In the classic Civil War epic, “The Horse Soldiers”, starring John Wayne, William Holden and Constance Towers. Stuntman, Fred Kennedy died as the result of performing a saddle fall, one that he had performed hundreds of times. Famed Director John Ford told Kennedy he wanted him to do a saddle fall and he would be paid extra money. Ford told Fred to mount his horse and ride back about a hundred yards and wait for his cue for action.
Ford told Constance Towers he wanted her to run over and give Fred a kiss after he falls off his horse.
Ford calls ‘Action’! Fred comes riding up towards camera and does his saddle fall, that he was capable of doing with ease ... but, when he came to the spot where he was to be shot and fall, he didn’t have a stirrup step (which is used to step onto and catapult off of, rather than use the regular stirrup). The stirrup step is an iron bar that is shaped to form the letter “L” whereby the rider steps onto it and is able to control his leap. Fred didn’t even use the stirrup, but leaned off on the left side of his horse and tragically broke his neck. It was then that Constance Towers ran over and kissed him and realized instantly he was having difficulty breathing ... He died almost instantly. This was a story told to me by legendary stuntman, Bobby Rose.
Behind the scene story
Stubby was an American competition swimmer who represented the United States at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. He swam in the event final of the men’s 100-meter backstroke and finished fifth overall.
He was a colleague of Johnny Weissmuller’s and performed at carnivals and fairs billed as the Incomparable Water Comedian. He also had a career in Hollywood as an actor and stunt double that began in the silent era and lasted well into the 1950s. His last film credit was as Spencer Tracy’s double in “The Old Man and the Sea.”
In 1965, I was visiting with Stubby to do a story on him in our monthly newsletter, “Falling For Stars”. While I was there he got a phone call ... it was from his Agent from Minnesota, Al Sheehan,who asked him if he would like to spend the summer up in Medora, North Dakota to do live shows for a production called, ”Teddy Roosevelt in the Badlands”.
Stubby told Mr. Sheehan that he was suffering from arthritis and it would be difficult for him to spend that much time without causing a problem.
The production was for eleven weeks of seven nights a week. Then, Stubby said to Mr. Sheehan ... wait a minute, I have a stunt pal right here with me ... Johnny Hagner, who might be interested ...“Hey Johnny ... I want you to talk with Al about something you would do well to accept ... then he handed me the phone!” Well, let’s hold that one for another time, folks!
Stubby Kruger is an honored Inductee in the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame.
|If interested in learning more about the Hall of Fame, please contact John Hagner (Founder) at 435 260-2160.
Hall of Fame website: www.stuntmen.org
John Hagner (Founder) is also the Artist of the Stars.
His Celebrity Portrait Drawings are available at telephone 435-259-7000,
50 W. 400 N, Moab, Utah 84532.
Say you saw this article in Moab Happenings!