MY DAD BERT LeBARON: A MOVIE STUNTMAN WITHOUT A FACE

THE HUMAN RACE

 

  THIS  STUNTMAN HAD A LOVE AFFAIR WITH HOLLYWOOD

imageStuntman Bert LeBaron, with arms spread in flight,

was about to knock out a machine-gun nest manned

by prison guards in the 1947 Burt Lancaster classic

movie “BRUTE FORCE.” Esquire Magazine ran a full-page

photo of my airborne dad without giving the Hall of

Fame stuntman-actor credit. That’s the way it was

in Hollywood back then. Although today their names

are entombed with crew members in end-credits, stunt

people are still ignored by the motion picture and

television academies. Since more than 50 stuntmen

and women have died for Hollywood over the years,

don’t you think the survivors deserve Academy

recognition? At least for valor? What pisses me off

is to hear actors ooze B.S. (Don’t tell me they don’t!)

taking credit for “gigs” performed by athletes like

my old man. And now, digital animation is replacing

the acts of such stalwart guys and gals. After

35 years of proudly calling himself an actor-

stuntman, Bert LeBaron, who would never qualify as

another Laurence Olivier or Tom Hanks, developed

a heart problem that put him out of action physically

and financially. (His last stunt was doubling actor

William Bendix in a TV sitcom) When the film capital

of the world showed no compassion, he tried selling

encyclopedias. When that failed, he couldn’t even

support himself peddling newspapers on the streets of

Hollywood. Having nowhere to turn, he stepped into a

handball court at the Hollywood YMCA where he was renting

a room for $10 or $15 a week and purposely popped his

heart playing the game he loved more than women. He

died in 1956. I call Bert and his unheralded comrades

“stuntmen without faces.” I loved that womanizing rogue

whom my mother shed twice in divorce courts. My father

had so many ex-wives and girlfriends, they were lost

in the midst of his mind. Nevertheless, stuntmen and

women deserve to step up to the podium and accept a

golden statuette for their sensational athletic feats.

So tell the actors who, for the sake of publicity

or self-aggrandizement, to: Put A Cork In It! Their

crime is they continue to take credit for stuntwork

achieved by filmdom’s “faceless” others. In my book,

that’s a felony punishable by truth.

 

Boots LeBaron

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