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STUNTS, STARS & LEGENDS - January 2017

Bill Couch
Like his brother Chuck, Bill was a circus performer specializing in high wire work including the sway pole act. He joined Chuck in Hollywood and became one of the best “high men” in the stunt business. Bill was the stunt coordinator on many films including “King Kong” (1976), “Logan’s Run” (1976), ‘The Great Wallendas” (1978), “The final Countdown” (1980), “Star Trek II”, and “Ghostbusters” (1984).

Bill and I worked on an episode of “Adventures In Paradise”.



Cliff Lyons in “Jesse James” (1938)
In 1938 20th Century-Fox Studios starred Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda in, “Jesse James”. Cliff Lyons was hired to double both actors when Frank and Jesse are riding hard to avoid capture after attempting to rob the bank in Northfield, Minnesota. The studio went to Noel, Missouri, in the extreme southwestern corner of the state. The Elk river provided a convenient Ozark stream for background visual effect, especially during chase scenes when the drama was intensified by the splashing hooves’ of galloping horses.

Frank and Jesse (Fonda and Power) suddenly come to the edge of a high precipice overlooking a mountain stream. There is no alternative but to jump off the cliff with their horses. And they did. Back in 1938, when this movie was made, jumping off a cliff meant jumping with a horse and rider. That’s where Lake of the Ozarks came in. Jumping into a shallow stream from a high cliff was almost impossible. So, a plunge into Elk River was out of the question. The same held true for every other Ozark cliff and river. Except at Lake of the Ozarks. In 1938 it was the only deep water lake in the region. It had plenty of cliffs along its shoreline. The production moved up to the location for the shoot.

They settled on a 70-foot high cliff between mile marker 21 and 22. Cameras would be angled to show the cliff and some of the lake, but the broader expanse of water would be off camera so as to give the impression that our heroes were jumping into a small river. Since there was an element of danger here, only one horse would actually go over the edge. The spliced footage from two cameras would give the impression that two riders made the jump.

No horse could be trained to make that jump, so the chosen steed was placed on a slippery platform known as a tilt chute. With stuntman Cliff Lyons in the saddle, one end of the chute was lifted and horse and rider slid over the abyss. In the first moment of the scene all four of the horse’s hooves were together as it tried to prevent the slide. Once in the air, the animal flailed wildly and instantly turned over. Lyons was alright as a rescue boat fished him out of the water. The horse too, survived the fall. But once in the water the now panicked animal thrashed about uncontrollably, and before the rescuers could get a rope on the terrified horse, it had drowned.

If interested in learning more about the Hall of Fame, please contact John Hagner (Founder) at 435 260-2160.
Hall of Fame website:

John Hagner (Founder) is also the Artist of the Stars.
His Celebrity Portrait Drawings are available at telephone 435-259-7000,
Mailing address: 50 W. 400 N, Moab, Utah 84532.
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