Recently, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Mr. Jack N. Young, a Navy frogman turned stuntman who worked on many of the movies this blog holds dear. Look him up, it’s incredible.
“Blackjack” Young, as he became known, was a busy utility stuntman. He’d hire on for a film and provide what they needed, when they needed it. He worked frequently at Old Tucson, both in the films shot there and as part of their stunt show, and would eventually help run the place.
Transcribing it all is taking a while, and I want to hold onto some of it for the book, but this stuff’s too good to sit on. Among the many films he worked on is my favorite Western, Rio Bravo (1959), which was shot at Old Tucson.
Jack Young: “During the shootout at the end, I came out of the barn and got shot before they blew it up… Ricky Nelson was a good kid. I play harmonica, and we’d sit around after work or something and sing. God, that kid was good!”
Young: “Dean shot me in the saloon and I fell out of the loft. (Jack’s stunt inspired the foreign poster above.) We gaffed our own stunts. It was a whole bunch of cardboard boxes. We’d put ‘em together — about three-by-three, probably 10 of ‘em, with a rope tied around them to hold ‘em steady — and then put a tarp over it. Works perfect. I worked before the airbag. I’d do a roof fall, up to about 10 feet, without a pad. I’d hit the ground rolling, almost like a tumbler. I never got hurt.”
Talking to Jack has been an honor, and he’s provided a lot of insight into how these films were made. Watch for more, including a bit on City Of Bad Men (1953), which just showed up in my mailbox today.