The Great Waldo Pepper
is a 1975 film starring Robert Redford, Margot Kidder, Bo Svenson, Edward Herrmann, and Susan Sarandon.
Waldo Pepper is a down-on-his luck former World War I
pilot, who gets by on making appearances as a barnstorming pilot, giving rides and doing stunts, something that is getting harder to hold people's attention with, as planes are becoming more common. He also feels cheated by the fact that he never got to fly against the greatest of German aces, Ernst Kessler. When a series of disastrous mishaps derails his life, it puts him in a place to not only meet the famed ace, but test his flying
This film contains examples of:
- Ace Pilot: Most of the main characters, but Ernst Kessler is the one that everyone keeps trying to match.
- Bystander Syndrome: After Ezra crashes, and especially after the wreck catches fire, the gathered crowd just stands around and watches as Waldo tries to pull him out, but us unable to by himself.
- California Doubling: In-Universe, as they're filming a movie about air battle of World War I over France, but the filming's being done in California.
- Do a Barrel Roll: Ezra is killed attempting to perform the world's first outside loop, triggering the psychotic episode that costs Waldo his pilot's license.
- Duel to the Death: Waldo and Kessler turn what is supposed to be a filming flight into one.
- Just Plane Wrong: Two relatively common Tiger Moth biplanes were wrecked in the crash scenes, standing in for the much rarer Standard J-1. Ironically, most sources about the film mistakenly identify the Standard J-1s actually used in the movie as the smaller (but more famous) Curtis JN-1 "Jenny". Tallmantz aviation, like most real Barnstormers, preferred the Standard because it was larger, stronger, and used a more reliable engine.
- Ramming Always Works: Since they don't have live ammunition, Waldo and Kessler duke it out with the planes themselves.
- The Roaring Twenties: The barnstorming era, specifically.
- Take My Hand: Averted when Waldo Pilot title character tells Mary Beth to take his hand while trying to coax her off an airplane wing after she freezes in panic during a midair wing-walking stunt. Unfortunately she lets go of the strut she's clinging to and lunges at Waldo with BOTH hands. He can't catch her and she falls to her death.
- Worthy Opponent: Kessler saw Madden this way, and eventually comes to see Waldo as one as well.
- Wronski Feint: Attempted by Kessler when he tries to force Waldo into the ground at the end.