Tag Archives: Evelyn Finley

Best of the Year List 1940-1949

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1940-1949 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1940:  The Mark of Zorro

Not only the second time for Zorro, but the second time for this exact title.  Different year, different actors…great stunts.  The fencing duel between Tyrone Powers and Basil Rathbone, choreographed by Fred Caverns is just about one of the finest ever put to celluloid. Mark of Zorro, The (1940)

1941: The Adventures of Captain Marvel

Dave Hardin Sharpe provided the fighting and the flying in this nifty action serial.  It’s also one of my all time favorite superheros…the original Captain Marvel!

Captain MArvel Lobby Card

1942:  Spy Smasher

It’s the era of the Movie Serial, and no-one did it better than this one!  It’s all out action and adventure with cliff-hangers galore! Carey Loftkin, Kane Richmond and Dave Hardin Sharpe combined to make Spy Smasher a fantastic hit!spyserial

1943:  The Masked Marvel

Another great action serial.  Tom Steele did so many stunts in this, he can even be found to be a bad guy chasing himself, as The Masked Marvel.marvel in danger

1944:  Ghost Guns

At this time there were some impressive cowgirls in the movies. Evelyn Finley was one of the toughest.  This was a B movie, but she’s worth the watch.Poster for the movie ghost guns with Evelyn Finley

1945:  Back To Bataan

We all know what a tough guy John Wayne was, especially in his later years.  It’s fun to see him hit the list for the first time with this entry, a great little war film.Back To Bataan

1946:  Detour To Danger

This one is just like a film I would have made in college; get a whole bunch of buddies together with a 16mm camera and go film some crazy fight scenes.  Harvey Parry and Richard Talmadge get all their stuntman cronies for this one and it’s a lot of fun.  Not great acting, but great fun.detour richard talmadge

1947:  The Perils of Pauline

Second time on the list, but the funny thing is, this one is a fictionalized account of the making of the first film. Polly Burson provides the stunts in this one and she would go on to some nifty westerns as she was a home-spun cowgirl in her own right.perils pauline

1948:  The Three Musketeers

Dave Hardin Sharpe makes the list for the 3rd time in one decade (is that a record?) along with Gene Kelly for their work in this film.  And WOW, what a supporting cast!Three Musketeers, The (1948)

1949:  Twelve O’Clock High

This has got to be the largest plane ever crashed by a real person on film and walked away from it.  Paul Mantz seemed to do it completely without flinching and as if it was as easy as parking a car.Twelve_O'Clock_High_crash_landing

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Polly Burson and The Perils of Pauline

 

This is the second time this title hits the list, but this one is really just a reference to the previous film, not a sequel to it. This film is a semi-biography on Pearl White (mostly fictional), the actress that played Pauline in the first film. Betty Hutton plays Pearl and Polly Burson is Betty Hutton’s stunt double.  Staying true to who Pearl White really was (an actress that didn’t use stunt doubles) I think it would have been more fitting to just have Polly Burson play Pearl, but to Betty’s credit, she does a great job.perils polly

Like Evelyn Finley, the Best Movie Stunt winner from 1944, Polly was a true “horse woman”, they  thought nothing of jumping off horses onto moving trains and stagecoaches, shooting from galloping horses or being dragged through sand and sagebrush. She started out in the rodeo and transferred her skills to the movies.perils polly burson

Polly recalled later, “I was lucky to be able to transfer my stunt skills to the movies, and in 1946 I got a job doubling for Betty Hutton in `Perils of Pauline.’ It was so exciting. We filmed in Simi Valley and they had me doing all kinds of stunts, including jumping from a horse onto a train boxcar and then climbing up on top of the moving train and jumping from car to car.”

George Marshall, the director, didn’t want her to ride up to the boxcar, grab the bar and pull herself onto the train. He wanted her to leap from the horse to the train. Polly explained how the stunt went in the book, Guts And Grace: The Untold Story of Stuntwomen in the Movies, “So I’m up on a hill a couple of blocks away from the train and the railroad tracks,” Polly said, “it’s straight downhill and I have to judge the time I’ll need to get to that first boxcar behind the coal car. I had to get in position to get to it and couldn’t be pulling up—that would look phony. I wasn’t behind, but I was whipping the horse so I could get to my ladder on the car. And that’s timing. I had the best darn horse under me. I hated to admit it, but she was a mare. We were going as fast as we could, I reached the boxcar and went for it—I jumped on to it!”perils pauline

Polly and her galloping horse seem fused together until she rises up, makes a graceful easy leap away from the horse toward the moving train. As she sails off, her horse keeps racing on with the same unbroken rhythm and Polly lands on the train perfectly.

“I had to stay between cars and shoot back at the Indians that were chasing me,” Polly said. “Then I had to crawl up and run along the boxcar into the coal car, down the coal car into the engine room, around the engineer, and up to the cowcatcher. I had to do it three times and I couldn’t figure what in the hell was wrong. Later, when I came close by the engineer, it was George Marshall, the director! He said he’d been a frustrated engineer since he was a kid. I said, ‘Mr. Marshall, I wish you’d have practiced with somebody else.'”Perils of Pauline, The)_02 - MM

The Perils of Pauline was directed by George Marshall for Paramount Pictures in Technicolor.

