place unless he says so.

Unless who says so?

I almost had her.

Jesus, I came so close.

In here.

Hey, Newt.

Hey, hotshot, how are ya?

What do you say?


Newt, this is Doc Dillhoefer and my partner, Axel Olsson.

Hey, you guys, this is Newton Potts.

He was my squadron leader in France.

What are you doin' here? You know, he got 11 planes, Doc?

Oh, I've heard a lot about Mr. Potts.

What brings you down here?

You do, Mr. Dillhoefer.

I'm the Regional Air Inspector here for the Department of Commerce.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to shut you down.


On who the hell's authority?

The Air Commerce Act.

Your air circus is operating in direct violation of the civil aeronautics code.

Hey, come off it, Newt. What are you talk... What is all this?

The fun and games are over, Waldo.

You guys been scarin' the hell out of people for too long.

Flying is getting to be big business, and people gotta figure it's safe.

You can't wave your papers and ruin our livelihood just like that.

You meet the requirements in here and you can fly again.

But your planes have to be licensed, your pilots licensed.

No stunting over congested areas, no wing-walking.

It's all in there.

When you're ready for inspection, let me know and I'll come back.

But until then, you're grounded.

Gee, do you think if I study real hard, Newt, I might pass?

Are you gonna license the clouds and the rain?

You gonna put highways in the sky for people to follow?

Yep. All that, too.

Along with airlines and airmail, and there's gonna be big money in it too, if you're smart.

Well, I'm no chauffeur, and I'm no mailman.

I'm a flyer, Newt.

I'm afraid not anymore, Waldo.

Not until an investigation has been held into the death of that girl.

Waldo and Axel wanted to save her!

Then that will come out in the investigation, but until then, everybody involved will not be issued licences.

And when is that gonna be?

The Regional Board convenes in Wichita in six weeks.

Now listen, I've got a contract with the Muncie Fair in two weeks.

I need Waldo and Axel to fly!

You can't do this to me!

I've got nothin' to do with it.

It's Congress and you guys.

You done it to yourselves.

Why don't you all grow up?

Waldo, you're the greatest natural flyer I've ever seen in my life.

If the war had gone on a little longer, you might have proved that to everybody.

But that kind of flying is finished.

You'll have to learn to live with it.

I'm sorry, hotshot.

Dillhoefer, I'll be in touch.

I just don't understand.

That guy was a great squadron leader.

What the hell happens to people?

Kid stuff.

What does it say?

Not this.


What we've been doin'.

Waldo, he's right. It's kid's stuff.

Now, come on. We can still fly the Muncie fair.

Now, don't worry about Newt. He's an old pal. He'll come around.

I'm through, Waldo.

My heart isn't in it.

See you.

You take care.

Come on! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

Do I fly? Or am I finished?

Neither. I fly.

Look, Waldo, Newt said you'd already asked him three times.

He can't let you.

Somebody's gonna do the outside loop any day now.

If I can do it here, now, you'll still have the plane later on.

He says you might be able to get away with two months suspension.

You can take it to exhibitions all over the country.

You can follow Kessler around and show him up.

All I did was try and save her.

I know.

Newt's gotta go by the rules. Half the local CAA is sittin' out there.


Waldo, we've been together all our lives.

Tell me to fly it and I'll fly it.

Tell me to skip it and I'll skip it.

But I gotta know now.

Are you ready?


Are you sure you're ready?


Down from the heavens, all for you, the Stiles Skystreak!

Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in the history of aviation, the most difficult, the most dangerous aerobatic maneuver ever performed in the entire world.

Mr. Ezra Stiles will now perform the outside loop!

He's over the top now folks, and into his dive at 200 miles an hour.

He's coming out of the dive upside down and centrifugal force is trying to throw him out of the cockpit.

Put the power on. Power on! Late!

Tremendous pressure's are driving the blood to his head.

He could black out any second.

Oh, he's trying to push over the top and make history here for you, today.

It's all right folks. He's under control.

He's not gonna make it, is he?

He'll make it.

Well, if he don't we'll go right into the opera singer routine.

Duke, get into the opera costume.

He'll make it.

Get the plane ready.

Don't let it hang there.

Piece of cake, Ezra!

Pull back. That's it!

Now power! Now power!

Don't let it slide back.

Jesus, don't let it slide back!

Go back! Go back!

Ace, get that goddamn plane started! Go back!

Listen. Let me...

Let me get the belt.

Can you move your legs? Can you move your legs?

Not much. Well, try.

They're jammed.

Son of a bitch!

Hey, one of you guys give me a hand, will ya?

