Richard Talmadge and Prince of Pep

 

Richard Talmadge was not the best actor, let’s get this out at the start. But he was a fantastic stuntman and went on to a great career as a second unit director and stunt coordinator after the advent of the talkies, because he had a thick German accent. He first came to the USA as Ricardo Metezzetia, boy member of the famed acrobats, the Mazetti Troupe, that had been engaged by Barnum & Bailey Circus. Prince of Pep (1925) gives Talmadge a chance to show off some of his athletic prowess as he scales the sides of city apartment buildings, jumps from fire escape to fire escape. In one stunt, he leaps from a rooftop across an alleyway to a window of the next building, making it almost too easy.pep2

As I do my research, I’ve found that most of the work of the stunt performers, stunt coordinators and second unit directors, go completely unnoticed in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. The studios during these decades really tried to keep these movie secrets to themselves and so these incredibly important people have passed through time with barely even a word of written recognition or acknowledgment. This is the case with Richard Talmadge, as I had a difficult time finding anything about this man, and his work before the talkies. He was a giant among stunt performers and second unit directors/stunt coordinators, but hardly anyone has ever heard of him. To see what I mean, just go to his page at IMDB and you will see his work is massive, and yet it’s all listed as (UNCREDITED).

Just to see his mind boggling work, I suggest you see the winner for best stunt (Spoiler) for 1964 (Circus World with John Wayne). That “ship turns over in the harbor” scene is his and it makes your eyes pop out that they did this with no CGI. pepPrince of Pep is a stunt-driven silent melodrama, directed by Jack Nelson for Truart Film Company.

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page or Website):

Richard Talmadge

Prince of Pep

Jack Nelson

Truart Film Company

Glossary of film terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1.  Stunt Coordinator – A stunt coordinator, usually an experienced stunt performer, is hired by a TV, filmor theatredirector or production company to arrange the casting (stunt players and stunt doubles) and performance of stunts for a film, television programme or a live audience.

Where the film requires a stunt, and involves the use of stunt performers, the Stunt Coordinator will arrange the casting and performance of the stunt, working closely with the Director.

In many cases, the stunt coordinator budgets, designs and choreographs the stunt sequence to suit the script and the director’s vision.

  1.  Second Unit Director –In film, the second unitis a discrete team tasked with filming shots or sequences separate from the main, or ‘first’ unit.

The functions of the second unit vary, but typically the first unit always films the key face-to-face drama between the principal actors. Two frequent ways a second unit is used are:

  • Action sequences. Action sequences are often filmed in discrete locations, using stunt personnel rather than the principal cast, and requiring significantly different filming arrangements than for ordinary scenes. Therefore they are an obvious opportunity for second unit shooting.
  • ‘Pick-ups’. After the main unit has finished on a set or location, there may be shots that require some or all of this setting as background, but doesn’t require the principal actors – such as close-ups, inserts, cutaways and establishing shots.

Because second units often film scenes with stunts and special effects in action movies, the job of stunt coordinator is often combined with that of second unit director. Many second unit directors were stunt coordinators first, including Vic Armstrong, who has directed second unit on The Amazing Spider-Man, Mission: Impossible III and War of the Worlds; Simon Crane, who did Men in Black 3, Frankenstein and X-Men: The Last Stand; and Terry J. Leonard, responsible for second unit on Cowboys & Aliens, The Expendables and Die Hard: With a Vengeance.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Joe Powell and The Man Who Would Be King

 

Michael Caine wrote a very interesting account of this stunt on the fall off the rope bridge by Joe Powell in his autobiography, “The Elephant To Hollywood”. The stunt was a 100 foot drop in the ravine to an accumulation of cardboard boxes and mattresses below.man who would be king

The drop was so tight and set on the edge of the ravine that if the stuntman’s aim was off slightly or if the wind picked up, he would have fallen surely to his death. After Joe expertly dropped dead center on the boxes, the director John Huston turned to Michael and said, “That’s the damnest stunt I’ve ever seen.”

“The thing is,” explains Powell, “you don’t have time to be scared – if you stop to think about what you are doing you wouldn’t do it.

