Starting out as a rodeo cowboy and then becoming a stuntman in silent westerns, Yakima Canutt later doubled for such stars as Clark Gable and John Wayne, among others, in such dangerous activities as jumping off the top of a cliff on horseback, leaping from a stagecoach onto its runaway team, being “shot” off a horse at full gallop and other such potentially life-threatening activities. He became expert at staging massive events involving livestock, such as cattle stampedes and covered-wagon races, as well as Indians-vs.-cavalry battles on a grand scale. Canutt’s most noteworthy achievement as a second-unit director came in his staging and direction of the chariot-race sequence in William Wyler ‘s Ben-Hur (1959)–which, from initial planning to final execution, took two years.
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