Oh, Christ! Waldo! They're smoking! They're smoking!

Hey! Put that away, goddamn it!

Put those cigarettes away!

Get 'em away from the plane! Damn it!

Get 'em away!

Fire! Fire!

Don't let me burn, Waldo!

Somebody give me a hand. Quick!

Please! Help me!

Come on, help me. Don't just stand there.

Help me! Help me get him out!

Don't let me burn!

Don't let me burn!

Waldo! Waldo, I'm burning! I'm burning!


Get away!

Get away from here, you goddamn vultures!

Get away. Go back!

Go back! Go on! Get away!

Get away!

What the hell is he doin'?

Get away!

It's permanent, Waldo.

The Regional Board met in Wichita. Permanently grounded.

It's a federal offense if you ever fly again.

That means jail.

I put in my pitch for you.

Did everything I could, but they wouldn't budge.

It's a miracle no one was killed in that crash.

If there had been, you'd of been up for manslaughter.

As it was, they figure they're letting you off easy.

Well, they did the right thing.

There's no doubt about it.

You can come work for me if you want to.

It's the best I can do.

It's clerkin', sure, but you'd still be in aviation.

No, thanks, Newt.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Well, if you change your mind, let me know.

What do you think about Kessler?


Doin' the outside loop, last week, in St. Louis.

Well, somebody was bound to do it sooner or later.

Yeah, I suppose so.

Take it easy, hotshot.



Who is it?

It's me, Doc. Waldo Pepper.


Just a minute, huh, Doc?

Howdy, Doc.

Oh, hey, you're lookin' good, Doc. Real good.

What you been doin'?

Get to it, Pepper.

Oh, nothing, I...

Well, I'm healing pretty fast, and I was thinkin' about maybe gettin' back into flying.

I can't advise you on that.

You wanna go to jail, go to jail.

I'd use another name, of course.

I wouldn't want star billin' or anything.

With me?

You get me the worst publicity that a man could ever ask for, you get me suspended for a year, and here you are now, asking me for a job.

Come on, Doc.

You're crazy.

There's not an outfit in this part of the country that'll even touch you.

Ah, it's all gone anyway.

They don't wanna see stuntin' anymore.

They want speed, records, fast, faster.

Get yourself a bug, hit 200, you're home free.

I can do that.

Goodbye, Pepper.

Your friend Olsson's doin' pretty good in Hollywood.

Maybe the CAA hasn't set itself up in the west yet.

Try California.


See you, Doc.

You're not a bad sort, Waldo.

But you're dangerous.

How's the pay?


The people are kind of nutty but you get used to them.

I haven't been out of work since I got here.

Who do I see about getting a job?

Don't worry about it.

Finish! Cut! Axel, move in. Come on, Axel.

I'll be right back.

Now, you'll be in that position over there.

All right, gentlemen.

All right. Stand by, everybody!

Roll 'em!



Cut! Did you got that?

Okay for you?

Okay, Joe? Good.

Cut! Print! That was a good one.

Let's just wait a minute, Frank. Just a minute.

I am just too cat-like to fall that way.

Every fan I have will know in his heart it simply isn't me.

I have too much natural grace.

Couldn't he club me with a wrench or somethin' like that?

You know, my reflexes are...

Hey, you were great. That's a terrific fall. Okay?

One more time, please. And Axel, will you use the gun butt on him this time.

Props, will you move the debris out of the way so the men can bring the table in.

Well, you must be the famous Patsy.


Axel says I'm supposed to be real nice to you.

You're damned right.

Hi, honey. Hi.

Werfel asked me to give you a message.

He wants you to reconsider.

But I thought he had all his pilots.

Not after this morning.

Another mid-air?

We've been through that before. Tell him no.

I'm glad. I already did.

Hey, let's us do it.

You're talking to an airline pilot, son.

Western promised me an opening at the end of the month, once my application passes CAA review.

Ah, who'd approve you?

I'm clean. I took my year's suspension.

You really wanna get thrown to the lions?

It's a lot better than getting creamed by Fokker.

I can't do that kind of air work anymore, anyhow. I'm out of practice.

But we can work our way back.

I couldn't get the job myself, but Werfel knows you.

You could vouch for me.

I'd even use an assumed name.

How about it?

Do you think we could?

God knows Werfel pays his pilots big.

All their next of kin agree on that.

These are the outtakes on that scene where Dick had that piece of bad luck.

Oh, Dick's gonna be all right, more or less, thank God.

And thank God we had two cameras on it.

We got it from different angles, I think we can use the same one for both Curtin's crash and Landis's.

I'm positive the audience will never notice they're the same crash.

