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STUNTS, STARS & LEGENDS December 2011

John Hagner - Stuntman
by John Hagner (Artist of the Stars)


John’s career started professionally in 1960 in California where he was an instructor at the first Trampoline Center in that area. It was owned by John’s long time friend, Glenn Sundby, who was the Editor/Publisher of the Modern Gymnast Magazine, a publication that was dedicated to gymnasts the world over. John also was artist for that magazine.Self Portrait of John Hagner

It was at the Tramp Center one day in 1960 when John received a phone call from 20th Century-Fox Studios in West Los Angeles, that he was to go there the following day. They needed a stuntman who could do a high fall. He arrived at 20th the next day and was taken to the lower mote (an area where there was a South Sea Island setting (outdoors) and a sailing ship, ‘The Tiki’ was docked. John met the director, who told him he would be performing a high fall for the star of the television series “Adventures In Paradise”. Then a short while later, he went over to one of the sound stages where there was a cliff setting. This was where John would do the high fall.

John, anxious to do his first stunt brought along his 8 mm camera and asked someone if they wouldn’t mind filming the stunt. Nearby was Gardner McKay (the star of the show who John would double for). McKay said, “give me the camera ... I’ll shoot it for you!”

To do this particular stunt required a set up of cardboard boxes and mattresses (nowadays stunt people use an air bag). John told a couple of the prop men to set up the boxes and mattresses the way he felt would be alright for a safe landing. The mattresses were actually called “Talmadge Pads”, named after its inventor, Richard Talmadge, one of the greatest stuntmen of all time.

The fall was a one-take stunt that Gardner McKay was pleased to film.

Later that day, John was asked to play a character in the same episode, which he did (of a pirate). The name of the episode was “Hangman’s Island”. Hagner was paid $400.00 for that day’s work (not bad back in those days). The stunt represented a height of 35 ft. ($10.00 a foot Hagner estimated) and $50.00 for the walk-on shot.

John went on doubling for Gardner McKay for the last year and a half of that series, and during that time, he also worked several other shows at 20th, including “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (the feature), doubling for its star, Walter Pidgeon, and then the series came out with the same title, where John doubled for David Hedison in a couple of episodes. Then, the “Batman” series started up and John worked stunts in several episodes (playing one of the henchman for the characters The Joker (Cesar Romero) and Mr. Freeze (George Sanders).

Hagner went on working for all of the major studios including, Warner Bros. where he performed stunts in “The Great Race”, starring Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk and Jack Lemon. John played one of the bakers in the bake shop sequences that took four days and nights to complete and when seen on screen, lasted just six minutes. They threw 3,500 fruit filled pies (a Guinness Book record of how many pies thrown in one movie), even out-did the old Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Three Stoogies movies combined.

At Warners, John stunted in a television series called, “Hank” and did gymnastics and acrobatics in scenes filmed in the studios’ own gym. He doubled for Gregory Peck in “Captain Newman, M.D” for Universal Studios in 1963. The stunt he performed was an 80-foot ladder climb near the end of the movie. John was flown to an airfield in Arizona by the famous movie stunt pilot, Paul Mantz, in his own B-25 WWII bomber. Two years later, Mantz was killed while filming scenes for the Jimmy Stewart movie, “Flight of the Phoenix”.

At Columbia Studios in Hollywood, Hagner worked in a western called, “The Wild Westerners”, in which he was one of twenty stuntmen in a knocked-down and dragged-out saloon brawn.
For those who don’t know ... John Hagner is founder of the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame, which began in 1973 in Southern California and was located at three different places, including Palmdale, Mojave, Banning and Cabazon. Then, he received the opportunity to relocate it to Moab, Utah, where it was open to the public for nearly eight years, until they had to vacate the building.

The Hall of Fame is presently without a home and is still in storages.
Hagner is an accomplished artist (Artist of the Stars) ... and has done portrait drawings and paintings of several hundred personalities of motion pictures, television, stage and sports. His work is featured here in a series he calls, “Stunt Stars and Legends”.

