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Cowboy Stuntman

From Olympic Gold to the Silver Screen

Dean Smith, with Mike Cox; foreword by James Garner

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, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xi

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p. xiii-xiii

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 ...

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Unsung Heroes: The Author's Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xviii

When I first 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 traffic bound. The big studios like Republic, Warner Bros., Disney, Columbia, 20th Century Fox, and Paramount had Western streets. MGM had two, Universal had a large one, and the ...

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Chapter 1. Texas Roots

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pp. 3-12

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 punches 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 ...

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Chapter 2. Saturday Westerns

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pp. 13-26

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 ...

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Chapter 3. Riding, Roping, and Running

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pp. 27-44

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 women show how well they could handle a horse, throw a loop, or stay on the ...

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Chapter 4. Hill Hall

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pp. 45-52

I got a full scholarship to UT plus $10 a month from the UT athletic department 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 financial trouble. To bail him out, Mama sold a section of her land, but she didn’t get near what the land was worth. In ...

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Chapter 5. Helsinki

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pp. 53-68

I’d had a good freshman year at UT, going undefeated in five track meets. As a sophomore in the fall of 1951, I played on the varsity football team, and I made varsity track that spring. Although I enjoyed football, track remained my first love. On the last day of 1951, my first wedding anniversary, I won the Sugar Bowl track meet in New Orleans. I ran the ...

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Chapter 6. Back to the Real World

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pp. 69-81

I had won gold at the Olympics, the ultimate goal in track and field. While that medal in its fancy case gave me a lot of confidence, 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 ...

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Chapter 7. Going Pro

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pp. 82-85

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 first 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 ...

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Chapter 8. Maverick Was His Name

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pp. 86-94

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 influence 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. Unfortunately, he wasn’t ...

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Chapter 9. Tales of Wells Fargo

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pp. 95-110

I was kicking around Hollywood, doing odd jobs for this studio or that, but nothing to set the world on fire. 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 Hollywood, the L. C. Goss Stables, the Myers and Wills Stables, or Fat Jones’ ...

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Chapter 10. John Wayne at the Alamo

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pp. 111-130

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 ...

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Chapter 11. In the Money

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pp. 131-147

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, actors, 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 ...

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Chapter 12. Back to TV and More Westerns

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pp. 148-162

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 fixing 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. ...

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Chapter 13. Doubling the King of the Cowboys

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pp. 163-188

In 1970 I was thirty-eight and still competing in track meets. At an allcomers 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 ...

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Chapter 14. It's a Wrap: Back to Texas

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pp. 189-212

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-five 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 coordinator ...

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Images Plates

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pp. 229-240

Unnumbered pages

Dean Smith Filmography

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pp. 214-219

Chronology of Honors

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p. 219-219

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Letter from Bob Mathias

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pp. 221-222

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 lot more about the decathlon than I had four ...

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Letter from the John Wayne Family

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pp. 223-224

Over fifty years ago in a tiny town in Texas began a friendship with our family that has transcended generations. On the set of the movie The Alamo, we first 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 films and many John Ford movies. He also cemented a place in our hearts and family. Many times in Hollywood, friendships made ...


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pp. 225-249

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About the Authors

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p. 250-250

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, Debby, 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 ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780896727908
E-ISBN-10: 0896727904
Print-ISBN-13: 9780896727892
Print-ISBN-10: 0896727890

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 64
Publication Year: 2004