Ah, that's supposed to be Madden's plane flying over, but I think we'll probably cut that part out.

And start him going up again to help McKinnon.

Oh, here's the same crash from a different angle. You'll see what I mean.

Actually, Dick was lucky to get out of it alive.

He'll be in the hospital for at least a couple of months, and no use to us.

All right, that's enough. Let's have some lights, please.

Now then, we've shot everything up to where Madden comes back up to help McKinnon.

And what I want to see is McKinnon's plane flamed, see him Jump to his death and then the final dog-fight between Kessler and Madden.

Think you can handle that? Yes, sir. No problem.

Hey, George. George. Mr. Werfel, I'd like you to meet my partner, the famous George Brown from the East Coast.

This is Mr. Werfel, the Director.

Excuse me. What is this picture?

It's called Eagles Over France, about the 14th Air Scouts.

That was Ernst Kessler's battle.

Yes, that's right. Yes, they flew against Kessler. It's all true.

True, no. You got it all wrong.

The 14th Scouts didn't have any Spads, and they didn't have Newports, or SC 5's.

Mr. Brown. There was a different insignia...

Mr. Brown! Anybody can supply accuracy, artists provide truths.

But Mr. Werfel, I know this battle.

And they were stationed much closer to the front line.

There was no phony farm house.

He's quite right, it didn't look like that.

But then, perhaps, some poetic license is justified.

You're learning.

Look here. You sure you can handle all these three stunts?

Yes, Sir. They're very dangerous.

We can do it. And how much is it gonna cost me?

Depends. I'm on a very tight budget...

You're Ernst Kessler, aren't you?


And your name is Brown?

I'm sorry I went on about what an expert I was on your battle.

No. No need. You probably know more about it than I do.

I was there, of course, but ah, there wasn't much time for me to study.

Well, anyway, I'm glad to be in your movie.

Oh, it's hardly mine.

I am just a technical advisor.

They let me do my own flying.

Publicity, I suppose.

Aren't you playing yourself?

Ernst Kessler shot down 70 planes.

Now, if you were casting the part, who would you pick?

I'd pick you.

Oh, it doesn't matter.

It's all lies anyway, Mr. Brown.

Oh, ah, let's forget the Brown stuff.

My name is Waldo Pepper.

You're Waldo Pepper?

You were a friend of Ezra Stiles?

And you were with him in Muncie, when he tried for the outside loop?

You were in some trouble, yes?

Yes. It's over now?


So nice to have met you.

Perhaps we'll have a chance to fly together.

I'd like that.

Goodbye, Mr. Brown.


This is it.


Well, have you got any notions of how to set this Goddamned thing on fire in mid-air and then jump clear without singeing your ass off?

Well, we'll see.

Well, you know, we could...

Did you find out how much Werfel is gonna pay for this stunt?

Yeah. 500.


You mean, he's gonna pay me $500 just to set this thing on fire and jump?

No, not you. He's paying me $500.

You're flying the Madden plane.


You're flying the Madden plane.

How do you know?

Kessler talked to Werfel.

He said he wanted to do the dogfight with you.

You know, if I place a charge under the cowling, and I run some wires back under the floor board to a switch here, when I hit the switch, smoke pot goes, when I jump clear, the plane will be goin'...

I was not spying.

I did not wish to be an intrusion.

So, tomorrow we do the McKinnon jump. Who's doing it?

I am.

May I ask you why? There are other pilots.

Well, I'm 32-years-old and I've been flying since I was 20 and I'm gettin' married.

Yeah, I'm gettin' married.

And they're paying me 500 bucks for this jump and that makes my total net worth $250.

I need the money.

Yes, I understand the need for money. Captain, believe me.

I, myself, am in debt for slightly less than $40,000.

But, ah, I still would not like to make that jump.

Well, how can a guy like you be in debt for $40,000?

I ask myself that from time to time.

All I can tell you is that life is clear for me up there alone.

In the sky I found, even in my enemies, courage, honor and chivalry.

On the ground...

Is it secured?

Huh? Is it secured?


Okay. I'm gonna put the switch in back here, now.


Are you sure?

Sure about what?

About... Hey!

Goddamn it, you stupid moron!

This is already a fire hazard just sitting here!

Get me an end wrench.

Never mind. I'll get it myself.

Madden got height on you that day.

They were up in back of you with the sun behind them. How come?

Hmm. You're quite correct.

Yes, I was heading back home.

Cold and I'm afraid, careless.

You know, I flew much better missions than this one.

Nobody knows about them, but I did.

This one only took eight minutes.

