Tag Archives: Hal Needham

Top 15 Comedy Road Trip Movies

Road Trip movies are some of the most unexpected gems over the past decades, as they usually sneak up on you–but they are definitely at the top of my list as some of the greatest comedies of all time.  Here’s my list for the top 15:

15 – Oh Brother Where Art Thou (2000)

A Coen Brother’s classic, you probably wouldn’t think about this being a road movie…but it is.  It’s also based on, arguably the biggest literary road trip…Homer’s The Odyssey!  Although Homer is given a co-writing credit on the film, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen claim never to have read “The Odyssey” and are familiar with it only through cultural osmosis and film adaptations. The title of this movie didn’t come from the book at all, but rather another movie. “O Brother Where Art Thou?” comes from the title of the movie-within-a-movie in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941). John Turturro has called this movie “a hillbilly musical comedy adventure.”

14 – Sideways (2004)

You would probably be surprised to find out that Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church had to audition for their roles in the film. You’d be even more surprised to find out that for the scene that Thomas Haden Church read for during the audition, it called for the actor to strip naked, which he did and was later surprised to find out that out of all the actors who auditioned for the same part with the same scene…he was the ONLY one to strip naked. And it got him the role. George Clooney campaigned for the part of Jack, but Alexander Payne thought Clooney was too big a star. However, Clooney got to play the lead in Payne’s next full feature, The Descendants (2011). Paul Giamatti admitted to faking every bit of wine knowledge, and not understanding why anybody would care about it. He also claims he was shocked that he was cast in a lead role and initially thought it was a practical joke. Paul Giamatti admitted in interviews that he doesn’t like wine.

13 – Kingpin (1996)

The Farrelly brothers bowled a strike with this one. It came out the same year as the Big Lebowski and I have to admit liking this one just a touch better. As is the case with most of his films, Bill Murray ad-libbed virtually every line he spoke. He would read over the script, get the “general” idea, and then discard it. The Farrelly brothers, on the DVD commentary, said that they’re very glad he did because it was funnier. Turned out, Bill was also a very good bowler. Bill Murray really bowled three strikes in a row in the scene where his character, Ernie McCracken does the same. The crowd’s reaction is genuine and is actually for Murray. Woody Harrelson, on the other hand, was a terrible bowler and according to the Farrelly brothers maybe got one or two strikes throughout the filming.

12 – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Steve Carell, at the time he was cast for Little Miss Sunshine (2006), was a relative unknown in Hollywood. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, the producers of the film worried that he wasn’t a big enough star and didn’t have much acting experience. However, between the time the film was shot in the summer of 2005 and its release in the summer of 2006, Carell became a huge success as the star of the high-grossing film The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) in August 2005 and the leading character of the popular NBC Emmy-winning television series The Office (2005), which premiered in March 2005 and for which Carell won a Golden Globe in 2006 for best lead actor in a comedy television series. In the span of just one year, Carell had become such a star that the producers had gone from protesting his casting to tapping him to do prominent promotion for the film. Bill Murray was the original choice to play Frank. The second choice was Robin Williams.  Thomas Haden Church turned down the role of Richard Hoover, a decision he said he later regretted.

11 – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

Stanley Kramer, who was known for doing serious films like Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), set out to make this the ultimate comedy film. It became well known that Stanley Kramer was casting nearly every comedy performer he could think of. Some famous stars actually contacted Kramer to volunteer for the project, or to inquire as to why they had not been contacted. When this film was made there were about 100 stunt performers in the US. About 80 of them worked on this film. When the cast first assembled for a meeting with director Stanley Kramer, they were shown the stunts and second unit footage that had already been shot. Buddy Hackett was so impressed that he went to Kramer and asked, “What do you need US for?”

The film was so crammed with action that each leading actor was given two scripts: one for the dialogue and one for physical comedy. For one particular stunt, a billboard that the twin-engine Beechcraft flies through was made of thin balsa wood, except for a thicker frame for support. Stunt pilot Frank Tallman had to fly the aircraft directly through the center of the billboard or the thicker frame would shear off a wing. The billboard was located in Irvine, at what is now the intersection of Interstate 405 and Hwy. 133 (Laguna Canyon), near Lion Country Safari, just east of John Wayne Airport. They had practiced with paper signs but used balsa wood for the actual movie stunt. The wood stopped one engine and the other was sputtering enough that the plane barely made it back to John Wayne Airport.

