Tag Archives: George Marshall

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.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Tom Mix and Cupids Round Up

This one is notable because after several years as a successful actor in some popular serials, Tom made his feature film debut in this movie. Tom Mix went on to make more than 160 cowboy films throughout the 1920s. These action oriented scripts featured a lot of fighting, riding and stunts by Mix. Heroes and villains were sharply defined and a clean-cut cowboy always “saved the day.” Millions of American children grew up watching his films on Saturday afternoons.  Mix did his own stunts and was frequently injured.
Edward LeSaint directed Cupid’s Round Up for Fox Film Corporation, and it was the start of a decade dominated by Tom Mix at the Box Office.  The movie western was starting to gain favor with audiences and Tom Mix was leading the pack. The plot of Cupid’s Round Up was a typical Mix melange of romance, comedy and fast action, with emphasis on the latter. The film’s highlight was a scene in which Mix, hoping to escape a pursuing posse, jumps towards a moving train and crashes neatly through one of the passenger windows. It was a superb “gag,” and one which the star would repeat, with variations, throughout his career. The trade magazine Variety paid the ultimate compliment to Cupid’s Round Up, characterizing the picture as “typically American.”tom mix and tony
His intelligent and handsome horse Tony also became a celebrity. An interesting story is that, Purchased from a Los Angeles street vendor as a colt in 1914 for $14 by horse trainer, Pat Chrisman, Mix would later buy the future “Wonder Horse” from  him in 1917 for $600.  Tony’s first movie as Mix’s leading steed was Cupid’s Round Up.  Ultimately the horse became one of the most reknowned and well-traveled ever, visiting every state as well as many other countries. Mix taught his co-star about twenty tricks and stunts, and parts would often require the steed to dash off for help when his master was in danger, untie Tom’s hands or fight any man or beast that threatened his human companion.  However, like his owner, Tony was quite temperamental.  According to George Marshall, who directed several Mix pictures, Chrisman would work with Tony on some tricks and he would perform them beautifully during rehearsal, but when it came time to shoot, the great horse wouldn’t have any part of it.  Come back the next day and he would do the scene without so much as a run-through.  He just didn’t feel like working that day.  Tom was known to sometimes hire a band to play popular, upbeat tunes on the set and claimed it was “for Tony’s enjoyment.”


Things to look up (go to IMDB):

Tom Mix
Edward LaSaint
Cupid’s Round Up
George Marshall
Pat Chrisman

Glossary of stunt terms as defined by Wikipedia:

1. Trick Riding – Trick riding refers to the act of performing stunts while riding a horse, such as the rider standing upright on a galloping horse. Other stunts might include hanging upside down off of the side of the horse while attached to a strap or jumping on and off a galloping horse.