From Olympic Gold to the Silver Screen
Publication Year: 2004
Dean Smith has taken falls from galloping horses, engaged in fistfights with Kirk Douglas and George C. Scott, donned red wig and white tights to double Maureen O’Hara, and taught Goldie Hawn how to talk like a Texan.
He’s dangled from a helicopter over the skyscrapers of Manhattan while clutching a damsel in distress, hung upside down from a fake blimp 200 feet over the Orange Bowl, and replicated one of the most famous scenes in movie history by climbing on a thundering team of horses to stop a runaway stagecoach.
Cowboy Stuntman chronicles the life and achievements of this colorful Texan and Olympic gold medal winner who spent a half century as a Hollywood stuntman and actor, appearing in ten John Wayne movies and doubling for a long list of actors as diverse as Robert Culp, Michael Landon, Steve Martin, Strother Martin, Robert Redford, and Roy Rogers.
Published by: Texas Tech University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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The life story of Dean Smith reads like a Mark Twain novel; a wishful, determined, small-town boy grows up and makes good. Along the way he sets college records, wins an Olympic gold medal, plays professional football, and then accomplishes his greatest ambition of all—he becomes When Dean asked me to help him “get into the movies,” I was happy to assist but wasn’t sure I was doing him any favors. Being a stuntman is ...
Unsung HeroesThe Author's Acknowledgments
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When I fi rst arrived in California, it was a great era—the views were majestic, the people were bigger than life, and it was not nearly as populated as today. You could actually get around and not be traf-fi c bound.The big studios like Republic, Warner Bros., Disney, Columbia, 20th Century Fox, and Paramount had Western streets. MGM had two, Univer-sal had a large one, and the smaller studios had small ones. Golden Oaks Ranch, Corriganville, and Gene Autry had Western streets, too. It was a ...
Chapter 1Texas Roots
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As a Hollywood stuntman who got his start during the heyday of the black-and-white television Westerns, by 1983 I’d gotten pretty good at falling from horses, spinning a six-shooter, and throwing fake punch-es in barroom fi ghts. But I sure never expected to end up hanging by a wire from a helicopter 200 feet over the Hudson River looking down on Jack Roe, fi rst assistant director on a movie called The Lonely Guy, had asked if I wanted to go to New York to double Steve Martin, the Waco-born comedian who got his big break on Saturday Night Live. I was older than ...
Chapter 2Saturday Westerns
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When my mother started having labor pains on January 15, 1932, my dad drove her from Eliasville to the hospital in Breckenridge. I weighed thirteen pounds at birth. They named me Finis Dean Smith, after my father. I always thought the name came from the Finis community, east of Graham, where the famous outlaws the Marlow brothers are buried. I was also told that we were kin to Confederate Presi-dent Jefferson Davis, whose middle name was Finis. Maybe that’s where it got started—I don’t know. Across the street from the West Side Hospital ...
Chapter 3Riding, Roping, and Running
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As much as I loved going to the picture show on Saturdays to see those black-and-white Westerns, sitting in the stands watching the dirt fl y and the snot sling at a rodeo suited me even better. And growing up in northwest Texas, I had plenty of opportunity to see men and wom-en show how well they could handle a horse, throw a loop, or stay on the Some say rodeo was invented in Pecos, Texas, in the 1880s as an in-formal competition among cowboys. Others claim it happened in Cana-dian, up in the Panhandle. However the sport came about, by the time I ...
Chapter 4Hill Hall
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I got a full scholarship to UT plus $10 a month from the UT athletic de-partment to cover my laundry. That was a good thing, because my dad sure didn’t have any money to help pay for my education. His drinking had gotten him into fi nancial trouble. To bail him out, Mama sold a section of her land, but she didn’t get near what the land was worth. In fact, she practically gave it away to my cousin C. T. Hill, the roper.Graham it seemed like a big city to me, but at the time it had only about 145,000 people. The state government and the university—with around ...
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I’d had a good freshman year at UT, going undefeated in fi ve track meets. As a sophomore in the fall of 1951, I played on the varsity foot-ball team, and I made varsity track that spring. Although I enjoyed foot-ball, track remained my fi rst love.On the last day of 1951, my fi rst wedding anniversary, I won the Sugar Bowl track meet in New Orleans. I ran the 100-meter dash in 10.3 sec-onds, beating Georgia Tech sprinter Buddy Folkes, a real big win. On that particular track, that was really fast. Coach Littlefi eld and his wife, Henri-...
Chapter 6Back to the Real World
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I had won gold at the Olympics, the ultimate goal in track and fi eld. While that medal in its fancy case gave me a lot of confi dence, I was back in the real world again—going to school, competing on the UT track team, and of course I had the additional responsibilities of being a husband and father. On top of all that, we didn’t have much money. I One way I handled the stress was by going to movies with that free pass all UT athletes got. I know now that I should have concentrated more on my classes and my family, but when you’re that young, you don’t un-...
Chapter 7Going Pro
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Bud McFadin was sure one friend I’m glad I had. He introduced me to Eddie Kotal, a guy originally from Lawrence, Kansas, who had played halfback for the Green Bay Packers back in the 1920s. Eddie became the fi rst full-time college scout in the NFL when he joined the Rams in 1945, and by the time I met him he was working as their personnel director. He knew about my college career and that I was a gold medalist and offered me a $4,200 contract to play for L.A. even before I got out of the army. That doesn’t sound like a lot of money now, but it sure seemed ...