Someone down on the ground told me that once.

I was surprised.

You see, nothing in my life has ever been the same since.

And eight minutes, it seemed too little, like a cheat.

The five of them came at us out of the sun.

And on the first pass, Madden shot down my escort plane.

Which left it four to one against me.

At first, I wanted to run, but they had the angles on me, so I closed with them.

And that they did not expect.

You know,

I could see how young they were.

So frightened.

And they already knew my plane.

Who was Lola?

My first wife.

You know, I've had three.

She left me soon after the war.

They all left me, but Lola is the only one that I still seek out in crowds.

Where was I? They recognized your plane.

And they forgot everything.

You know, they made such final mistakes.

And I kept on firing until they were down.

And the last to go was McKinnon.

And he flamed.

You know, I don't blame him for jumping.

I would have done the same thing.

But I didn't actually see him go, because Madden was on me.

Did you know it was Madden?

I think so, yes.

I wanted it to be, I know that.

Madden, they said, was a wonder.

And I was Ernst Kessler.

But not against children.

No, that proves nothing.

You see, I keep track of talent.

Madden tried going under you at first, didn't he?


Were you surprised?

I thought I was done. But I maneuvered free.

But before I could breathe, he was on me again, and I said, "My God, is he better than I am?

"Is there someone who can beat me in the sky?"

Were you scared?


Everything was in order.

The world made total sense.

We battled.

No lasting advantage.

He was brighter, I was smarter.

He was faster, and I was quicker.

Until he hesitated coming out of a turn.

His guns had jammed.

You know, I could see him, pounding on the guns. Trying to make them regain function.

And I thought, "Run, Madden.

"Try for the clouds."

But he didn't.

He came straight for me instead.

And I thought, "You are very stupid, "but you are very brave.

"So someone else will have to kill you."

Was that when you saluted?


And then what did you do?


Now, when you pull the smoke pot, keep it going for a full 10 seconds and then set the plane on fire.

Only, make sure the plane's really on fire before you get out.

Now, then you'll jump, and the camera ship will follow you all the way down.

Right? Okay.

But don't open your parachute too soon otherwise you'll spoil the whole effect.

And I don't want to do this shot again. Right? Okay. Let's go.

I suppose you could not pull your chute at all, that way he'd be sure to get the right effect!

Let's go!

Get me some scissors to get this boot off.

Guess who's still alive? Me!

That's the one! We got it.

We got it. Oops.

Here we go. Steady. Steady. Here we go.

You wanted to be a movie star.

Who, me?

Boy, do I look forward to this a lot.

We got it.

Hold it.

Who's that? Is that Newt?

Hey, hey, hey, Newt! What you doin' in California, Newt?

I'm working, I'm the regional head of the CAA now.

Western sent me Axel's pilot application.

I'm down here to check a few things out.

Make a few comments about his character.

I've a stupendous character. The world agrees on that!

Good. Good.

There any bad habits I should know about?

Drinking, for example?


There's no problem here. No.

Well, I guess if Western's dumb enough to want you, they won't be in business long enough for you to do them any harm.

Did you know Kessler's in town?


Kessler is in town.

They're filming the Madden dog-fight for some movie.

I know. Right. I read about that In the papers. Next week or...

No. It's tomorrow.

Well, I guess I got it wrong.

Hey, you gonna come and have a drink with us?

No, thanks. No, thanks, but I can't.

I gotta get up early tomorrow.

Betcha every pilot in town is gonna try and sneak In on this one.

I don't know about you guys, but I wouldn't miss it for the world.


Hey, we'll see you.

Yeah. Yeah.

See ya, Newt. Happy landings. Take good care.

Do you see him?

If I saw him, I'd at least grunt or something.

Just keep a steady lookout. I don't...

Werfel's waiting for you.


Well, what do you think?

Hey, Brown!


All right. We're gonna start with some independent passes over the camera ship.

He'll signal when he's got enough.

Then we'll cut to some head-on passes.

But keep close. Remember at all times, keep close to the camera ship.

Look, I know those are uncomfortable, and I know you didn't really wear them in the war, but there are two men dead on this picture already, so you'll wear them now. Any questions?

What'd they do that for?

Who's flying with Kessler?


New guy.

I'll get him when he gets down.

I don't understand. What are they doing?

They're actually fighting, for Christ's sake.

Come on, Waldo, shake him!

Well, as long as he's up there.

He's gonna run him into the hill.

Jesus, he rammed him!

Well, get a camera on them, will you.

If those stupid bastards are gonna kill each other, I want it on film!

Where the hell are they?

There's Waldo.


One more pass and you got him.