“These days you still see stuntmen falling off cliffs and going straight into a perfect dive. I didn’t have any training so when I performed a stunt the audience were literally seeing someone fall off a cliff – it made it more realistic.”

That is the great thing about Powell. Although his life-story reads like a Hollywood blockbuster you know it is a real-life story and that realism makes it all the more enthralling.

It’s very interesting to add that Joe’s brother Eddie was also an outstanding stuntman in his own right. He started out on the old Hammer Horror films doubling for Christopher Lee and was doing stunts into his late sixties. Stunt performers usually have family members that join the business as the stuntmen really feel like they have to have people they can really trust and count on to be on their crew.  There are a lot of stunt families where the children carry on the stunt tradition created by their parents. An example of this is with the Needham family, the Canutts, Armstrongs and many more of the movie stunt legends.  The Man Who Would Be King was directed by John Huston for Columbia Pictures.man who

Things to look up (go to IMDB):

Joe Powell
Eddie Powell
John Huston
The Man Who Would Be King
Columbia Picturesman who would be king2

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Musidora and Les Vampires

 

I’d have to say upfront that the female stunt performers at the very start of the film industry were very impressive. They were always expected to do things that even men wouldn’t do. I’m sure that hasn’t changed over the years because just a few years ago, acclaimed stuntman and Arnold Schwarzegenner Stunt Double, Peter Kent, said of female stunt performers, “A lot of times the guys are wearing pads and stuff under their pants. But then you’ll get a woman in a skimpy dress doing a stair fall, and you can’t hide anything under that. I give kudos to a lot of the stunt-women out there because many times they take way more of a beating than the men do. ‘We want you to do this in a frigging negligee. Okay.'”

Musidora gets my nod for 1915 due to sheer style. Her mystique was accentuated by large, dark eyes and a habit of wearing a black leotard, hood and tights while on the set. Born Jeanne Roques, she used Musidora as a stage name. She started out as an acrobat and did all her own stunts in this film serial. It’s also interesting to note, her character’s name in the film, Irma Vep, is an anagram for Vampire. Vamp is a colloquial term applied to describe a particular type of femme fatale, popular in silent films. The term is a shortening of the word vampire, and is used to describe a woman who is glamorous in an exotic, stylized and usually overstated manner. She is usually noted for her striking features, dark clothing and hair, and cosmetics which darken and accentuate the eyes and lips. Her character is a heartless seductress, and the men she seduces are usually shown as helpless victims unable to resist her. From the perspective of American film audiences, she is often seen as foreign, usually of undetermined Eastern European or Asian ancestry. She was designed as the sexual counterpoint of the wholesome actresses such as Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. Among the notable vamps of the silent screen were Theda Bara, Louise Glaum, Musidora, Nita Naldi, Pola Negri, and in her earliest film appearances, Myrna Loy.Les Vampires Stunt

The Gaumont film, Les Vampires, directed by French film Director, Louis Feuillade, is a 10-part serial, and is about gangsters and secret societies inspired by the exploits of the real-life Bonnot Gang, rather than what the title suggests, Vampires. It’s a very good film serial and is very popular for it’s many twists throughout the film. It’s considered one of the first action crime thrillers. Though not intended to be “avant-garde,” Les Vampires has been lauded by critics as the birth of avant-garde cinema and cited by such renowned filmmakers as Fritz Lang and Luis Buñuel as being extremely influential in their desire to become directors. It’s listed in “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” edited by Steven Jay Schneider.

Things to look up (go to IMDB):

Musidora

Les Vampires

Louis Feuillade

Peter Kent

Fritz Lang

Luis Bunuel

Lillian Gish

Mary Pickford

Theda Bara

Louise Glaum

Nita Naldi

Pola Negri

Myrna Loy

Glossary of film terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1.  Femme-Fatale – The phrase is  French for “deadly woman”,  a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype of literature and art. Her ability to entrance and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as being literally supernatural; the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, vampire, witch, or demon, having some power over men.

A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure. In some situations, she uses lying or coercion rather than charm.

Although typically villainous, if not morally ambiguous, and always associated with a sense of mystification and unease, femmes fatales have also appeared as antiheroines in some stories, and some even repent and become true heroines by the end of the tale.

