(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - another day at the office ... Cliff Lyons (left) and Jim Corey (right) take a fall in Buck Jones' OUTLAWED GUNS (Universal, 1935).
(Courtesy of Gene Blottner)
Heroine, great rider, and stunt woman Betty Miles makes a jump from a stagecoach in the Trail Blazers' SONORA STAGECOACH (Monogram, 1944). Below is a closeup of Betty making that jump - and she ain't wearing cowboy boots to do that stunt.
(Image courtesy of Jay Wilsey's granddaughter and
daughter, Tamera Mankini and Frances Eldene Wolski)Above - hero Buffalo Bill, Jr. (Jay Wilsey) doing his own bulldogging.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Stuntman Cliff Lyons drives a buckboard off a cliff into a lake in the cliffhanger ending of Chapter 3 in Buck Jones' THE PHANTOM RIDER (Universal, 1936). Also on board - and dressed in a white shirt / blouse - was a dummy disguised as leading lady Marla Shelton.
(Courtesy of Andy Southard)
Above - at the third annual Golden Boot Awards program in 1985, Roy Rogers presented a Golden Boot to friend and stuntman Joe Yrigoyen (1910-1996). Yrigoyen began his Hollywood career doing stunts in early 1930s Mascot serials and worked for many years at Republic in westerns starring Roy, Bill Elliott, others. He continued doubling and stunting in TV series such as ZORRO, BONANZA, DAVY CROCKETT, more. And he also did a lot of movie stuntwork in A grade films such as the chariot race in BEN HUR. Joe's brother Bill Yrigoyen was also a great stuntman and did a lot of work at Republic Pictures.
I thought doing 'Trusty Steeds' was a chore, but this section is gonna be much more difficult. Here, we'll try to chronicle some of the men and women who did all those wonderful stunts and doubling in the ol' B western.
However, if you have some nitty-gritty on one of these folks, please let me know. If you have a photo or two showing them in action, please scan and I'll give you the photo credit, of course (please, no photos and such "lifted" from cinema related books and periodicals or other websites).
- Before anyone e-mails me asking 'how come so-and-so isn't listed', please be aware that biographical info on most of these gents and ladies is minimal or non-existent ... and photos showing them plying their trade are also difficult to find or just plain unavailable.
- Also, please don't e-mail me asking something like "who doubled for so-and-so in the film GOWER GULCH GALOOTS" ... cuz I probably can't answer that kind of question.
"Gag" or "Gags": term used to refer to a particular stunt or stunts. Apparently a holdover from early silent film days when comedians did slapstick routines which were very physical and called 'gags'.
"Ramrod": term used to reference the 'boss' of the stunt folks - e.g., Dave Sharpe was Republic's 'ramrod' until he went into World War II service, and his replacement was Tom Steele.
"Running W" (abbreviation for "running wire"): wire and cuffs were attached to horse's forelegs and run through slip rings on the saddle cinch underneath the animal. The wire was anchored to the ground via a stake, and when the wire went taut as the horse galloped along, the legs would be pulled up toward his belly, causing a tumble. A similar contraption had the trip wires controlled by the rider - when they got to the drop area, the rider pulled the wire taut, the horse's front legs would fold up underneath, and the fall would occur. There was an outcry about horse injuries and deaths during the filming of Errol Flynn's THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (Warners, 1936). Trade publications and newspapers carried conflicting reports noting that a few equines were injured or dead while other articles mentioned a hundred or more. Many individuals and groups in the U. S. and abroad voiced concern about animal cruelty and pressured Hollywood to eliminate those kinds of stunts. Circa 1940, the tripwire / running W was outlawed and replaced by specially trained horses that could take a fall.
(From Old Corral collection)
Yakima Canutt takes a tumble on a hoss doubling for 'Silver Chief' in THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938) serial.
(Courtesy of Dixie Carson)
Stuntman Fred Carson does a horse fall while doubling for Victor Mature in ESCORT WEST (1959). In the 1920s - 1930s, the "running w" trip wire was used to cause horse and rider to take a fall. By circa 1940, the "running w" was outlawed, and Hollywood began training horses to take a fall on their side. This Fred Carson photo shows that new - and safer - horse fall.
There are several stunt-related websites which you may want to visit:
Neil Summers has many bios on stunt people at Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website: http://www.westernclippings.com/stuntmen/rexrossi_stuntmen.shtml
Pat Mefferd does horse research and has a website on various horses. There's also a section on her stepfather, stuntman Fred Kennedy (Frederick O. Kennedy) who was inducted into the Stuntmen's Hall of Fame in 1982: https://horsefame.tripod.com/fredkennedy.html
The High Chaparral TV show website has a bit more info on Henry Wills, Carl Pitti, Bobby Hoy and many other stunt people that worked on the program: http://www.thehighchaparral.com/stuntwork.htm
There's a profile and filmography on stuntman Robert James "Whitey" Hughes at the Wild Wild West website: http://www.wildwildwest.org/www/otherbio/wh/index.html
The official website for stuntman Bobby Hoy (1927-2010) is at: http://www.bobhoy.com/
Robert Callaghan's website on Jock Mahoney (stuntman, onetime Tarzan and star of TV's RANGE RIDER and YANCY DERRINGER) is at: http://www.dancebob.com/mahoney13/
The Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures website is at: https://www.stuntmen.com/
Steve Jensen has a Clayton Moore/Lone Ranger website. Included is a section on stuntman/actor Chuck Courtney, who portrayed the Lone Ranger's nephew Dan Reid in the TV series: https://claytonmoore.tripod.com/chuck.html
YouTube has many clips of stuntmen doin' stunts - these clips are from John Wayne / John Ford's FORT APACHE and RIO GRANDE and shows horses falling and rolling on top of their riders: https://youtu.be/CfZuYPeeqtY
These websites are no longer maintained and available:
John Hagner's Hollywood Stuntmen's Hall Of Fame website was at: http://www.stuntmen.org/. But when I checked in January, 2021, the website was no longer running and the domain name was for sale. John Hagner passed away in 2018.
The Internet Archive Wayback Machine has a saved copy of the website at: https://web.archive.org/web/20200217224833/http://www.stuntmen.org/index.html
The Stunt Players Directory website had a memorial page on scores of stuntmen and women, birth and death dates, very brief filmographies, etc. When I checked in August, 2018, the website was no longer working: http://stuntplayers.ws/memorial/index.html
The Hollywood Stuntmen blog had info on many stunt men from the 1930s through current films, but was no longer working when I checked in February, 2018: http://hollywoodstuntmen.blogspot.com/