Yakima Canutt – Actor/Stuntman

16 May

lovin her was easier / tompall glaser

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Yakima Canutt Actor / Stuntman

YAKIMA CANUTT wallpaper 5

In the 20’s or 30’s real Cowboys were often recruited to Star in Westerns – like Tim McCoy, Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Wild Bill Elliott .etc.

And who could be a realer Cowboy than Yakima Canutt?

So in 1919, established Western Star and former rodeo contestant Tom Mix, invited Yak to be in 2 of his movies. Later Yak got his first stunt work in a serial called Lightning BryceStarring Jack Hoxie. 

YAKIMA CANUTT Lightning Bryce

Yak eventually worked with John Wayne 30 times and was also a stunt double for (among others) Roy Rogers, Gene Autry … 


Acting, however, was not really a high factor in many early Westerns – they weren’t even ‘Talkies’, which helped a helluva lot to excuse less than sterling performances. Sometime later however, the great Western Director John Ford was given to say: “It is easier to get an actor to be a cowboy than to get a cowboy to be an actor.” (Do I detect a tinge of bitterness in there?) Thus the movement to recruit Cowboys as actors (with some noted exceptions like Slim Pickens and Ben Johnson) started to come to an end.

YAKIMA CANUTT publicity shots

Let’s put it this way: Yak, was not a natural actor. He was pretty wooden with not much range of emotion – and absent a bit on that mysterious stuff called charisma. He was not destined to be a big Western Star. He still did damn well though – worked in over 300 movies: Acting, Stunting and Directing.


Golden Boot Award

Yak was eventually awarded the Golden Boot Award in 1984  which recognized the achievements of Cowboy film heroes and heroines, as well as writers, directors, stunt people and character actors who had significant involvement in the film and TV Westerns.

Golden Boot Award

Golden Boot Award

Yakima Canutt Selected filmography (Wikipedia)

Yakima’s film credits are massive – over 300 movies as either Actor, Stuntman and action Director.
Too much to list here … so this is an impressive abbreviated list:

  • Sagebrush Trail (1933)
  • West of the Divide (1934)
  • The Man From Utah (1934)
  • Lawless Range (1935)
  • Stagecoach (1939) second unit director, stunt coordinator, and stunts/Cavalry scout, all uncredited
  • Gone With the Wind (1939) as man who attacks Scarlett while riding through shanty town; also uncredited stunt coordinator/stunt double for Clark Gable
  • Ivanhoe (1952) second unit director
  • Knights of the Round Table (1953) second unit director, uncredited
  • The Lawless Rider (1954) director
  • King Richard and the Crusaders (1954) second unit director
  • Old Yeller (1957) second unit director
  • Ben-Hur (1959) second unit director
  • Swiss Family Robinson (1960) second unit director
  • El Cid (1961) second unit director
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) second unit director
  • Cat Ballou (1965) second unit director; executive in charge of production; uncredited stunt coordinator
  • Khartoum (1966) second unit director
  • Where Eagles Dare (1968) second unit director
  • A Man Called Horse (1970) second unit director
  • Rio Lobo (1970) second unit director
  • Breakheart Pass (1975) second unit director

Film awards

  • 1959 – National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Special Citation shared with Andrew Marton for directing the chariot race in Ben-Hur
  • 1967 – Academy Honorary Award for achievements as a stunt man and for developing safety devices to protect stunt men everywhere
  • 1976 – Inducted into National Cowboy Hall of Fame
  • 1978 – Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences “A tribute to Yakima Canutt” dinner
  • 1984 – The Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Golden Boot Award
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame star at 1500 Vine Street.

Yak and his horse ‘Boy’ take a worthy bow




YAKIMA CANUTT Wild Horse Canyon

YAKIMA CANUTT The Fighting Stallion

YAKIMA CANUTT Captain Cowboy

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2 Responses to “Yakima Canutt – Actor/Stuntman”

  1. Don Ostertag May 16, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    OH what a great post. First you reminded me just how much I use to enjoy Tompaul. Then you had that post of White Thunder. Reminded me of a white Arabian I had. I named him Thunder, after the book Thunderhead. Then that video of those stunts. Wore me out just watching it. Trip wires and W’s. Poor animals! I had an outlaw horse that I was trying to break. This old timer showed me how to rig the W’s on the horse. No way! When I told him I wouldn’t hurt the animal like that, he laughed called me a softy.
    Thanks again for the Yakima posts.


    • jcalberta May 17, 2016 at 9:25 am #

      Thank you kindly Don. I had a tuff time with that post. Took me 3 days to put it together and I still wasn’t satisfied. I didn’t know about Tompaul till the Outlaws showed up – another rebel who defected from commercial Country. Yak’s movie career was very interesting – but in Stunting he was the MAN. Yeah, they care about the horses it seems – but they cared almost less about the Stuntmen, who were injured often. I’ll try to post something on Yak and a horse that he had to deal with in The Devil Horse – that had already killed a man. Amazing scenes he did with that renegade steed. Onward !

      Liked by 1 person

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