  1.  Avant-Garde – Avant-garde(from French, “advance guard” or “vanguard”) is a French term used in English as a noun or adjective to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art,culture, and politics.

Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The notion of the existence of the avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Stunts and The Loss of a Superhero’s Name

 The action genre was owned primarily by the movie serials during this time and it was the peak of their popularity. The Adventures of Captain Marvel was hugely successful and widely considered to be one of the best serials ever produced. This was the first depiction of a comic book super hero on film. It is considered by most to be the best in a line of the Superhero serials that would follow.



The serial deserves its reputation and it made Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel) a bankable star for Republic. The funny thing is, this is one of the greatest cinematic trompe l’oeils ever, because Tom Tyler himself is hardly in the movie. About half the scenes of Captain Marvel are actually shot with stunt doubles or, in the case of the flying sequences, a papier-mache sculpture strung on wires.
Serial Captain Marvel

The flying effects were performed mostly with a dummy. The dummy was slightly larger than life, at 7 feet tall, and made of paper mâché so that it weighed only 15 lbs. The uniform was made of thin silk and a cotton jersey. Four pulleys connected to each shoulder and calf, which were strung on two wires so the dummy moved along them by its own weight. The wires were attached to two objects across the view of the camera, and the dummy slid from one to the other, giving the appearance of flight. This system was originally intended for a Superman serial, a prototype of which was built but discarded. The flying pose used for the dummy, arms outstretched and back arched, was based on drawing by Mac Raboy. If Captain Marvel needed to be seen flying upwards, the cape was weighted down and the dummy slid backwards. The film of this was then reversed.


Dave Sharpe was the human part of the effect. Dressed as Captain Marvel, he would leap from a high point with his body straight, as if able to fly, then roll to land at the last second. The combination of effects and stunts produced the overall illusion of a flying person. Sharpe also performed other stunts as Captain Marvel, such as back flipping and knocking down attacking natives in the first chapter. Some shots of Captain Marvel flying were filmed with Tyler against rear projected clouds. However, some of these scenes show the wires used to hold him up.
captain
According to Stedman, the flight scenes were “the most successful illusion of such aerobatics ever put upon the screen, in serial or feature.”



The picture is largely carried by a young and energetic Frank Coghlan as Billy Batson, who has almost all of the dialogue. The character of Captain Marvel is barely a walk-on, he has about as much actual screen time as Lou Ferrigno used to get on the old Incredible Hulk TV show– and Cap generally only shows up for the same reason, to get his alter ego out of trouble at the last possible minute.

captain-marvel-flight-n1331
I’m going to take a moment to mention something that falls into the category of, “It’s just a damn shame”. My brother is sick of me complaining about this, but I think it’s just a damn shame that Captain Marvel lost his name! It makes me sick really when people today call him Shazam! Shazam was the Wizard’s name! People today don’t understand, but here’s what happened…

 

After the success of National Comics’ new superhero characters Superman and Batman, Fawcett Publications started its own comics division in 1939, recruited writer Bill Parker to create several hero characters for the first title in their line, tentatively titled Flash Comics. Besides penning stories featuring Ibis the Invincible, Spy Smasher, Golden Arrow, Lance O’Casey, Scoop Smith, and Dan Dare for the new book, Parker also wrote a story about a team of six superheroes, each possessing a special power granted to them by a mythological figure.

 Fawcett Comics’ executive director Ralph Daigh decided it would be best to combine the team of six into one hero who would embody all six powers. Parker responded by creating a character he called “Captain Thunder”.
captain_marvel_chapter9
The first issue of the comic book, printed as both Flash Comics #1 and Thrill Comics #1, had a low-print run in the fall of 1939 as an ashcan copy created for advertising and trademark purposes. Shortly after its printing, however, Fawcett found it could not trademark “Captain Thunder,” “Flash Comics,” or “Thrill Comics,” because all three names were already in use. Consequently, the book was renamed Whiz Comics, and Fawcett artist Pete Costanza suggested changing Captain Thunder’s name to “Captain Marvelous,” which the editors shortened to “Captain Marvel”. The word balloons in the story were re-lettered to label the hero of the main story as “Captain Marvel”. Whiz Comics #2 (cover-dated Feb. 1940) was published in late 1939.



