New York Times - 03/14/1975
"...A most appealing movie..."
Following the enormous success of THE STING, George Roy Hill finally had the freedom to make this film about the romance of aviation, which had been a cherished project of his for years. It stars Robert Redford as Waldo Pepper, a former WWI pilot who, in 1926, is barnstorming across the country in a Curtiss JN-4 biplane, doing stunts for a living. He exaggerates his wartime heroics, as much to fulfill his own fantasies as to drum up business, claiming to have engaged in a dogfight with ace German fighter pilot Ernst Kessler (Bo Brundin). His closest friend, Ezra Stiles, is working on the design of a monoplane that can perform the perilous outside loop, which Pepper intends to be the first to execute. With public interest in stunt flying on the downslide, the pilot is forced to partner with good-natured former competitor Axel Olsson (Bo Svenson). But things still remain tough for the pilots, leading them to join a flying circus. When tragedy strikes, Pepper must answer to aviation authorities. The film, well executed on every level, features extraordinary stunt flying, mixing slapstick with a darker drama about the crippling effect of adolescent fantasy.
Character Study |
High Flying |
Period Piece |
Theatrical Release |
Shooting location: Texas.
The film was inspired by Hill's lifelong love of flying and admiration for stunt pilots.
An accomplished aviator, Hill often flew the camera plane to instruct the pilot and cameraman on how he wanted the scene shot.
Actor Edward Herrmann did his own stunt in the performance of the death-defying outside loop, which meant that he had to fly upside down, his head, at one point, six feet from the ground.