10 – Midnight Run (1988)

The boxcar scene where Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) and John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) discuss whether or not they could ever be friends, was almost entirely improvised on-set. As regards Grodin’s famous, “You ever had sex with an animal, Jack?” line, he was told by Director Martin Brest to come up with something that was guaranteed to make even Robert De Niro laugh. The scene where John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) falls off a cliff was shot in the Salt River Canyon in eastern Arizona. However, the conclusion of the scene, the shots of Mardukas and Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) crashing through the river rapids, was shot in New Zealand, because the water was too cold in Arizona. I have to pause here…too cold. In Arizona.

9 – Paper Moon (1973)

I talk about this movie in a post about Madeline Kahn, you can read it here: KAHN  Ryan O’Neal and daughter Tatum O’Neal are both excellent as well as Madeline Kahn, in this. Tatum O’Neal was 10 years old when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this movie, making her the youngest person ever to win an Oscar in a competitive category. As of 2018, she still holds this record. She was four years younger than her rival nominee, Linda Blair, in The Exorcist (1973). Some Hollywood insiders suspected that Tatum O’Neal’s performance was “manufactured” by Peter Bogdanovich. It was revealed that the director had gone to great lengths, sometimes requiring as many as fifty takes of some of her scenes, in order to capture the “effortless” natural quality for which Tatum was critically praised. Either way, Bogdanovich maintained later that working with the young actress was “one of the most miserable experiences” of his life.

Prior to finalizing casting, Peter Bogdanovich says he met with Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal at their Malibu home. When Ryan invited Bogdanovich to start an exercise regimen of running on the beach, Tatum countered he wasn’t the type. When she explained to Bogdanovich she said that because he wouldn’t take his shoes or shirt off, he told Ryan, “She’ll do.” Peter Bogdanovich didn’t think the movie would make much money or would be very successful. He certainly didn’t think Tatum O’Neal would win the Oscar.  The film spawned an unsuccessful TV series Paper Moon (1974) starring Jodie Foster.

8 – Cannonball Run (1981)

I talk about Cannonball run at length at a post you can read HERE. In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) said “Could get a black Trans Am”, and then answers himself, “Naw, that’s been done.” This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), which starred Reynolds, and was directed by Hal Needham, who directed this film. DeLuise co-starred with Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).

7 – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

According to director Stephan Elliott, he took the three leads out in drag prior to the beginning of filming. None of them were recognized: Guy Pearce took the opportunity to be outrageously rude, Terence Stamp eventually forgot he was in drag and started hitting on girls, and Hugo Weaving got super-drunk and lay under a table for hours, tapping his finger in time to the music. This last detail was incorporated into the film in the hotel room scene.

6 – Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Harry and Lloyd are named after the (silent) comedy star Harold Lloyd. The feature film debut for Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. They said years later that the main reason they got the job was that Jim Carrey’s breakthrough film role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) had been directed by someone who had never done a feature film before (Tom Shadyac) and after a positive first meeting with the Farrellys, Carrey decided to give them the job in hopes of replicating that success. According to the Farrelly brothers, Jeff Daniels wasn’t wanted for the film, but Jim Carrey wanted him in it. In order to ensure a no from him, they offered Daniels $50,000 for the role. He accepted without any hesitation nor did he attempt to negotiate, despite insistence from his agent the film would “kill his career.” By 1994, the film was Daniels’ most successful.

5 – It Happened One Night (1934)It Happened One Night (1934) became the first film to perform a “clean sweep” of the top five Academy Award categories, known as the Oscar “grand slam”: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. This feat would later be duplicated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) in 1976 and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) in 1992. However, It Happened One Night is the only one not nominated in any other category. According to Frank Capra in an interview with Richard Schickel for “The Men Who Made the Movies”, “We made the picture really quickly–four weeks. We stumbled through it, we laughed our way through it. And this goes to show you how much luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time means in show business; how sometimes no preparation at all is better than all the preparation in the world, and sometimes you need great preparation, but you can never out-guess this thing called creativity. It happens in the strangest places and under the strangest of circumstances. I didn’t care much for the picture, ] it turned out to be ‘It Happened One Night’.” Is often credited as the very first screwball comedy.

