(Courtesy of Gerald Walton)
September 13, 1975 was proclaimed as 'Tim Holt Day' in Harrah, Oklahoma, and ceremonies were held. In the back seat of the convertible are Sharpe (closest), Tim Holt's wife Berdee in the center, and on the far side wearing the cowboy hat is Ben Johnson.
|On the right is Sharpe in the Captain Marvel costume while stunting and doubling for star Tom Tyler in that 1941 cliffhanger.|
Looking trim and fit atop a horse or in Captain Marvel's costume, Dave Sharpe provided us with thrills a-plenty. The paradox is why Republic Studios never selected him as the star for one of their many western series.
My guess is that Republic knew there were a lot of actors who could be cowboy heroes ... but there was no one who could equal Sharpe as a stuntman and stunt coordinator ('ramrod').
There were a number of great stuntmen during the 1930s and 1940s, and names that immediately come to mind include Ted Mapes, Tom Steele, Cliff Lyons, Fred Graham, Dale Van Sickel, Duke Green and Joe Yrigoyen. However, the stuntmen that are generally remembered by cowboy and cliffhanger fans are Yakima Canutt and Dave Sharpe.
Canutt came up through rodeos and silent oaters, and I would suggest that his primary expertise was in: 1) horse stunts, wagon/stagecoach stunts, et al, and 2) fisticuffs. A good example of Canutt's horsemanship can be seen in the serials ZORRO RIDES AGAIN (Republic, 1937) and THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938) by clicking HERE and HERE.
While Sharpe was a fine horseman, his primary expertise was in: 1) fisticuffs and 2) acrobatic type leaps, jumps, lunges, falls, flips, etc. An example of Sharpe's talents can be seen in the flying and leaps in THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (Republic, 1941), where Dave did the stunt work and doubled for star Tom Tyler. Click HERE. Sharpe also wore the leather jacket, helmet and jet pack and did more "flying" in the later Republic serials based on the Commando Cody/King of the Rocketman character.
A further comparison might be that Canutt was a stunt developer of the 1930s, whose approach was brawny and physical. Sharpe was perhaps more polished and more precise in his jumps, leaps and "flying" ... something on the order of choreographed perfection.
One other interesting tidbit on both Canutt and Sharpe: Canutt was a star in silents but purportedly, his starring career ended when talkies arrived because of his "gravely" voice. Sharpe also had a unique vocal sound, perhaps one that was too high-pitched to be considered a hero's voice.
I would suggest that Sharpe's work priorites were with his stuntwork, not acting roles. The reason is simple --- he could make significantly more money doing stuntwork ... and he also had a steady job since most of the studios and production outfits needed his expertise. That steady work and paycheck was a problem for many cowboy movie heroes who had to do personal appearances, circus work, etc., in order to supplement their meager film income.
Was Canutt or Sharpe the better stuntman? I can't answer that simply because both men added so much to the cliffhanger and western film genres. Without Sharpe, Canutt and the many other stunt people, those old films would certainly be less memorable ... in fact, the work done by Sharpe and others elevated these B productions to a level of excitement and quality that still thrills us today.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above - Dave Sharpe is duking it out with Charlie King in the saloon brawl in Range Busters adventure #18, TRAIL RIDERS (Monogram, 1942).
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Dave Sharpe and his black hoss (which some have called 'Thunder'). I think people have confused the above horse with the white hoss in SILVER STALLION which was named Thunder. This is a publicity still for the Range Busters trio westerns circa 1942. After the war, Sharpe rode the same black horse in COLORADO SERENADE (PRC, 1946) with Eddie Dean.