Chapter 8Maverick Was His Name
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Bud McFadin had gotten me in a jam back when I was a UT freshman when he told me to steal an Aggie’s hat, but then he had used his infl uence to help me get into pro football, so I guess we were about even. I think Coach Gilman would have listened if Bud had told him he should keep me on the Rams and not trade me to the Steelers. Unfor-I had wanted to play pro football and still dreamed about working in Western movies, but I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever amount to anything. When it came to fi guring out where to go from here, I was like ...
Chapter 9Tales of Wells Fargo
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I was kicking around Hollywood, doing odd jobs for this studio or that, but nothing to set the world on fi re. L.A. is a big city, but by word of mouth, I began to get acquainted with people there who knew horses. I liked to hang around the Hudkins Brothers Stables in North Holly-wood, the L. C. Goss Stables, the Myers and Wills Stables, or Fat Jones’ Stables on Sherman Way. Ralph McCutcheon, who had furnished Black Beauty for Fury, also had great horses at his ranch in the San Fernando Valley. Those guys would let me ride some of their stock, and by watching ...
Chapter 10John Wayne at the Alamo
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The Alamo was going to be shot in South Texas near Brackettville in the late summer and fall of 1959. I left California for Texas toward the end of August, driving to Ruidoso, New Mexico, where I spent the night with Dale Robertson, who kept an apartment there because he raced quarter horses at the track nearby. From the high country I drove Not only was I going to be in the movie, but I had also gotten my cousin, Don Smith, a job with the Alamo production company working as an extra. He was living on the old home place near Ivan that belonged to ...
Chapter 11In the Money
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When I started getting work in Hollywood I knew I needed to get an answering service. Someone suggested I go with the service Teddy O’Toole ran, telling me that a lot of the successful stuntmen, ac-tors, and directors used it and liked it. Most of the advice I had gotten so far had been pretty useful, so I went with Teddy. She turned out to be a wonderful and kind woman who informed me immediately of any calls so I wouldn’t miss the chance to work or at least get an interview. I had started my stunt work just in time to meet some of the Holly-...
Chapter 12Back to TV and More Westerns
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One day in 1965 I was home painting my bathroom when the doorbell rang. It was Bob Culp, whom I’d met when we worked on PT 109. He said they were fi xing to do a new television series called I Spy with him and a new unknown actor, Bill Cosby. He said he wanted me as his double. Before I could say yes, he asked me if I knew how to do karate. I said, “What is that?” He told me it was a form of martial arts and that I needed to know how to do that to double him. Bob said he wanted me to go to a gym in Santa Monica run by a fellow named Earl Parker and learn ...
Chapter 13Doubling the King of the Cowboys
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In 1970 I was thirty-eight and still competing in track meets. At an all-comers track meet at Pierce College, I ran against a sixteen-year-old named Ron Gaddis. He was an All-State quarter-miler at San Fernando Valley High School. The young man didn’t realize I still had plenty of gas in my tank and it took him by surprise when I beat him. We went on to become close friends. Ron helped me stay in shape while I was running in those senior track meets. We’re still friends, though he has been more My fi rst movie of the new decade was John Wayne’s Rio Lobo, which ...
Chapter 14It's a Wrap: Back to Texas
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Hollywood is not all sunglasses and autographs. Life as a stuntman is chicken one day, feathers the next. But by 1981, I had nearly twenty-fi ve years in the business and at age forty-nine could afford to be a little choosy. So when John Stephens, the director I had worked with on How the West Was Won, called and asked if I’d like to be stunt coordina-tor for a new television series he was doing for Universal called Simon and Simon, I didn’t say yes as quickly as he probably thought I would.playing brothers who ran a private detective agency in San Diego. One ...
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Plate 1. Dean, without helmet, in football game, Graham versus Cisco, 1949.Plate 2. Doug McClure and Dean on the set of Overland Trail, 1960.Plate 3. Headshot of Dean in 1962. Plate 4. Publicity photo of Dean as a working cowboy in 1962. Plate 5. Stunt in the documentary Dean Smith, Hollywood Plate 6. Dean on Sox preparing to do a horse fall for the documentary Dean ...
Dean Smith Filmography
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Chronology of Honors
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...1980 Inducted into the University of Texas Hall of Fame, Austin, Texas2000 American Culture Award for Western Movies and Television, Lubbock, 2006 Inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, Temple, Texas2006 The Duke Award, John Wayne Cancer Institute Odyssey Ball, Beverly 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jimmy Rane Foundation, Abbeville, ...
Letter from Bob Mathias
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The 1948 Olympic Games in London were fast and furious for me since I was only seventeen years old and had only heard what a decathlon was three months before the Games started. The 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki were even more exciting than London since I was then an old guy of twenty-one years and knew a I got a chance to meet a lot of great athletes from all over the world from just ...
Letter from the John Wayne Family
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Over fi fty years ago in a tiny town in Texas began a friendship with our fam-ily that has transcended generations. On the set of the movie The Alamo, we fi rst met a handsome young stuntman by the name of Dean Smith. While working on this movie, he earned a permanent spot in ten John Wayne fi lms and many John Many times in Hollywood, friendships made on movie sets end with the wrap ...
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About the Authors
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Retired stuntman and actor Dean Smith, an Olympic gold medalist at the 1952 Helsinki Games, lives on a ranch in Ivan, Texas, with his wife, Deb-by, and young son, Finis. His long list of honors includes membership in the Stuntman’s Hall of Fame, the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award from ...
Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2004