4 – Tommy Boy (1995)Rob Lowe played the supporting role of Tommy’s stepbrother and is uncredited. The reason for this is because Rob was contractually obligated to Stephen King’s The Stand (1994) at the time, so he took the part simply as a favor for friend Chris Farley. According to David Spade, he and Chris Farley got into a physical altercation on the set. Spade had gone out for a drink with Rob Lowe the night before. Farley had become very jealous and angrily repeated: “How’s Rob Lowe?”. David got so fed up with Chris hounding him on the subject that he threw his Diet Coke on him, to which Chris responded by throwing David into a wall and down the stairs. After the fight, Spade walked off the set and refused to continue filming. The pair would sometimes go for hours without talking to each other, talk to each other through the director, etc.

3 – The Blues Brothers (1980)During filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and could not be located. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie, and that they were looking for Belushi. Before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” The homeowner then told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then crashed on their couch. Situations like this prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi as “America’s Guest”. John Candy orders three orange whips. This line was not scripted; Candy just improvised. While also a cocktail, Orange Whip provided refreshments for the crew, and Costumer Sue Dugan was daughter of the Director of Sales for Orange Whip, Kenny Dugan, who asked the brand be mentioned in the film.

2 – Smokey and the Bandit (1977)A majority of the lines and quotes spoken by Jackie Gleason character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice were improvised. Jackie Gleason reportedly modeled his character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice, after Burt Reynolds’ description of his father, a Florida police officer and Chief of Police. Among the character traits that came from this was the use of “sumbitch”, a colloquial pronunciation of “son of a bitch”. Jackie Gleason said the cafe scene with himself and Burt Reynolds was not in the original story, it was Gleason’s idea. Adding the Junior Justice character was Jackie Gleason’s idea. “I can’t be in the car alone,” Gleason said. “Put someone in there with me to play off of.”

Hal Needham was better known in the film industry as a stuntman and had great difficulty in getting any producers interested in this project. Only when his close friend Burt Reynolds agreed to star in the film did he manage to gain studio attention. Hal Needham asked Jerry Reed to write a theme song for the film. A couple of hours later, Reed presented “East Bound and Down” to Needham. With an acoustic guitar, Reed started to play it and Needham immediately stopped him. Thinking Needham didn’t like it, Reed offered to re-write the song. To which Needham replied: “If you change one note, I’ll kill you!” The song went on to become one of Reed’s biggest hits.

1 – Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)John Hughes, in an interview on the “Those Aren’t Pillows” DVD, said he was inspired to write the film’s story after an actual flight from New York to Chicago he was on, was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, thus taking him five days to get home. John Hughes wrote the first draft of the screenplay in three days. His average writing time for a screenplay in those days was about three to five days with twenty-some re-writes. Steve Martin was convinced to join the production after favoring two scenes he had read from the script; the seat adjustment-scene in the car, and the F-word tirade at the car rental desk. John Candy and Steve Martin’s favorite film that they have made. Although John Hughes was in a bad mood throughout the filming, as his life was falling apart, John Candy and Steve Martin had a great time together during production.

Cannonball Run is Just Plain Fun

 

So I realized something over the weekend. I examined the topics mentioned the most in this blog and number 1 was a surprise…as I seemed to write about Burt Reynolds more than any other topic! So, here’s another blog about him…

If you haven’t seen the film Cannonball Run (1981), now’s the time to do so…it’s just great fun. The original Cannonball Run race was conceived by car magazine writer and auto racer Brock Yates and fellow Car and Driver editor Steve Smith in the early 1970’s. Cannonball Run, was an unofficial, unsanctioned automobile race run five times in the 1970s from New York City and Darien, Connecticut, on the U.S. Atlantic coast, to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California. Brock Yates participated as a driver in all 5 races and began working on a screenplay, to be titled Coast to Coast, but was scooped by two unofficial films in 1976, Cannonball and The Gumball Rally, (both are not that good). Eventually, an “official” Cannonball Run movie was made — The Cannonball Run — starring a slew of great actors including Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise with Yates in a cameo appearance.cannonballrun

