Tag Archives: D.W. Griffith

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

The Cast of Intolerance


Structurally, Intolerance (1916) is as audacious as anything ever attempted on film – four simultaneous stories linked only by a common theme and the generally rising action – with the editing style growing more complex as the action in each story reaches its climax. This four distinct, but parallel, stories, set up moral and psychological connections among them, as they spread out over 2500 years. They consist of an ancient Babylonian story, a Biblical Judean story, a Renaissance French story and a modern American story.intolerance storyboardD.W. Griffith is generally thought of having been the first director to create lavish and grande spectacle films, and is considered to have created the motion picture epic. Triangle Film Corporation’s production of Intolerance was a colossal undertaking featuring monumental sets, lavish period costumes, and more than 3,000 extras. Griffith began shooting the film with the Modern Story (originally titled “The Mother and the Law”), whose planning predated The Birth of a Nation, then greatly expanded it to include the other three parallel stories under the theme of intolerance.
Intolerance StuntThe film’s action sequences were all done by the actors themselves. This far back in the beginning of the film Industry, there were no replacements, the actors themselves being relied on to complete all acting and action needed in front of the camera. It wasn’t until later when someone thought to replace the actor with a person trained and protected specifically for the action. That’s one of the reason’s why so many actors and actresses themselves are earning the Best Stunt Awards so far. It’s virtually impossible to pick out just one stunt in this film as there are so many and the action so grand that the award for 1916 is given to the whole cast. The last 25 minutes of the film, as everything converges, is all action. Josef Von Sternberg, in his memoir “Fun in a Chinese Laundry”, wrote that DW Griffith once said to his assistants during the making of one of his epics, “Move these 10,000 horses a trifle to the right, and that mob out there three feet forward.”

 Intolerance Babylon
Here is an example of the scope of Intolerance. This is the courtyard on the Babylonian set.  Those little specs walking around at the bottom of the screen are the extras! Interestingly, it is featured very prominently in the 2011 video game LA Noire.

Things to look up (go to IMDB ):

Glossary of film terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1. Epic – An epic film is an epic genre that emphasizes human drama on a grand scale. Epics are more ambitious in scope than other film genres, and their ambitious nature helps to differentiate them from similar genres such as the period piece or adventure film. Epic historical films often take a historical or imagined event, or a mythic, legendary, or heroic figure and add an extravagant, spectacular setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by a sweeping musical score, and an ensemble cast of bankable stars, making them among the most expensive of films to produce. Some of the most common subjects of epics are royalty, superheroes, great military leaders, or leading personalities or figures from various periods in world history. Epics tend to focus on events that will affect the lives of many people, such as cataclysmic events, natural disasters, war, or political upheaval.intolerance-movie-poster-1916

Epic films are expensive and lavish productions because they generally use on-location filming, authentic period costumes, and action scenes on a massive scale and large casts of characters.  Biographical films are often less lavish versions of this genre.

Sometimes referred to as costume dramas, they depict the world of a period setting, often incorporating historical pageantry, specially designed costuming and wardrobes, exotic locales, spectacle, lavish decor and a sweeping visual style. They often transport viewers to other worlds or eras, such as classical antiquity, biblical settings, the Middle Ages, the Victorian era, the American Frontier, or the Gilded Age. Films involving modern battle sequences (war films) are also common settings in the epic film genre, as are westerns, and science fiction films set in space, on earth or other planets, with science fiction-oriented battle scenes on a massive scale or with a futuristic backdrop.

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

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