Visual inspiration for Captain Marvel came from a number of sources. His appearance was modeled after that of Fred MacMurray, a popular American actor of the period, though comparisons to both Cary Grant and Jack Oakie were made as well. Fawcett Publications’ founder, Wilford H. Fawcett, was nicknamed “Captain Billy,” which inspired the name “Billy Batson” and Marvel’s title, as well. Fawcett’s earliest magazine was titled Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang (which is also mentioned prominently in The Music Man by Robert Preston during the crusade against the pool hall), which inspired the title Whiz Comics. In addition, Fawcett took several of the elements that had made Superman the first popular comic book superhero (super-strength and speed, science-fiction stories, a mild-mannered reporter alter ego) and incorporated them into Captain Marvel. Fawcett’s circulation director Roscoe Kent Fawcett recalled telling the staff, “Give me a Superman, only have his other identity be a 10- or 12-year-old boy rather than a man”. (NOW REMEMBER THIS PART AS IT’S VERY IMPORTANT)

 As a result, Captain Marvel was given a 12-year-old boy named Billy Batson as his alter ego. In the story of his origin printed in Whiz Comics #2, Billy, a homeless newsboy, is led by a mysterious stranger to a secret subway tunnel. An odd subway car with no visible driver takes them to an underground tunnel with seven statues depicting the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man (Pride, Envy, Greed, Hatred, Selfishness, Laziness and Injustice): the lair of the wizard Shazam. (See! The Wizard is Shazam!) The wizard shows that he has observed the hardship of Billy’s life, and grants him the power to become the adult superhero Captain Marvel, just before a stone suspended above Shazam’s head crushes him. His ghost says he will give advice when a brazier is lighted.

 

In order to transform into Captain Marvel, Billy must speak the wizard’s name, an acronym for the six legendary figures who agreed to grant aspects of themselves to a willing subject: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Speaking the word produces a bolt of magic lightning which transforms Billy into Captain Marvel. Speaking the word again reverses the transformation with another bolt of lightning.

Adventures_of_Captain_Marvel_(1941_serial)_12
Captain Marvel wore a bright red costume with gold trim and a yellow lightning bolt insignia on the chest. The body suit originally included a partial bib front, but was changed to a one-piece skintight suit within a year (the partial bib would be restored to Captain Marvel’s costume much later in the character’s history, in 1994). The costume also included a white-collared cape trimmed with gold flower symbols, usually asymmetrically thrown over the left shoulder and held around his neck by a gold cord. The cape was inspired by the ceremonial cape worn by the British nobility, photographs of which appeared in newspapers in the 1930s.



Through much of the Golden Age of Comic Books, Captain Marvel proved to be the most popular superhero character of the medium with his comics outselling all others, including those featuring Superman. In fact, Captain Marvel Adventures sold fourteen million copies in 1944, and was at one point being published bi-weekly with a circulation of 1.3 million copies an issue (proclaimed on the cover of issue #19 as being the “Largest Circulation of Any Comic Magazine”). Part of the reason for this popularity included the inherent wish-fulfillment appeal of the character to children, as well as the humorous and surreal quality of the stories. Billy Batson typically narrated each Captain Marvel story, speaking directly to his reading audience from his WHIZ radio microphone, relating each story from the perspective of a young boy.

 Detective Comics (later known as National Comics Publications, National Periodical Publications, and today known as DC Comics) sued both Fawcett Comics and Republic Pictures for copyright infringement in 1941, alleging that Captain Marvel was based on their character Superman. After seven years of litigation, the National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications case went to trials court in 1948. Although the judge presiding over the case decided that Captain Marvel was an infringement, DC was found to be negligent in copyrighting several of their Superman daily newspaper strips, and it was decided that National had abandoned the Superman copyright. As a result, the initial verdict, delivered in 1951, was decided in Fawcett’s favor.
adventures
National appealed this decision, and Judge Learned Hand declared in 1952 that National’s Superman copyright was in fact valid. Judge Hand did not find that the character of Captain Marvel itself was an infringement, but rather that specific stories or super feats could be infringements, and that the truth of this would have to be determined in a re-trial of the case. The judge therefore sent the matter back to the lower court for final determination.

Instead of retrying the case, however, Fawcett decided to settle with National out of court. The National lawsuit was not the only problem Fawcett faced in regard to Captain Marvel. While Captain Marvel Adventures had been the top-selling comic series during World War II, it suffered declining sales every year after 1945 and by 1949 it was selling only half its wartime rate. Fawcett tried to revive the popularity of its assorted Captain Marvel series in the early 1950s by introducing elements of the horror comics trend that gained popularity at the time.

 Feeling that this decline in the popularity of superhero comics meant that it was no longer worth continuing the fight, Fawcett agreed to permanently cease publication of comics with the Captain Marvel-related characters, and to pay National $400,000 in damages. Fawcett shut down its comics division in the autumn of 1953 and laid off its comic-creating staff. Whiz Comics had ended with issue #155 in June 1953, Captain Marvel Adventures was canceled with #150 (November 1953), and The Marvel Family ended its run with #89 (January 1954).

NOW FOR THE IRONY…When superhero comics became popular again in the mid-1960s in what is now called the “Silver Age of Comic Books,” Fawcett was unable to revive Captain Marvel, having agreed never to publish the character again (as part of settlement of the lawsuit). Carmine Infantino, publisher of DC Comics, licensed the characters from Fawcett in 1972, and DC began planning a revival. Because Marvel Comics had by this time established Captain Marvel as a comic book trademark for their own character, DC was forced to publish their book under the name Shazam!. Infantino attempted to give the Shazam! book the subtitle The Original Captain Marvel, but a cease and desist letter from Marvel Comics forced them to change the subtitle to The World’s Mightiest Mortal with Shazam! #15 (December 1974). As all subsequent toys and other merchandise featuring the character was also required to use the “Shazam!” label with little to no mention of the name “Captain Marvel”, the title has become so linked to Captain Marvel that many people took to identifying the character as “Shazam” instead of “Captain Marvel”.

adventure 1280-1-shazam-465
So now, the company that forced Captain Marvel to lose his trademark name owns him and can’t use the name themselves! Here’s where you go, “It’s just a damn shame!”, because Captain Marvel is so much cooler than Shazam! Now I wish they would just go back to his original name of Captain Thunder. Anyway, enough of my tirade…back to the blog.

Things to look up (www.imdb.com):

  • Tom Tyler
  • The Adventures of Captain Marvel
  • John English
  • William Witney
  • Republic Pictures
 Stunt Men:
  • Dick Crockett
  • James Fawcett
  • Bud Geary
  • George Magrill
  • Ted Mapes
  • Loren Riebe
  • David Sharpe
  • Duke Taylor
  • Ken Terrrell
  • Henry Wills
 Glossary of film terms as defined by the Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.com):
 Trompe-l’œil: (French for “deceive the eye”, which can also be spelled without the hyphen in English as trompe l’oeil, is an art technique involving realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. Forced perspective is a comparable illusion in architecture.

History of film companies as defined by IMDB: Republic Pictures was an American independent film production-distribution corporation with studio facilities, operating from 1935 through 1959, and was best known for specializing in westerns, movie serials and B films emphasizing mystery and action.

 The studio was also responsible for financing and distributing one Shakespeare film, Orson Welles’ Macbeth (1948), and several of the films of John Ford during the 1940s and early 1950s. It was also notable for developing the careers of John Wayne, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Red Bull Skydiving Stunt Team and Ironman 3

 

The producers of the film recruited the Red Bull Skydiving Team for a particularly hairy sequence of the film where the flight crew of Air Force One fall from the plane in mid-flight and Ironman has to rescue them. Great sequence. There is a fun behind the scenes featurette on this on the Blu-Ray version of the movie. The filmmaker’s started calling this the “Barrel of Monkeys” sequence.Iron-Man-3-Air-Force-One-banner

Those portraying the civilians jumped wearing business attire with parachutes beneath their costumes. “You meet them on Air Force One, and a couple of them even have dialog to establish the secondary characters and their faces,” explained Digital Domain’s VFX supervisor Erik Nash. “Then instead of stunt doubles, they are the people who you were introduced to onboard the plane.”IronMan3-skydive

To shoot the sequence, the team — including the proxy for Iron Man, who wore a red and gold jumpsuit — jumped from about 12,000 feet (“about as high as they can jump without oxygen”) and did seven to eight jumps per day for six days, at different times of day and in different lighting conditions in North Carolina.  The conclusion of the shot — as they slow down — was done on wires, again requiring meticulous work. “All 14 of the stunt people were hanging on wires, so the photography looked like a marionette show,” Nash said. “We had to get rid of the wires in post production via digital effects, and a lot of wires crossed over other performers. It was very time-consuming work.”

Ironman 3 was directed by Shane Black for Marvel Studios.
IRON-MAN3_510 (1)

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page or Website):

Shane Black

Erik Nash

Marvel Studios

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Frank Merrill and Tarzan the Tiger

 

Frank Merrill, Tarzan The Tiger: Best Stunt Award for 1929 goes to Frank Merrill, born Otto Poll, for the 15-part serial Tarzan the Tiger. Serials of the 20’s and 30’s were a great source for stunts in the early days of film due to the nature the studios wanting to leave the audience with thrills so they would come back the next week to see how they ended. This one has the distinction of being the last silent film version of Tarzan AND the first talkie version of Tarzan when sound was recorded and the film was then re-released.

Frank Merrill was a national title-winning gymnast, winning the national championships 1916 to 1918 and winning over 50 Southern California titles in Roman rings, high bars and rope climbing. The rope climbing especially came in handy when he the first Tarzan to swing from vine to vine that was used from then on in all the following Tarzan movies.  He was also the first one to give voice to Tarzan and created the “Tarzan Yell”, popular in sound versions for the character.tarzan07

Tarzan the Tiger was directed by Henry MacRae for Universal Pictures.

Things to look up ( go to IMDB):


Frank Merrill

Henry MacRae

Tarzan the Tiger

Universal Pictures

Glossary of film terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1.  Serials – More specifically known as Movie serials, Film serials or Chapter plays, are short subjects originally shown in theaters in conjunction with a feature film. They were related to pulp magazine serialized fiction. Also known as “chapter plays”, they were extended motion pictures broken into a number of segments called “chapters” or “episodes”. Each chapter was screened at the same theater for one week, and ended with a cliffhanger, in which the hero and heroine found themselves in a perilous situation with little apparent chance of escape. Viewers had to return each week to see the cliffhangers resolved and to follow the continuing story. Serials were especially popular with children, and for many youths in the first half of the 20th century a typical Saturday at the movies included a chapter of at least one serial, along with animated cartoons, newsreels, and two feature films.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Pearl White and The Perils of Pauline

 

Widely considered to be one of the first female stunt performers by flying airplanes, racing cars, swimming across rivers, and doing other similar feats, White made five successful serials that were much alike. She did much of her own stunt work and she suffered injuries that would force her to use a stunt double in her later films. The Perils of Pauline would be her most notable work.

The Perils of Pauline, directed by Louis J. Gasnier for the Eclectic Film Company was a 20-part action adventure serial. A complete copy of the original 20 chapters is not known to exist in any film archive, and the one version that is available on Dvd is an edited down and rearranged French release that has been re-translated back to English. If you’re interested you can find it by clicking here (The Perils of Pauline).Perils of Pauline Stunt

The premise of the story was that Pauline’s wealthy guardian Mr. Marvin, upon his death, has left her inheritance in the care of his secretary, Mr. Koerner (Raymond Owen in the original English version), until the time of her marriage. Pauline wants to wait a while before marrying, as her dream is to go out and have adventures to prepare herself for becoming an author. Mr. Koerner, hoping to ultimately keep the money for himself, tries to turn Pauline’s various adventures against her and have her “disappear” to his own advantage.