Director and veteran stuntman / stunt coordinator Hal Needham joined Brock Yates in one of the races, in fact, the ambulance used in the movie is the actual ambulance that Hal Needham and Brock Yates souped up and raced in the real race. It had been modified with a HEMI engine that made it go up to 145 mph and was equipped with four gas filler holes so that the required 90 gallons could be pumped quickly. Needham and Yates didn’t actually win the race (the transmission blew in Palm Springs) so Needham kept it in storage for several years until the time came to make this film.reynolds cannonball run

The other actors on board for this comedy was Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcet, Jackie Chan, Adrienne Barbeau, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Elam, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Bert Convey, Jamie Farr, and Mel Tillis.  Director Hal Needham and producer Albert S. Ruddy liked the chemistry of Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis so much that after this film they tried to sell a pilot to ABC featuring their characters. The head of the network loved the idea but the day before the meeting was to be held to discuss it, the head of the network was fired and the project was canceled. I write about that in another blog (click here to read it)…Cannonball Run

In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, Burt Reynolds’s character says “Could get a black Trans Am”, and then answers himself, “Naw, that’s been done.” This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit (1977) which starred Reynolds, and was directed by Hal Needham, who directed this film. DeLuise co-starred with Reynolds in the 1980 sequel, Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).  Jackie Chan makes one of his first US film appearances. Inspired by Hal Needham’s notion of including bloopers during the closing credits, Chan begins a tradition of doing the same in most of his movies from this point onward.

Oscars Need a Stunt Category

 

There’s been only 3 stunt performers that have ever received an Oscar in 100 years. The first one went to Yakima Canutt in 1967 as a special Lifetime award for his years as a stunt performer, stunt coordinator and for creating a variety of safety devices for the Industry. The second to get one was Vic Armstrong in 2001 in Technical Achievement for the development of the Fan Descender, a tool to help Stunt Performers in high falls. The last to be given an Honorary Oscar was Hal Needham in 2012 for his “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement.”oscars2

To this day, there still is no Stunt Category in the Academy Awards, even though two other major organized awards have now provided for some form of stunt recognition.  The SAG awards provide an Award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture since 2007 and the Emmy awards have offered  a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Stunt Coordination since 2001.  I would love to see the Academy Awards offer an Oscar for Best Stunt Coordination or Second Unit Direction Award. If they can give awards to the heads of all the other departments on a movie set, why not the Stunt Department?oscar4

I’m not the only one who feels this way.  The Stunt Community has been fighting this battle for decades.  At first they simply fought to be recognized in the credits of the films.  It was regular practice in the early decades to not put them in the credits at all, as the studios were trying very hard to maintain the illusion that actors did all this themselves.  Finally, somewhere in the mid 50’s it started to become regular practice to list Stunt Performers and especially the Second Unit Directors and Action Unit to the films.

I guess the Academy Awards felt like they had made some concessions when they started to accept Second Unit Directors and Stunt Coordinators into their membership a few years ago, but this is still wholly underwhelming when you consider there are only 31 included to this day. Other departments have thousands of members.oscarsunite

This has become a hot topic again this week with the lead-up to the Academy Awards this Sunday with articles having been written in The Huffington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, The LA Times and Vanity Fair.  There’s also a huge out-cry within the ranks of the Entertainment Blogs online if you look at Deadline, The Wrap and Cinemablend.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/oscars-refuse-to-recognize-stunts_us_56c48b9ae4b08ffac1271c8e

http://www.forbes.com/sites/judebrennan/2014/02/07/stunt-actors-remain-oscars-forgotten-heroes/#1704102470e3

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/stunt-coordinators-rally-at-academy-868348

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-stuntman-oscar-campaign-20150623-story.html

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2014/01/stunts-that-deserve-oscars

Stunt Performers Rally For Inclusion At Oscars

Jason Statham Calls for Stunt-Actor Oscar Category

http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Why-Aren-t-Stunt-Performers-Eligible-Oscars-69574.htmloscars

I’m not so sure this would be such a big issue today if the Oscars didn’t include Mad Max: Fury Road in contention for Best Picture this year.  It’s really incredibly hard to look at that film and not see the incredible work done by the Stunt Department.  The film simply could have not been done without them.  It’s about time we start recognizing these people and their hard work, don’t you think?

