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The Stunt Men and Women

(Courtesy of Martha Crawford Cantarini)

Above - Martha Crawford Cantarini on 'Jim'. Note the horse's leg caught behind the wagon wheel.

(Courtesy of Martha Crawford Cantarini)

Martha Crawford Cantarini

Martha writes:

I worked in my first film in 1947 doubling Anne Baxter in YELLOW SKY, and Jock Mahoney doubled Gregory Peck. What a thrill it was to watch him. Picked up again in 1954 and doubled Eleanor Parker, Shirley MacLaine, Rhonda Fleming, Jean Simmons, Carol Baker, Claudette Colbert, etc.

In the photo above, we were doing publicity pictures prior to leaving for THE BIG COUNTRY (doubled Jean Simmons and Carol Baker). We were jumping over the wagon and you can see my horse's leg caught behind the wheel. Had I not stepped off, thus pulling him towards me, he would have snapped it off for sure. Had I not ridden thousands of horses I could not have done it. This was my own horse named 'Jim'. He doubled Flicka in the TV series, jumped out a plate glass (candy) saloon window in the TRUE STORY OF JESSE JAMES, jumped the fence and moving car in THE MATING GAME. We got into this wagon jump all wrong and it was a potential catastrophe.

'Jim' was purchased tied to a trailer at Caliente Race Track for $25.00. He was put through a crash course in jumping by Jimmy Williams but apparently was burned out and would not make a single jump no matter how small inside a ring. But, in the open on the movie sets, he jumped moving cars, burning wagons and once a fruit cart that was pushed in front of him at the last minute on a cobble stone street. He was a delightful horse and NEVER let me down. Had a mouth like velvet.

I knew Evelyn Finley at a distance --- she and Faye Blesing were just kind of phasing out as I was coming in. I worked mostly with Donna Hall, Sharon and Shirley Lucas, Edith Happy, and a little with Polly Burson who too was just a little before me. All were rodeo trick riders except me and I had a show background. I knew Davie Sharpe also at a distance. The men I worked with the most were Chuck Roberson, Chuck Hayward, Buff Brady, Clint Sharp and those of that era.

Joe Yrigoyen, perhaps the best stunt man of them all, gave me some great advice: "always know what you are going to do if what you have planned doesn't work."

In 1964 Martha met and married jockey John Cantarini.

Her renewed interest in horse racing history led to an association with author Laura Hillenbrand during the writing of Seabiscuit, An American Legend. In 2010, McFarland and Company published Martha's Fall Girl: My Life as a Western Stunt Double and the book cover is shown on the left.

You might want to visit Martha's 'Second Running' website (and there are a bunch of great photos):

Martha received a Golden Boot award at the August, 2005 program and ceremony.

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Martha Crawford Cantarini:

(Courtesy of Martha Crawford Cantarini)

Above is a young Martha being presented an award by Hollywood hero Jack Holt, circa 1937 or 1938.  Martha was riding one of Walter Wanger's polo ponies. She recalls that Jack Holt was an elegant, sophisticated gentleman and a beautiful horseman.

(Courtesy of Martha Crawford Cantarini)

Above - Martha doubling for Rhonda Fleming in GUN GLORY (MGM, 1957).

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