Summer 2018

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54 SAG-AFTRA | Summer 2018 | Snapshot by Valerie Yaros E nos Edward "Yakima" Canutt made the extraordinary look easy. Starting as a young rodeo champion in the 1910s and considered by many to be the greatest stunt performer in film, few know of his acting career as movie star of nearly two dozen silent Westerns from 1924–1929. The public would be lured into theaters by advertising like: "Scar Hanan starring Yakima Canutt. The big biff-bang- bingo boy! The riding, fighting sheik of the plains in his brand-new whizz-bang of joy! Action! Speed! Love! Adventure! Leaps! Dashes! Death-defying exploits in motor-cars and on horseback! Culminating in one of the most staggering thrills ever plunged upon the screen!" After "talking pictures" arrived, Canutt played his last starring role in A Texan's Honor, but his legend as a stunt performer grew alongside the "talkies," and he joined Screen Actors Guild in 1934. On a Guild questionnaire a few years later, he described himself as 6 feet, 1 inch tall, 194 pounds, middle-aged with neither stage nor radio experience and a member of the Riding Actors Association. Ninety percent of his employment was stunts and 10 percent was "parts." He owned a "Western, first-class" wardrobe and described his skills as "acting, expert horseman, shooting, whip work, roping, swimming, high water jumps, car crashes and thrills, and if a stunt is possible I can figure a way to do it. Also write and create thrill stuff for your story." Other professions? "Rodeo champion cowboy of the world from 1917 until 1924." Trades? "Ranching, logging, cow punching, horse breaking," and his work was split 50-50 between major studios and independents. At the 1967 Oscars telecast, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him a special award "for achievements as a stuntman and for developing safety devices to protect stuntmen everywhere." Screen Actors Guild President Charlton Heston presented. Canutt had designed and orchestrated the famous chariot race in Heston's Ben-Hur (1959). In a modest acceptance speech, "Yak" declared that he wanted "to thank the Academy not so much for what I have ... enjoyed doing all these years myself — and hope to continue doing — but in the name of all the stuntmen — and women — who kept defying busted bones, bashed-in heads to make pictures more real and reality more picturesque. They're a great gang and I'm glad you chose me to honor them." His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 1500 Vine Street. YAKIMA CANUTT — STUNT LEGEND AND WESTERN SILENT FILM STAR Yakima Canutt was always in the thick of the action, whether as a silent film star or as a legendary stuntman. In this photo, circa early 1920s, he wrangles a steer. Bottom left, a 1930s headshot of Canutt from around the time he joined the union. Bottom right, an ad from the March 7, 1925, issue of the Exhibitors Herald. Snapshot by Valerie Yaros SAG-AFTRA SPECIAL COLLECTIONS

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