Terry Bradshaw, The Actor, Singer and Author

 

It’s well known that Terry Bradshaw, was a great NFL Quarterback and a fantastic TV personality for the Fox NFL Sunday.  What is rather unknown, however is his success as an actor, singer and author.

As an actor I first noticed him as a pal of Burt Reynolds in Hooper, Smokey and the Bandit 2 and Cannonball Run (Cannonball Run being his best role). In Cannonball Run, Terry was paired up with Country Singer Mel Tillis, and was so successful Hal Needham (the director of Cannonball Run) directed a spin-off of the film, a TV show pilot for NBC called Stockers, which featured Terry and Mel as two stock car racers trying to outwit and outrun a bill collector named, Crusher.

Now the pilot failed to be picked up, but this is important for two other reasons; Terry followed up with his love for racing over the years by being very active in the NASCAR circles, From 2001-2006, he joined the HighLine Performance Group Racing to form FitzBradshaw Racing. He also appeared on NASCAR on Fox where he interviewed and drove with Dale Earnhardt at Daytona International Speedway the day before Earnhardt was killed in the last lap of the Daytona 500.

Now you would think it was Mel Tillis that may have influenced him into music, but you’d be wrong. Cannonball Run was in 1981 and Terry had already released I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (which reached 17 on the billboard charts) in 1976 and Until You (reaching 73rd) in 1980 and would go on to release 3 more albums after that! I have no idea, when this over-achiever ever had time to write books, but he did! He released his first book, No Easy Game in 1971 and then released, Man of Steel in 1979. He followed those up with Looking Deep in 1991, It’s Only a Game in 2001 and finally Keep It Simple in 2002.

Now with all that work and not including his work as a commentator on TV, he’s continued to act in a slew of TV Shows and had a very nice role in the Matthew McConaughey comedy Failure to Launch (2006) as Matthew’s father and will appear in the movie, Bastards this year along with Owen Wilson and Ed Helms.

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 1970-1979

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1970-1979 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1970 – They Call Me Trinitythey_call_me_trinity_poster_02

The Spaghetti Western and Spaghetti Western Comedies were starting to come into their own and a string of “Trinity” films starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer would arise.  They became worldwide stars and did all their own fighting in their films.  These are great fun!

1971 – The Big Bossbig-boss-lobby

Bruce Lee would become a bonafide sensation after his first film and there really was no one quite like him. He had the skills and a way about him that everyone after him tried to copy.  Martial Arts got it’s very own movie genre after this.

1972 – The Poseidon Adventureposeidon-adventure wallpaper

Another new genre, would be this sub-category inside the action genre, that became the disaster film.  This one has a very good fall into a ballroom skylight done by a non-stuntman at the time, Ernie Orsatti.  He would go on to become a stuntman after this, he found he had a knack for it.

1973 – Live and Let DieLive Boat

James Bond would appear this decade a record 4 times!  This is the first on the list with a speedboat jump over land by Jerry Comeaux of 110 feet, which made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

1974 – The Man With The Golden Gunman_with_the_golden_gun_stunt

This one had a great car jump stunt that is a breath-taking, “I can’t believe I saw that” …mathematical stunt devised by Raymond McHenry at Cornell University and performed by Bumps Willard.

1975 – The Man Who Would Be Kingman who would be king

Joe Powell would perform a jump from a rope bridge between two ravines 100 feet into a pile of boxes that would lead legendary Director John Huston to say, ” That’s the damnest stunt I’ve ever seen.”

1976 – Gatorgator car

This would be the start of a great collaboration between Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds.  Hal Needham would body double Burt in this film and there’s a nifty car flip at the end of the movie with Hal in the truck bed.

1977 – The Spy Who Loved MeSPY-WHO-LOVED-SKI-1

This is a bond film with one of the most extensive pre-credit sequences than all the previous films and right before they go to the opening song and credits, they have a fantastic ski-stunt by Rick Sylvester right off a mountain and then slowly fall until finally has a parachute open. Really great opening.

