Welcome back to The Evolution Of Stunts, where we are delving into the history of stunts, recognising groundbreaking advancements and iconic performances. In Part One, we journeyed from the beginning of cinema to the end of the 1920s.
Here we continue the journey…
Up to this point, the presence of stunt performers was a Hollywood secret. Studios wanted their audiences to believe that their stars were performing their own stunts, but these stunts were getting more and more perilous to perform, and studios didn’t want to hype up stars and push them to top billing only for a dangerous stunt to put an end to that career. Even performers like Harold Lloyd utilised stunt doubles, although they had it written into their contracts that no-one could reveal this. The repercussions for this though was that Studios and directors demanded more and more dangerous and demanding stunts, and fatalities up until the 1930s were incredibly common. The 1930s bought with it a series of innovations which improved the safety of stunt performance forever.
The 1930s also saw the renewed interest in the western. With the advent of talkies in 1927, the major studios abandoned the western, and it became a form of pulp cinema made by smaller studios, however by the end of this decade new stars were emerging and were helping to develop safer methods for the stunts on screen.
The biggest of all these stars was John Wayne. John Wayne landed his first starring role in 1930 with The Big Trail. A huge budgeted western. It was a flop. Wayne was then relegated to b-movie status and spent the decade making low-budget weapons and serials. He spent this decade well though and took an interest in stunt performance, being mentored in both horse riding, and other western skills. It was also during this period that he became friends with stuntman Yakima Canutt.