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

Glossary of film terms as defined by the Wikipedia – Technicolor – is a color motion picture process invented in 1916 and then improved over several decades. It was the second major process, after Britain’s Kinemacolor, and the most widely used color process in Hollywood from 1922 to 1952. Technicolor became known and celebrated for its saturated levels of color, and was used most commonly for filming musicals such as The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain, costume pictures such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Joan of Arc, and animated films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fantasia. However, it was also used for less spectacular dramas and comedies, and sometimes even a film noir — such as Leave Her to Heaven or Niagara — was filmed in Technicolor.

“Technicolor” is the trademark for a series of color motion picture processes pioneered by Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation (a subsidiary of Technicolor, Inc.), now a division of Technicolor SA. The Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation was founded in Boston in 1914 (incorporated in Maine in 1915) by Herbert Kalmus, Daniel Frost Comstock, and W. Burton Wescott. The “Tech” in the company’s name was inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Kalmus received an undergraduate degree and was later an instructor. Technicolor, Inc. was chartered in Delaware in 1921.

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Evelyn Finley and Ghost Guns

 

At a time when men were more prominent as stunt performers, even going so far as to double for the female stars of the movies, it’s refreshing to come across a true cowgirl who starred in her own films as well as did her own stunts.  It’s time once again to highlight the heroine and not the hero.  Evelyn Finley started out in films as a stunt double and then went on to act in her own roles.  She preferred the stunt work, and so later on, went back to doubling in her later pictures.evelyn finley ghost guns

In Ghost Guns (1944), she starred in the lead role, and also performed her owns stunts, a regular event throughout her early career, and she received high praise for her riding stunts in this movie. She has often been called one of the greatest horseback riders in film history, joining the company of Nell O’Day and Betty Miles. Despite her age, she continued to work in the stunt business, either as an advisor or as an actual stunt performer, into the mid-1980s. Her last film in which she worked as a stunt technical advisor was the 1985 film Silverado, starring Kevin Costner and Scott Glenn.Evelyn Finlay

Here’s a great little interview about her times during the making of these moves.  Sunset’s not the best interviewer, but you definitely get the feeling that she’s loved performing and riding.  Ghost Guns was directed by Lambert Hillyer for Monogram Pictures.

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

Evelyn Finley

Ghost Guns

Lambert Hillyer

Nell O’Day

Betty Miles

Silverado

Monogram Pictures

History of film companies as defined by IMDB: Monogram Pictures Corporation is a Hollywood studio that produced and released films, most on low budgets, between 1931 and 1953, when the firm completed a transition to the name Allied Artists Pictures Corporation. Monogram is considered a leader among the smaller studios sometimes referred to collectively as Poverty Row. The idea behind the studio was that when the Monogram logo appeared on the screen, everyone knew they were in for action and adventure. It is now a division of Allied Artists International.

History of film companies as defined by IMDB: Poverty Row – While some Poverty Row studios came and quickly went after a few releases, others operated on more or less the same terms as—if vastly different scales from—major film studios such as MGM, Warner Bros., and Paramount Pictures.

The most successful and longest-lived of such lower-tier companies maintained permanent lots (and many standing sets that dedicated moviegoers could frequently recognize from movie to movie), had both cast and crew on long-term contract, and had a more varied output than smaller firms.
Leading studios

  • From 1919 until its reorganization in 1924, Harry Cohn’s CBC Productions (later to become Columbia Pictures) was considered a Poverty Row studio.
  • Tiffany Pictures was in operation from 1921 through 1932 as both a production company (about 90 films) and a distributor.
  • Mascot Pictures was formed in 1927 by Nat Levine, and merged into Republic in 1935.
  • Larry Darmour Productions flourished from 1927 through the 1930s, mainly on the popularity of its Mickey McGuire short film series starring Mickey Rooney. Damour was also the principle producer within Majestic Pictures until 1935.
  • Monogram Pictures was created in 1931 by the merger of Sono Art-World Wide Pictures with W. Ray Johnston’s Rayart. After the attempted 1935 merger of Monogram into Republic, Johnston took Monogram independent again, and in the following decades produced everything from college/teen musicals starring popular swing bands to versions of classics like Oliver Twist and the final films of Kay Francis. It evolved, in relatively good financial condition, into Allied Artists in 1953.
  • Republic Pictures was organized in 1935 when Herbert J. Yates combined six other established poverty-row companies, Monogram, Mascot, Liberty, Majestic Pictures, Chesterfield, and Invincible with his Consolidated Film Laboratories. Republic began by releasing serial shorts and Westerns with Gene Autry in the 1930s before eventually riding the success of eventual superstar John Wayne and embarking on more ambitious projects, such as 1953’s Wayne hit, The Quiet Man.
  • Grand National Films Inc. was organized in 1936 with some significant talent (James Cagney and director Charles Lamont), but could not survive without its own distribution channel. It folded quickly in 1939, and released about 100 films altogether.
  • Producers Releasing Corporation emerged in 1939 and lasted until 1946, when it was absorbed into Eagle-Lion Films. PRC presented a steady output of westerns, serials, gangster movies, with occasional high spots, such as Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour, and their 1944 Minstrel Man, nominated for two Academy Awards.

Lower-tier studios

  • The smallest studios, including Tiffany Pictures, Sam Katzman’s Victory, Mascot and Chesterfield often packaged and released films from independent producers, British “quota quickie” films, or borderline exploitation films such as Hitler, Beast of Berlin to supplement their own limited production capacity.
  • Sometimes the same producers would start a new studio when the old one failed, such as Harry S. Webb and Bernard B. Ray’s Reliable Pictures and Metropolitan Pictures.
  • Some organizations such as Astor Pictures and Realart Pictures began by obtaining the rights to re-release older films from other studios before producing their own films.

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

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