1978 – HooperHooper3

Hal Needham directed Burt Reynolds this time in a movie inspired by and about stuntmen! Can’t name just one stunt to highlight in this film as it’s just chocked full of them, but if I had to, A. J. Bakunas has a world record breaking jump from a helicopter into an airbag (232 feet!).

1979 – MoonrakerMoonsky7

BJ Worth and Jake Lombard fight over a parachute in this Bond entry and it’s fun to watch.  I would definitely include all the camera men who had to jump and film the sequence which included 88 jumps over all.

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

Hal Needham and Gator

 

Hal, having been a stuntman for years and for having doubled Burt Reynolds for 18 years had a great rapport with his cast and crew.  He had a stunt coordinator’s abilities and a stunt director’s eye that made for a match made in heaven.  This film’s car chase scenes had the most effect on Hollywood than any other film other than Bullet.gator car

Hal Needham, went on to direct Smokey and the Bandit the very next year, which was 2nd at the box office to Star Wars. All of Hal’s movies were centered around several stunts, and can be seen as the genesis to the Hollywood Blockbuster Tentpole movie which, in general, has a 3 act “stunt” or “action sequence” as its primary structure.  Hal, along with Glenn Wilder and Ronnie Rondell Jr. started the legendary Stunts Unlimited.

Hal mentions in his autobiography, Stuntman, that the boat stunt he performs in this movie breaks a world record. Gator was directed by Burt Reynolds for Levy-Garner-Laven Productions and is a sequel to his film White Lightning.gator (1)

Things to look up ( go to IMDB ):

  • Hal Needham
  • Gator
  • Burt Reynolds
  • Levy-Garner-Laven Productions

History of film companies as defined by Wikipedia: Levy-Gardner-Laven Productions was an American film production company based in Beverly Hills, California.

The principals, Jules V. Levy, Arthur Gardner, and Arnold Laven, met while serving in the Air Force’s First Motion Picture Unit during World War II. While serving, they decided to form their own production company after the war ended. The three men formed Levy-Gardner-Laven in 1951.

Laven produced both films and television shows, and he directed many popular American television shows, including episodes of The A-TeamCHiPsMannixThe Big ValleyThe Greatest American Hero and Hill Street Blues. Gardner was an actor prior to World War II, but chose to produce after the company was formed. Along with Levy, who was a script supervisor prior to the war, Gardner wrote the story for a 1982 movie called Safari 3000. Levy-Gardner-Laven also produced classic T.V. series for Four Star Productions such as The RiflemanThe Big Valley, and The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, all for ABC.

Levy-Gardner-Laven maintains an office in Beverly Hills, but their last production credit was in 1982.

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

Paddy Ryan and Ivanhoe

 

I saw this movie as a child, and it was enthralling.  One of my favorites when it came to the big mounted “epic”.  This is when I started to realize that the classics could be cool.  Although there are a lot of stunts in this film, there’s one that stands out for me and that is Paddy Ryan’s fall from the castle.  This was reported to be the highest fall from a castle when he performed the stunt.Ivanhoe PaddyRyan

Paddy Ryan (born Frank Singletary) was one of the leading worldwide stunt men to come out of England.  The men who thrived in the early European epics, war films and bond films.  Stunt men the likes of Jock Easton, Joe Powell, George Leech, Ken Buckle and Vic Armstrong. They would travel far and wide, often on their own dime and stay on location for weeks, sometimes months at a time, competing for the one small “stunt adjustment”, as they called it.

Information on these stunt performers are rare and very hard to come by.  A lot of these early stuntmen and women have died and taken their legacy with them, but there are a few members of the stunt crusade that are shouting their names from the rooftops.  Recent autobiographies by Hal Needham and Vic Armstrong are helping to shine the light on some of these fantastic stories and the people who truly lived them.ivanhoe03Ivanhoe was directed by Richard Thorpe for MGM.

