Category Archives: 1913

Red Skelton, The Ultimate Clown

 

The first I remember ever seeing or hearing about Red Skelton is when my father took me to go see him and Marcel Marceau on one ticket at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, Florida in the early 80’s. The Peabody was my favorite theatre for live events as a teenager and they had, concerts, comedians and Broadway plays. I also remember seeing The Pirates of Penzance and Weird Al Yankovic there. It’s a magical place, I have a lot of fond memories, and Red Skelton was a bright shining star among them.logo

He performed a lot of his comedy and character sketches that he perfected in movies and on TV over the years and he was wonderful. He appeared in character as Clem Kadiddlehopper and Freddie the Freeloader as well as others, and this was my first experience with a true-life clown. He loved appearing as a clown and often appeared on TV and live as one, was inducted soon after that show into the International Clown Hall of Fame. He loved them so much he painted a slew of clowns over the years, one of which, just happens to be hanging in the office of the Director of Sales, Adam Reiman, at the Rainmaker Institute, in Gilbert, Arizona, where I consult with Attorneys on their online marketing.Red Skelton Clown PaintingHis most popular movies would have to be Bathing Beauty (1944) with Esther Williams, The Fuller Brush Man (1948), The Yellow Cab Man (1950), Three Little Words (1950) with Fred Astaire, and The Clown (1953). His TV Show, The Red Skelton Hour ran for an unheard of 20 years from 1951 to 1971! Skelton believed his life’s work was to make people laugh; he wanted to be known as a clown because he defined it as being able to do everything. He had a 70-year career as a performer and entertained three generations of Americans during this time. Good night to you Red, and may God bless.watch_the_birdie_red_skelton_cameras

Lloyd Bridges

 

Not only did Lloyd father two very fine actors, he was also one of the most interesting actors in his own right. Lloyd Bridges was a very versatile actor being very successful in just about every genre over the years. He had a successful TV show Sea Hunt in the late 1950’s for 155 episodes. Bridges returned to television a year later in this ambitious 30-minute series, designed to showcase his range and depth as an actor. For The Lloyd Bridges Show, he played journalist Adam Shepherd, who would research a story, and then imagine himself as the protagonist, and the episode would thrust him into a new character in a new situation every week. TV Producer Aaron Spelling came up with the concept, and Lloyd Bridges, later said the show really should have been called “The Aaron Spelling Show”. Bridges said Spelling was a genius. It was a family affair, however, as Jeff Bridges appeared in three episodes, and Beau was in two. Lloyd’s daughter Cindy was also in an episode.airplane-lloyd-bridges

Now, as a child of the 80’s he came to my attention in Airplane, from the Zucker brothers (and Jim Abrahams). This is by far the best of the parody movies, that seemed to flood the movies in the 70’s and 80’s from Mel Brooks and the Zucker brothers. Most of his movies before these featured him in very serious roles, but here he found a new audience as he was extremely funny in these movies. Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker chose actors such as Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen because of their reputation for playing no-nonsense characters. Until this film, these actors had not done comedy, so their “straight-arrow” personas and line delivery made the satire in the movie all the more poignant and funny. Bridges was initially reluctant to take his role in the movie, but his sons, Jeff and Beau, persuaded him to do it. Lloyd Bridges as Steve McCroskey spoofs his role as airport manager Jim Conrad in the TV series San Francisco International Airport (1970).hot-shots-part-deux-lloyd-bridges

Because of the success of this movie, Bridges would be cast in another parody series; Hot Shots! (1991), and Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993), written and directed by Jim Abrahams.  He wasn’t the original actor hired for his role however, as he replaced George C. Scott, when he had to decline the project. Hot Shots! parodies the scene in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) in which Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) sits atop on a piano and sings “Makin’ Whoopee”. That film starred Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges as the title characters, Jack and Frank Baker. In the sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux Jim Abrahams originally wanted Marlon Brando instead of Lloyd Bridges to play The President. Later in 1993, Charlie Sheen, who played the lead in this series, would go on to play Aramis in The Three Musketeers (1993). Interestingly, that role was previously played by Lloyd Bridges in The Fifth Musketeer (1979), which also featured José Ferrer as Athos. Miguel Ferrer, his son, also appears in this Hot Shots! Part Deux.bridges-lloyd-jeff-beau

Best Stunts of The Year List 1913-1919

 

The future versions of this list will be a decade list of the top stunts of every year as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts.  Since this is the first list, it will start with the first year listed in the book 1913 and move to the end of that decade of film.

1913:  The Bangville Policebangville police

This is really the first real Keystone Kops short film, and for back then has some impressive stunts, like a series of explosions that follow a car as it weaves down a dirt road.  There are a few pratfalls as well.  Film is so new at this point that companies were still wondering if they could make money in this medium.  A few breakout hits made people realize that film could be a great new business proposition and little mini-studios started popping up in southern California in a place called Hollywoodland.  The rest is history.

1914:  The Perils of PaulineThe_Perils_of_Pauline_(1914_serial)

Women seemed to be ruling the action films in this period and one of the hottest stars/stunt performers of the time was Pearl White. This was one of her biggest serials, and the one that would remain a classic for a new type of cliffhanger series with a chapter being presented to theatre-goers weekly.

