The Great Waldo Pepper

Synopsis: 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.
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Director(s): George Roy Hill
Production: Universal
Rotten Tomatoes:
107 min


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?



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?


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

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William Goldman

William Goldman (born August 12, 1931) is an American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. He came to prominence in the 1950s as a novelist, before turning to writing for film. He has won two Academy Awards for his screenplays, first for the western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and again for All the President's Men (1976), about journalists who broke the Watergate scandal of President Richard Nixon. Both films starred Robert Redford. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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