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

Glossary of stunt terms as defined by www.RichmondStunts.com – Stunt Adjustment:  stunt adjustments are an additional fee paid to the stunt performer in addition to the minimum daily rate to compensate for more dangerous stunts or when the stunt performer exceeds expectations of the daily rate and the budget allows for extra monies to be paid. Performing utility (basic) stunts such as playing a bad guy that takes a couple punches or falling down are usually covered by the daily rate. But for the fun stuff like being set on fire or falling off a roof, a negotiation between the stunt coordinator, stunt performer and production will take place.  (typically the coordinator does this on larger shows). The factors used when determining the justified amount of adjustment will be based on technical difficulty, level of danger, etc.

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

 

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Stunt Performers for Hooper

 

The film is lightly based on Hal Needham’s (director) experiences as a stuntman, but the film’s main character is modeled after stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker, who just happens to do many of the stunts in the film himself.  This film is also a tribute to Jock Mahoney (who Brian Keith’s character, Jocko Doyle, is modeled after), who really is Sally Field’s stepfather in real life. hooper

The film is also notable for the fact that it inspired a successful television series, The Fall Guy which starred Lee Majors. The show’s theme song’s, “The Unknown Stuntman” lyrics including references to both Reynolds (the star of Hooper) and Farrah Fawcett (who worked with Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds in Cannonball Run), Majors’ ex-wife. hooper-1978 (1)

As a side note, Hal Needham also started using bloopers during the end credits of his films, and this one presented many of the outtakes from several of the stunts. Another “winner of my Best Stunt Awards”, Jackie Chan, saw this technique used when he worked with Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds in Cannonball Run 2 and has used the technique ever since to highlight the stunts by him and the Jackie Chan Stunt Team in his movies. hooper_el_increible_1978_1

In one climactic scene, stuntman A.J. Bakunas jumped from a helicopter at a whopping, world-record-breaking 232 feet onto an air bag. If you take into account that the old-school air bags would lift you 30 feet into the air if not precisely hit, it makes the feat all the more impressive. Hooper was directed by Hal Needham for Warner Bros.Hooper3

Things to look up ( go to IMDB ):

  • Hal Needham
  • Hooper
  • Burt Reynolds
  • Warner Bros.
  • Buddy Joe Hooker
  • Jock Mahoney
  • AJ Bakunas
Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

 

Burt Reynolds is Gator McKluskey

 

Burt Reynolds played Gator McKluskey in White Lightning (1973) and again in Gator (1976). These are two fantastic films about a moonshine-running King of the Bayou, with high octane, super-charged, double-barreled action, mystery, murder and adventure.  I loved these films and really wished they made more of them.1973-white-lightning-movie-poster

The fun starts with White Lightning, that was supposed to be Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical film, as he spent months on the pre-production, but was eventually replaced with Joseph Sargent, who himself was fired from Buck and the Preacher and replaced by Sidney Poitier the year before.   Joseph would go on to make the very successful The Taking of Pelham One Two Three the year after.  Burt Reynolds met the writer, William W. Norton on Sam Whiskey (which he wrote) and Burt loved the idea of this ex-con character that gets drawn into working with the feds to catch a moonshine ring.

Burt’s good friend, Hal Needham, did the stunts in this movie and would eventually direct Burt in several films including Hooper (a film about a legendary stunt man) and the Smokey and the Bandit films. There was a scary moment in the chase sequence that ends with Gator’s car sailing from a river bank onto a barge that went seriously wrong. The plan was for the car (driven by Hal) to land squarely on the mound of soft earth in the barge, on the take he fell short and landed on the rear of the barge with the rear of the car hanging into the water. Hal was hurt and stunned, Burt watching the scene from behind the camera, dove into the water, swam to the barge and helped pull Hal out of the car. Needham recovered from his injuries and would go on to do the stunts in Gator three years later.gator posters

The film was so successful that Burt decided he wanted to do another film with the character and decided to direct the sequel himself. Up until this point he had only directed one episode of the TV Show, Hawk (which only lasted for 1 season) 10 years before, but managed to get the studio to agree to let him direct the film.  Burt got William to write the sequel and also had Hal doing the stunts again.

Hal Needham’s luck didn’t change on this film as he was hurt again on a stunt at the end of the final chase scene.  The truck that Gator (Hal doubling for Burt) gets thrown from flips over and it broke Hal’s back in the process.  He was a very good stunt man, by all accounts, but this does make sense why he turned to directing in the subsequent years.

Great films, both of them are a lot of fun to watch.  Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM