Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yakima Canutt - Best Stuntman Ever

Stuntmen get very little credit for their craft and then ya heard about some famous actor that did his own stunts and we are supposed to feel amazed. Well, lets feel amazed by what the real action hero's do. Without guys such as Yakima Canutt who single handedly invented the stuntman as a profession, the world should forever remember him.

Yakima Canutt being pulled by the horses on the ground called the "Transfer" his most famous stunt
Yakima Canutt doubling as John Wayne in the movie "Stagecoach"
Learn more about Yakima Canutt on wikipedia or watch the films he was in for some true action

Born Enos Edward Canutt in the Snake River Hills, near Colfax, Washington; he was one of five children of John Lemuel Canutt, a rancher, and Nettie Ellen Stevens. He grew up in eastern Washington on a ranch near Penawawa Creek, founded by his grandfather and operated by his father, who also served a term in the state legislature. His formal education was limited to elementary school in Green Lake, Washington, then a suburb of Seattle. He gained the education for his life's work on the family ranch, where he learned to hunt, trap, shoot, and ride.

He broke a wild bronco when 11. As a 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) sixteen-year-old he started bronc riding at the Whitman County Fair in Colfax in 1912 and at 17 he won the title of World's Best Bronco Buster. Canutt started rodeo riding professionally and gained a reputation as a bronc rider, bulldogger and all-around cowboy. It was at the 1914 Pendleton Round-Up, Pendleton, Oregon he got his nickname "Yakima" when a newspaper caption misidentified him. "Yakima Canutt may be the most famous person NOT from Yakima Washington" says Elizabeth Gibson, author of Yakima, Washington. Winning second place at the 1915 Pendleton Round-Up brought attention from show promoters, who invited him to compete around the country.

"I started in major rodeos in 1914, and went through to 1923. There was quite a crop of us traveling together, and we would have special railroad cars and cars for the horses. We'd play anywhere from three, six, eight ten-day shows. Bronc riding and bulldogging were my specialties, but I did some roping." said Canutt.

During the 1916 season, he became interested in divorcee Kitty Wilks, who had won the Lady's Bronc-Riding Championship a couple of times. They married on July 20, 1917 while at a show in Kalispell, Montana; he was 21 and she 23. The couple divorced about 1922. While bulldogging in Idaho, Canutt's mouth and upper lip were torn by a bull's horn; but after stitches, Canutt returned to the competition. It wasn't until a year later that a plastic surgeon could correct the injury. World's champion

Canutt won his first world championship at the Olympics of the West in 1917 and won more championships in the next few years. In between rodeos he broke horses for the French government in World War I. In 1918, he went to Spokane to enlist in the Navy and was stationed in Bremerton. In the fall he was given a 30-day furlough to defend his rodeo title. Having enlisted for the war, he was discharged in spring 1919. At the 1919 Calgary Stampede he competed in the bucking event and met Pete Knight.

He traveled to Los Angeles for a rodeo, and decided to winter in Hollywood, where he met screen personalities. It was here that Tom Mix, who had also started in rodeos, invited him to be in two of his pictures. Mix added to his flashy wardrobe by borrowing two of Canutt's two-tone shirts and having his tailor make 40 copies. Canutt got his first taste of stunting with a fight scene on a serial called Lightning Brice; he didn't stay, and left Hollywood to play the 1920 rodeo circuit.

The Fort Worth rodeo was nicknamed "Yak's show" after he won the saddle-bronc competition three years in 1921, 1922 and 1923. He had won the saddle-bronc competition in Pendleton in 1917, 1919, and 1923 and came second in 1915, and 1929. Canutt won the steer bulldogging in 1920, and 1921 and won the All-Around Police Gazette belt in 1917, 1919, 1920 and 1923.[2] While in Hollywood in 1923 for an awards ceremony, he was offered eight western action pictures for producer Ben Wilson at Burwillow Studios; the first was to be Riding Mad. Actor

Canutt had been perfecting tricks such as the Crupper Mount, a leap-frog over the horse's rump into the saddle. Douglas Fairbanks used some in his film The Gaucho. Fairbanks and Canutt became friends and competed regularly at Fairbanks' gym. Canutt took small parts in pictures of others to get experience. It was in Branded a Bandit (1924) that his nose was broken in a 12-foot fall from a cliff. The picture was delayed several weeks, and when it resumed Canutt's close shots were from the side. A plastic surgeon reset the nose, which healed, inspiring Canutt to remark that he thought it looked better. Stuntman Yakima in John Ford's Stagecoach after doing the "transfer" part of his most famous stunt

When his contract with Wilson expired in 1927, Canutt was making appearances at rodeos across the country. By 1928 the talkies were coming out and though he had been in 48 silent pictures, Canutt knew his career was in trouble. His voice had been damaged from flu in the Navy. He started taking on bit parts and stunts, and realized more could be done with action in pictures.

In 1930 between pictures and rodeoing, Canutt met Minnie Audrea Yeager Rice at a party at her parents' home. She was 12 years his junior. They kept company during the next year while he picked up work on the serials for Mascot Pictures Corporation. They married on November 12, 1931.

When rodeo riders invaded Hollywood, they brought a battery of rodeo techniques that Canutt would expand and improve, including horse falls and wagon wrecks, along with the harnesses and cable rigs to make the stunts foolproof and safe. Among the new safety devices was the 'L' stirrup, which allowed a man to fall off a horse without getting hung in the stirrup. Canutt also developed cabling and equipment to cause spectacular wagon crashes, while releasing the team, all on the same spot every time. Safety methods such as these saved film-makers time and money and prevented accidents and injury to performers. One of Yakima's inventions was the 'Running W' stunt, bringing down a horse at the gallop by attaching a wire, anchored to the ground, to its fetlocks and launching the rider forwards spectacularly. This either killed the horse, or rendered it badly shaken and unusable for the rest of the day. The 'Running W' is now banned and has been replaced with the falling-horse technique. It is believed that the last time it was used was on the 1983 Iraqi film al-Mas' Ala Al-Kubra when the British actor and friend of Yak Marc Sinden and stuntman Ken Buckle (who had been trained by Yak) performed the stunt three times during a cavalry charge sequence.

It was while working on Mascot serials that Canutt practiced and perfected his most famous stunts, including the drop from a stagecoach that he would employ in John Ford's 1939 Stagecoach. He first did it in Riders of the Dawn in 1937 while doubling for Jack Randall. In his 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Speilberg paid homage to Canutt, recreating the stunt when a stuntman, Terry Leonard, (doubling for Harrison Ford) 'dropped' from the front of a German Army transport truck, was dragged underneath (along a prepared trench) and then climbed up the back and round to the front again.