Tag Archives: Polly Burson

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

For more info, find the book 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Stunt Team For Spartacus

 

To say that Spartacus has a very loyal and dedicated following is an understatement.  Looking back, Spartacus has it’s own sub-genre, the Swords and Sandals Spectacle.  It’s spawned multiple look-a-likes and many made-for-television sequels and TV shows.  I’ve always been a fan of a good gladiator story and this is the best.  It gets the nod for Best Movie Stunt over the Alamo for 1960 because of influence and it’s simply harder to perform stunts in what constitutes as a skimpy Speedo.spartacus-original-lobby-card-4-kirk-douglas-tony-curtis-68-3775-p

The stuntmen who worked on this film is a venerable who’s-who of the elite, top stuntmen of the time, including Yakima Canutt and his two sons, Tap and Joe, Richard Farnsworth, Harvey Parry, Tom Steele, Buddy Van Horn, Dale Van Sickel, Polly Burson, Carey Loftkin, Loren Janes, Cliff Lyons, and so, so many more.  The film is really a tribute to all the men and women who worked on it and should be required viewing for anyone wanting a career in the stunt industry.spartacus_fight

The interesting story behind the making of the film is that it wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for Ben Hur the year before.  Kirk Douglas was so upset that he lost the role of Ben Hur to Charlton Heston that he set out to prove to William Wyler that he made the wrong decision.  It’s by the sheer will of Douglas alone that this film got made.  He searched for it, bought the rights to it, financed it and hired everyone to work on it.  The first director he hired, he even fired a week into production.  He replaced that director with Stanley Kubrick, but even Kubrick admitted years later that the film is really Douglas’s and not his.  Kubrick did not have say in script and many of the elements that Douglas put in place.spartacus_550w

Kubrick denounced the film later as his worst, but in the end it won four Academy Awards and was nominated for two others.  It’s kind of hard to argue with that kind of a record.  By most people I know, it is regarded as the best gladiator movie of all time and the father of the genre.  Spartacus was directed by Stanley Kubrick for Bryna Productions.Spartacus -douglas

Things to look up (go to IMDB ):

  • Kirk Douglas
  • Spartacus
  • STanley Kubrick
  • Bryna Productions

History of film companies as defined by Wikipedia: Bryna Productions was a film production company established by Kirk Douglas, inspired by the success of Burt Lancaster in moving into production.

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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.

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