1915:  Les VampiresLes Vampires Stunt

Musidora would be considered the first Femme Fatale and a damn good stunt performer in her own right. This was one of the first crime serials and she was a stand-out as one of the bad guys.  Most of her stunts are done while wearing a skin-tight nylon body suit. Her bruises must have been massive.

1916:  IntoleranceIntolerance Babylon

DW Griffith’s Intolerance is as grand spectacle as anything to ever have been put on film and is widely considered to be the first cinematic epic.  The actors themselves do all the stunts and they are massive, with hundreds if not thousands of people on screen at the same time doing incredible battles.  It’s impressive.

1917:  Oh, Doctor!  arbuckle-keaton-st-john-1917

Sometimes the simplest stunts are the best, and nothing showcases this better than a stunt about 10 minutes into the film where Buster Keaton gets smacked by Fatty Arbuckle and he backflips over a table and lands in a chair with his feet propped up, reading a book as if he’d been there all along.  Simply brilliant.

1918:  Cupid’s Round Uptom mix and tony

Westerns really started to grow in popularity and Tom Mix was king of the cowboy serials.  This was his first full-length feature film and showcases a stunt that he would repeat several times throughout his career is different versions.  He jumps from his horse Tony through the window of a moving train.

1919:  The Great Air RobberyGreat_Air_Robbery_lobby_card

Ormer Locklear was the creator of “wing walking” and this film was produced to showcase his new thrill-seeking techniques.  They called him The Sky Dare-Devil.

For more information about these stunt performers and these movies, including a lot of great trivia, please look for their chapters in the new movie stunt book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Keystone Kops and the Bangville Police

 

One of the few cases where it’s hard to identify just one stunt and one person involved for the Best Movie Stunt, The Bangville Police is a 1913 comedy short starring Mabel Normand and the Keystone Kops (Fred Mace, Raymond Hatton, Edgar Kennedy, Ford Sterling, and Al St. John). The film, notable for being regarded as the seminal Keystone Kops (sometimes known as filmdom’s original “stuntmen”) short, was directed by Henry Lehrman.

I think Mabel Normand looks like Kate Winslet in this, with a very nice dress. Mabel was one of the film industry’s first female screenwriters, producers and directors. Onscreen she co-starred in commercially successful films with Charles Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle more than a dozen times each, occasionally writing and directing movies featuring Chaplin as her leading man. At the height of her career in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Normand had her own movie studio and production company.mabel normand bangville police

The Keystone Kops were a ragtag gang and began as prize fighters, race car drivers, circus acrobats, strongmen, clowns, roustabouts and vaudevillians. They were a wild bunch, up for nearly any stunt the Sennett writers could concoct, and left behind a hilarious legacy of diverse performances. They were doused in oil, tossed off rooftops, launched into the ocean, butted by wild animals and plastered with pie. Their wacky “Kopwagon” was rigged to handle outrageous chases, near misses, collisions and explosions. Through improvisation and experimentation they developed many stunts and stunt techniques that remain popular today.  The Keystone Kops were the first Movie Stunt Team and is a great example of why being a great acrobat is of so importance as a stunt performer.bangville police

The film itself is not very eventful, but I think it stands up as one of the first action-oriented films. In The Bangville Police, a girl wishes they had a baby calf, which her father agrees with but when she enters a room she thinks she hears burglars and calls the police who get out of bed in broad daylight and drive a repeatedly exploding car to girl’s farm where everyone discovers there are no burglars after all. But a baby calf miraculously appears.

The cops bumble about with a pretty cool fall at about 2:32 marker on the film and has a pretty big explosion with the car at 5:04 marker.Bangville Police Stunt

As a side note, Al St. John did stunts his entire life, from daring bike tricks as a child until his last days touring with a western show performing all kinds of gags, still doing falls and trick bicycling. His stunt work in the films were of a wide range and skillfully executed. I am not exaggerating when I say that he was one of the best stunt men in the business. Unfortunately his best work is still considered lost.

The shorts he did when he got his own company, wrote, starred and directed himself under names like Fox and Warner got rave reviews, papers and magazines dubbed him “superhuman”, “nuts”, “eccentric”,”different”…all in all, he stood out, leaving cinema audiences screaming of laughter and awe of his stunts and gags. His work was at the time called thrill comedy…not just comedy.

To see a fantastic youtube channel dedicated to his work, please drop by for some laughs: http://www.youtube.com/AlFuzzyStJohn/

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

Bangville Police

Mabel Normand

Henry Lehrman

Fred Mace

Raymond Hatton

Edgar Kennedy

Ford Sterling

Al St. John

Charlie Chaplin

Roscoe Arbucklebangville police
Glossary of stunt terms as defined by Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org):

  1.  Stunt Team – stunt team is a crew of stunt performers that follow the direction of the Stunt coordinator to collectively participate and execute an action sequence for film, television, or theater. I’d like to add that in many cases stunt teams have worked together over the course of years and as such develop their own techniques and often, their own verbal language and sign language.
  1.  Acrobatics – Acrobatics is the performance of extraordinary feats of balance, agility, and motor coordination. It can be found in many of the performing arts as well as in many sports. Acrobatics is most often associated with activities that make extensive use of gymnastic elements, such as acro dance, circus, and gymnastics, but many other athletic activities — such as ballet and diving — may also employ acrobatics. Although acrobatics is most commonly associated with human body performance, it may also apply to other types of performance, such as aerobatics.

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

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