Interesting enough, the term, “cliffhanger” originated with this series because of the practice of leaving Pauline in each chapter in a precarious position. Pearl White performed her own stunts for the serial. Considerable risk was involved. In one incident a balloon carrying White escaped and carried her across the Hudson River into a storm before landing miles away. In another incident her back was permanently injured in a fall.The_Perils_of_Pauline_(1914_serial)

One of the more famous scenes in the serial was filmed on the curved Ingham Run trestle in New Hope, Pennsylvania on the Reading Company’s New Hope Branch (now the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad line). The trestle still stands, just off Ferry Street, and is now referred to as “Pauline’s Trestle”. The railroad is a tourist attraction and offers rides from New Hope to Lahaska, Pennsylvania, crossing over the original trestle.

Things to look up (go to IMDB):

Pearl White

Perils of Pauline

Louis Gasnier

Eclectic Film Company

Glossary of film terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1.  Cliffhanger – A cliffhangeror cliffhanger endingis a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction. A cliffhanger is hoped to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.
  1.  Serial – Serials, more specifically known as Movie serialsFilm serialsor Chapter plays, are short subjectsoriginally shown in theaters in conjunction with a feature film. They were related to pulp magazine serialized fiction. Also known as “chapter plays”, they were extended motion pictures broken into a number of segments called “chapters” or “episodes”. Each chapter was screened at the same theater for one week, and ended with a cliffhanger, in which the hero and heroine found themselves in a perilous situation with little apparent chance of escape. Viewers had to return each week to see the cliffhangers resolved and to follow the continuing story. Serials were especially popular with children, and for many youths in the first half of the 20th century a typical Saturday at the movies included a chapter of at least one serial, along with animated cartoonsnewsreels, and two feature films.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Tom Cruise and MI4 Ghost Protocol

 

His commitment to performing his own stunts borders on the lunatic – for the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible series, he climbs and leaps about on the outside of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – the world’s tallest building. Yes, he’s wearing a harness, but can you see any other A-list stars doing that?
mission-impossible-ghost-protocol-image-13There is a simply fantastic behind the scenes featurette on the 2nd disc DVD or Blu-Ray version of the film. Oscar-winning director Brad Bird kicks off the action by revealing, “we’re a mile and a half above the earth on the tallest building on the planet, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and we’re filming a scene where Tom Cruise is climbing on the outside of the building.” After looking out at the panoramic view, Brad deadpans to the camera, “it’s just another day at work on ‘Mission: Impossible.’” And you thought your workday was demanding!

missionimpossible3_burjkhalifafeat_hdWhile he wasn’t at the tip of the building for his stunt run (he saved that portion of the day for one of most epic self portraits of all time,) the Burj Khalifa only stands 2,717 feet tall.

Stunt coordinator Gregg Smrz:  I can only imagine how sore he was. He never complained. He would hang up there for hours. He climbed, I want to say, five days in a row? As far as bruised ribs, there’s just no way around it.

Co-producer, visual effects producer Tom Peitzman:  In one shot, we’re looking up, he’s running toward us, he jumps over the camera and then is running down away from us. It was done in camera with just a whole bunch of rig removal. I’ll never forget lying on the platform that he was running towards, right next to Brad Bird and Gregg Smrz, watching Tom running down directly at us, 60 stories above us. It was unbelievable.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was directed by Brad Bird for Paramount.

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page or Website):

Brad Bird

Tom Cruise

Greg Smrz

Tom Peitzman

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Clint Eastwood and The Rookie

 

The film featured over twice as many stuntmen as it did actors. Held the world record for the biggest ratio of stuntmen/actors. Reportedly, over eighty stuntmen worked on the movie. Stunt coordinator Terry Leonard and second unit director Buddy Van Horn, oversaw the task of integrating the scope of stunt people working to produce the action. Describing a stunt-related sequence early in the film performed by Eastwood himself, Van Horn who had been a stunt associate for almost 35 years, took the opportunity to commend the actor on his contributions saying, “Clint likes to do everything live, “When you read the script, you know everything is going to be pretty much live action. Sometimes you have to talk him out of something that just might be a little too risky. Not that he couldn’t do it, but if something even minor should happen, you couldn’t afford to suspend the production.” the rookie 2

