Cloud Dancer

Cloud Dancer is a 1980 aviation drama film directed by Barry Brown. The film stars David Carradine, Jennifer O'Neill and Joseph Bottoms. Cloud Dancer follows a competition aerobatic pilot throughout his show season. [1]

Cloud Dancer
Directed byBarry Brown
Produced by
Written by
  • Barry Brown
  • William Goodhart
  • Daniel Tamkus
Music byFred Karlin
CinematographyTravers Hill
Edited by
  • Marshall M. Borden
  • Allan Holzman
Modern Film Effects
Distributed byBlossom Pictures
Release date
  • January 1, 1980 (1980-01-01) (US)
Running time
104 min.
CountryUnited States


Brad Randolph (David Carradine) is the world champion aerobatic pilot but now, in his early 40s, he faces many challenges to maintain his position. His physical struggles are heightened by the presence of a youthful competitor, Tom Loomis (Joseph Bottoms), a pilot who had been a drug smuggler and had been encouraged by Brad to try aerobatic flying.

Intertwined with Brad's professional struggles is his relationship with Helen St. Clair (Jennifer O'Neill). When Brad begins to have blackouts during his competitions, after several near accidents, he faces a tough decision.



The technical advisor for Cloud Dancer was former world champion aerobatic pilot, Tom Poberezny. Crowd scenes were shot at actual air shows in the Phoenix area.[1] Producer/director Barry Brown was a pilot and wanted to ensure a film on aerobatic flying was authentic. He constructed a special aerial camera apparatus to film the pilots in the air. [2][Note 1]


The aircraft that were featured in Cloud Dancer included two S-1S and S-2A Pitts Specials. A North American P-51 Mustang. Stearman PT-17 Kaydet, Ford Trimotor 5-AT-C and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress were utilized. Other aircraft include: Piper PA-28R- 201T Turbo Arrow III, Christen Eagle, Cessna 140, Cessna 172M, Beechcraft A 36 Bonanza, Lake LA-4 BuccaneerÂ… and Douglas A-4F Skyhawk.[2]


Composer Fred Karlin provided three original songs: "It's so Easy", "Cloud Dancer" and "Sainted Angel, the last two written with Norman Gimbel. Composer S.L. Mossman wrote "Talkin' Lady Mechanic Blues" while Mark Dawson contributed "The Heart You Break May Be Your Own". Songwriter/artist Hoyt Axton sang "You Taught Me to Cry" and "Talkin' Lady Mechanic Blues". David Carradine wrote and sung "Man". Gene Cotton sang "Cloud Dancer", "Sainted Angel"and "It's So Easy". Mary Macgregor sang "It's So Easy".[3]


Cloud Dancer was released earlier, but had its worldwide premiere in Milwaukee on May 29, 1980. Although the aerial sequences were spectacular, the film was not well received. Aviation historian Stephen Pendo considered it an example of an aviation film that could not be saved by its vivid cinematography. He commented: "... the picture is so bad that it never went into wide distribution, Here is a classic example of how good stunt flying cannot save an otherwise poor film.[4]



  1. David Carradine was not a pilot and most of his flying scenes were filmed on the ground, although he did fly as a back seat passenger in a two-seat Pitt Special.[2]


  1. "Cloud Dancer." EEA Magazine July 19, 1978.
  2. Santoir, Christian. "Review: 'Cloud Dancer' (1980). Aeromovies. Retrieved: February 4, 2017.
  3. "Music: 'Cloud Dancer' (1980). TCM. Retrieved: February 4, 2017.
  4. Pendo 1985, p. 58.


  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
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