In part one I looked at the way that a very successful (or maybe lucky) World War II Navy frogman survived over a 100 missions, returned home and had aspirations of becoming an actor. He headed to Hollywood to seek his fame and fortune.

As you know Jack Young managed to get his first real break by helping out as an adviser on some underwater stunts for a movie. However Hollywood in the late 40’s was hardly awash with water based movies, the mainstay was very much Westerns. I asked Jack about this quantum leap from Water to Winchester and once again it would appear that lady luck was on his side.

Having been an asset on the water movie Jack in someways became part of the Hollywood family. So when he was offered a chance to prove his metal as a Stuntman he naturally said yes. The stunt was an easy one, as simple as falling off a bicycle, well not exactly a bicycle, a horse to be exact. Jack had to appear to have been shot while galloping along and fall off.

Of course every precaution was taken to protect Jack’s well being. A pit of soft sand, out of camera angle would break his fall.

At this stage I think it would only be fair to explain that Jack was not a great horseman. The animal handler derided Jack on the fact that he did not even know the etiquette of mounting the horse. Jack’s response was to tell the gentleman “get me on the thing, point me in the right direction, get it going, and I’ll do the rest”.

The handler did his bidding, the director shouted Action, the handler gave the horse a slap on the rump and jack hung on!

In his own words:

The plan was simple fall of and land in the sand pit. I managed one out of two. I missed the sand by 30 feet and bounced like a rubber ball. I jumped up and asked if they wanted me to do it again?

A stuntman was born! The director was more than happy with the take and Jack was now an expert!

After a few more close encounters of the equine kind he became quite adept at mastering the art of horse riding. Although as he openly admits today, it was never one of his favorite pass times”

I hate the (bleeping) things!

Although Jack Young is the first Stuntman I have had the opportunity to sit down and talk with, I do know enough about the life to realize that it is inherently dangerous. More than ego’s get bruised when things go wrong. I asked Jack if there was a point where the fun and bravado was overshadowed by the danger.

That moment came for Jack while making the Western classic The Alamo. He said this:

It was a complex stunt that involved over a dozen horses and riders. Two things went wrong, the horse I was on was a little headstrong and going too fast. Then when O bailed off my foot got caught in the stirrup. The net result was being at the bottom of a pile of 12 angry horses.

To be honest with you I cringe when I watch a football game and some poor guy unlucky enough to have the ball finds himself at the bottom of a pile of hefty players, the concept of horses is beyond my imagination. I asked him what the damage was.

Well the doctors claim that it was the fractured skull by being kicked in the back of the head by the horse that I was riding that saved me! I was a rag doll after that. My back was broken, I had a punctured lung, and a bunch of broken bones. I was in hospital for 6 months. But it wasn’t all bad the Studio paid all of the medical expenses and even kept me on the payroll during this time.

It was at this point in our conversation that I began to realize that Stuntmen are eternal optimists! This was reinforced a little later:

Stuntmen have a death wish. Oh they do not wish to die, just to see how close they can come.

Jack does however admit that The Alamo stunt was a turning point for him. It did not slow him down, but stunts became more painful.

In my mind the Stuntman is very much the unsung hero of yesteryear, there were no CGI of Blue Screens, it was all about grits, determination and camera angles.

More soon.

Simon Barrett

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