The sequence which Van Horn alluded to, was a scene that involved Eastwood behind the driver’s seat racing a Chevrolet Blazer through stop and go traffic, while swerving to avoid upcoming cars from the opposite direction. The scene included 20 other stunt drivers operating a carefully rehearsed formation through a head on collision course. According to Van Horn who engineered the sequence with Leonard, he noted, “The whole thing is like a football play, “We all sit down and figure out where the cars are, where Clint makes the break out of traffic, where the other cars are going, and just the whole cause and effect for how and why he pulls into (the intersection) and decides to head on through. That’s all worked out ahead of time.” Leonard added, “In a situation where your rehearsal time is extremely limited, it becomes that old expression: experience, “It becomes a seat of the pants kind of thing, about 20 drivers and Clint who know where the close calls are going to be and who’s going to be in what position when. But once you get going, there’s always the element of surprise, where maybe a car is 10 feet closer than it was expected to be, and a driver must react to that.”

THE ROOKIE, Clint Eastwood, Charlie Sheen, 1990
THE ROOKIE, Clint Eastwood, Charlie Sheen, 1990

The movie was to be directed by Craig R. Baxley starring Matthew Modine and Gene Hackman in 1988 but the production was stopped by the Screen Actors Guild strike. This is interesting to note because he is the son of legendary stuntman/stunt coordinator/second unit director/ director Paul Baxley, cousin of stuntman/stunt coordinator/second unit director Gary Baxley father of stuntman/stunt coordinator/second unit director Craig Baxley Jr.. and grandfather of stunt performer Cash Baxley, was a Past member and President of Stunts Unlimited and started out in front of the camera as a stuntman himself, then worked his way up to a successful stunt coordinator and second unit director on films like Predator (1987), Reds (1981), The Long Riders (1980) and The Warriors (1979). He has since directed over 30 movies, TV series and mini-series.

The Rookie was directed by Clint Eastwood for Malpaso.

Things to look up (go to IMDB ):

The Rookie

Clint Eastwood

Charlie Sheen

Craig R. Baxley

Buddy Van Horn

Terry Leonard

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Tony Jaa and Ong Bak

 

Thai actor Tony Jaa performed a number of stunts for the film, suffering injuries such as a ligament injury and a sprained ankle. One scene involved fighting while his trousers were on fire, which spread upwards and burnt his eyebrows, eyelashes and nose during filming. Despite this, he did several more takes after that. Tony Jaa’s legs must be infused with industrial strength elastic. There’s no other explanation I can offer up as to how on earth he’s able to vault over the roof of moving cars (or split sliding under them for that matter), as well as back and front flipping his way through hordes of enemies and jumping through hoops of barbed wire.

Tony-Jaa-Ong-BakAn amazing thought, is that up to this time in martial arts films, it was common to use wires for the stunts and CGI to cover the wires or to enhance the danger and make the stunt look especially difficult.  This film did not use wires or CGI to enhance the stunts.  It is funny to note however, that all the funky hairstyles in the film is due to the extensive use of padding on the head.  The wigs are hiding the padding, because Tony Jaa doesn’t hold back when he elbows someone in the head.

ong-bak-2003-13-gJaa is a stuntman-turned-actor who spent his youth as an elephant herder. He watched martial arts movies and decided to follow in the footsteps of heroes Jackie Chan and Jet Li.  Tony Jaa trained extensively in the ancient form of Muay Boran (the predecessor to Muay Thai) for four years in preparation for the movie.

Ong-Bak was directed by Prachya Pinkaew for Baa-Ram-Ewe.

Things to look up (go to IMDB):

Prachya Pinkaew

Tony Jaa

Muay Boran

Muay Korat

Glossary of Stunt and film terms as explained by Wikipedia:  Martial arts film is a film genre. A subgenre of the action film, martial arts films contain numerous martial arts fights between characters, usually as the films’ primary appeal and entertainment value, and often as a method of storytelling and character expression and development. Martial arts are frequently featured in training scenes and other sequences in addition to fights. Martial arts films commonly include other types of action, such as stuntwork, chases, and/or gunfights.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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