Yakima Canutt / Western Stunting 101 … The Art of Falling / Part 1

30 Jun


Ben Hur Theme / Miklos Rosza

YAKIMA CANUTT 6

Western Movie Stunting 101:
 The Art of Falling: Part 1:
Elementary Western Horse Stunting

There’s only one good thing about Falling off a horse. It’s damn easy.
(Especially galloping full speed, handling a weapon, or without a saddle)
Making it look good however – and landing safely – is another matter.

Image result for falling off a horse

Not a good Fall.

Bucked off

So Saddle up … or not … we’re goin’ Stunting!

Those Poor Horses

Yakima Canutt. was a Rodeo Champion, before and during his career as a Western Film Stunt Artist. He knew what Falling was all about – and it’s obvious side effects – injury and death – though he obviously Fell a lot less than most cowboys. But his experience in Rodeo is definitely what led to his place as a Western Film Stunt Master.

But getting bucked off in a Rodeo, and Falling in a Western movie, are not quite the same thing. In Rodeo you don’t want to Fall. And if you do, you aren’t very concerned about how it looks. In Stunt Falling you’re trying to Fall – and make it look good – the more sensational, the better – higher, farther, faster …. always pushing the envelope. And in Rodeo, and especially Stunting, Yak pushed the envelope big time. He pretty well invented the Stunt industry. In either case however, you still need to land safely. Not an easy thing to do.

Bronc riding

Unknown bronc rider … and unknown bronc … at an unknown rodeo

Yakima Canutt bar

But before we ride any further, there’s one thing that needs to be mentioned … the Horses.
Early Western Horse Stunts seemed to demonstrate a tremendous disregard for the safety of the horses.
One example: Stunt Falls from horses sometimes employed trip lines that tripped/yanked the horses down – while galloping at full speed. The Stuntman, of course, knew a Fall was coming – the horse did not. I haven’t seen any statistics, but I can surmise there was a considerable toll on the horses. This was rightfully criticized and eventually stopped. Nowadays Stunt horses are extensively trained in Falls and any other Stunts involving horses. To Yak’s credit he later took great care and pride in inventing techniques which greatly limited injury to both man and beast – culminating in his masterpiece – one of the greatest Stunt events in film history – the spectacular (and dangerous) – Chariot Race in Ben Hur (1959) – a monumental stunting achievement that took Yak two years of planning and preparation. And despite urban legends to the contrary, there is no evidence that any horses (or actors) were killed.

Yakima Canutt bar

Ben Hur …

Ben Hur - 1959

Ben Hur - Yakima Canutt instructing Charleton Heston

Yak gives Chuck (Heston) some pointers …

Ben Hur - chariot race 1959

Ben Hur - chariot race 1959 2

Ben Hur - chariot race 1959 4

They’re off !!!

Ben Hur - 1959 Camera Truck

Ben Hur - chariot race 1959 5

Ben Hur - chariot race 1959 6

Joe Cannutt Ben Hur stunt

Yakima Canutt’s son Joe does the famous crash jump …

Ben Hur - chariot race 1959 7

Spiked wheels … ??

Ben Hur - chariot race 1959 9

Ben Hur - chariot race 1959 10

Ben Hur - chariot race 1959 11

Next:

Western Movie Stunting 101:
 The Art of Falling: Part 2:

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