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The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)

A biplane pilot who had missed flying in WWI takes up barnstorming and later a movie career in his quest for the glory he had missed, eventually getting a chance to prove himself in a film ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Axel Olsson
Roderick Cook ...
Scott Newman ...
James S. Appleby ...
Patrick W. Henderson Jr. ...
James N. Harrell ...
Farmer (as James Harrell)
Elma Aicklen ...
Farmer's Wife


A biplane pilot who had missed flying in WWI takes up barnstorming and later a movie career in his quest for the glory he had missed, eventually getting a chance to prove himself in a film depicting the dogfights in the Great War. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Robert Redford Takes to the Skies in This Rousing Adventure


Adventure | Drama


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

13 March 1975 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tollkühne Flieger  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film's opening title card read: "Nebraska, 1926". See more »


Throughout the scene where Mary Beth is wing walking, she is standing up while the dummy that was her stand-in was kneeling. So from one scene to the next the figure was standing, kneeling, standing, etc. See more »


Axel Olsson: Guess who's still alive... ME!
See more »


Features The Son of the Sheik (1926) See more »

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User Reviews

Spectacular story about WWI fliers turned barnstorming aerial stunt pilots including superb flying sequences
23 December 2014 | by (Santander Spain) – See all my reviews

The film's opening title card read: "Nebraska, 1926" and shows the old black-and-white Universal Pictures logo presentation, which features an old early 20th Century plane flying around the orbit of the planet earth . The Second Greatest Flyer in the World . The war was over - and the world's greatest flyers had never met in combat . But Waldo was going to change all that - even if it killed him . The era the picture is set in is mostly the ¨Roaring Twenties¨ , specifically the period is between 1926 and 1931 , in which bitter pilots are reduced to defying death in air flying circus such as Waldo Pepper (Robert Redford) , Axel Olson (Bo Svenson) and Ezra Stiles (Edward Herrmann). As a disillusioned biplane pilot named Waldo who had missed flying in WWI takes up barnstorming and later he carries out a movie career in his quest for the glory he had missed . After that , the pilot-become-barnstormer gets hired as a stuntman for the Hollywood movies . Eventually getting a chance to prove himself in a film depicting the dogfights in the Great War . Waldo believes the honor of the best WWI fighter pilots and he deems to be the German Ernst Kessler (Bo Brundin) who is working in Hollywwod as an aerial stunt .

This attractive drama about flying results to be an elegiac homage to WWI fliers . It features impressive vintage aircraft flying sequences made by expert stunts and professional pilots . However , there are no studio takes in airplanes , all close-ups of actors being airborne were done for real, sometimes with George Roy Hill, a former Marine pilot himself, flying the airplane while directing ; as scenes with Robert Redford and Bo Svenson climbing out on the wing were done without any security harness or parachutes . The film reunited three successful Hollywood professionals of the sixties and seventies : actor Robert Redford , filmmaker George Roy Hill , and screen-writer William Goldman , the latter Oscar Winner for ¨The Sting ¨. All of them got a big hit with ¨Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid¨ . Breathtaking as well as overwhelming flying sequences , intelligent plot and brilliant scenes are major assets in this stunning flick . Robert Redford gives one of his best acting , along with Bo Svenson and Bo Brundin ; both actors are Swedish . The notorious secondary player Geoffrey Lewis also gives an admiring interpretation , as always . The movie represents an early screen role of actress Susan Sarandon , the film was one two 1975 movies that Sarandon appeared in that were released in that year , he other one was The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) which is considered to feature Sarandon's breakthrough film role . The yarn features actress Margot Kidder who became famous for starring in the "Superman" franchise with Christopher Reeve .

Colorful as well as evocative cinematography by the great cameraman Robert Surtees , a photographer expert on super-productions . Lively and enjoyable musical score by Henry Mancini , Pink Panther's composer . The movie is pretty well but had a commercial flop . The motion picture was compellingly directed by George Roy Hill . This is third and final of three films that as an actor, Robert Redford made with director George Roy Hill, he first two were The Sting (1973) and Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid (1969) . George Roy Hill had a long career from the fifties until the eighties with hit smashes such as ¨The world according to Garp¨ , ¨Slap shot¨, ¨Butch Cassidy¨, ¨The Sting¨ , ¨Hawaii¨ , ¨The world of Henry Orient¨ and commercial failures such as ¨The little drummer girl¨ , ¨A little romance¨ , ¨Slaughterhouse five¨, ¨Throughly Millie¨ , ¨Toys in the attic¨ , ¨Period of adjustment¨ and this ¨The great Waldo Pepper¨ ; however , the latter being today better considered than old times . Rating : 6,5/10 Above average . Worthwhile watching .

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