He also is an accomplished musician, playing a full set of drums and is a singer in a band called, “The Happy Notes”.
Anyone interested in wanting to learn more about the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame may contact John at 435 260-2160. His mailing address is: Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame, 81 W. Kane Creek Blvd. - #12, Moab, Utah 84532.
The Hall of Fame website is: www.stuntmen.org. For more information, go to Facebook and search Falling For Stars, then Artist of the Stars, then Stunt Stars and Legends.

Hagner is available for doing commission art work. Also, donations are accepted as a tax-deductible entity by making your check or money order to Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame, at the above address. Be sure to mention you read about it in the Moab Happenings.

John Hagner - The day that changed his life!
Dream of a 14 year old from Baltimore, Maryland to become a Hollywood Stuntman began when John Hagner jumped from his 3rd story window ...

John Hagner, a resident of Moab since 1989, founder of the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame and former stuntman since 1960 went back for a visit to his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.

He hadn’t been back for 53 years except for a couple of brief visits. However, his stay this time was extended for 3 weeks. One of the reasons Hagner went back was to do additional research on his family history and to see some of the sights where he spent his youth.

John First Stunt, the building where it all startedAs a youngster he was raised in the area of Northeast Baltimore on Hope Street. He and his family lived in a 3-story brownstone row house, where, at the age of 14, he became seriously interested in becoming a stuntman.

One day in mid-July, he was sitting at his window on the third floor just pondering his dream of doing stunts for the movies. The day before, there was a fierce storm that knocked down a tall tree in front of his house. The City sent out a worker to dig up the tree trunk and fill in the hole with cement. The worker arrived and began to dump some sand and gravel on the street and a large mixing pan and he started to mix the ingredients to make cement. The sand pile was about 5 feet high. Hagner looked down and thought for a couple of minutes and decided that this was the day that he would leap from his 3rd story window and land in the sand pile near the curb.
John in Baltimore with his niece and her mother
Baltimore-Washington Airport, October 2011 —
John Hagner, welcoming his niece Marine Captain Elizabeth, home from her 5th deployment to Afghanistan. Her mother, Elaine looks on.

He dashed down the stairs to the area where the worker was and ran over to them and said, “Hi mister, would you wait a minute and don’t take anymore sand from the pile because I want to jump out of my 3rd story window and land in the sand”

The worker, busy with his job of filling in the hole told Hagner to go away, that he had work to do. Hagner pleaded with him and told him again he wanted to jump out of the window. Evidently, the worker didn’t hear him, so John, noticing the sand pile had been reduced to about 4 feet high. So, he darted back up stairs and opened the window ... stood up on the window sill ... waited for the worker to take a shovel-full of sand from the pile and then, he jumped.

By the time the worker turned around to shovel more sand away from the pile ... he was surprised to see Hagner, sitting on top of the sand pile ... very excitedly shouted to the worker ... “I did it ... I did it!” The worker shouted to Hagner ... “Get out of here kid ...you’re crazy”! Hagner repeated “I did it, I jumped out of the window. Thanks mister for giving me the chance to be a stuntman!” To this day, I still think the worker didn’t believe me.

Hagner’s mother, sitting on the window sill of the 2nd story, washing the outside of the windows, with her back facing the street below, screamed “Good Lord, he jumped” hesitant to look around to see the results of her son’s antics!
After hearing Hagner’s mother’s comments ...The worker may have believed that he did jump!

Hagner had worked in a couple of movies that were filmed here in Moab ... “Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat” and “Geronimo”. Today, he and fellow musicians of “The Happy Notes” perform every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Moab Senior Center and every 3rd and 4th Tuesday of each month at the hospital.

Contact John Hagner if anyone is interested in “The Happy Notes” performing for any function. His phone number is
435 260-2160.
 
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