Jack Williams (stuntman)
Jack Williams (born April 15, 1921, Butte, Montana, died April 10, 2007, Sylmar, California, of natural causes) was an American stunt performer specialising in horse stunts and Western films and television shows.
Williams's father, George Williams, was a Montana cowboy and his mother Paris Williams was a world-champion trick rider on the rodeo circuit and a movie stuntwoman. The Williams family moved to Burbank, California during Jack's childhood years.
Williams performed his first motion picture stunt on a horse at age 4, being tossed from one rider to another in The Flaming Forest a 1926 silent film. Attending the University of Southern California, Williams was a polo player and returned to motion picture stuntwork in 1936 for Daniel Boone and The Charge of the Light Brigade.
Williams returned to Hollywood after the war where for six decades he doubled for or worked with many Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Ronald Reagan, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Fess Parker, Audie Murphy, Richard Widmark, Robert Taylor, Yul Brynner, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, Glenn Ford, Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood, William Holden and Kirk Douglas. Williams also doubled for actresses including Olivia de Havilland, Julie Adams, Greer Garson, Sophia Loren, Lucille Ball, Claudia Cardinale and Angie Dickinson.
Amongst the films he provided stunts for were The Last Outpost, Bugles in the Afternoon, Bend of the River, The Far Country, Yellowstone Kelly, Rio Bravo, The Alamo, The Magnificent Seven, Merrill's Marauders, How the West Was Won, Cheyenne Autumn, Major Dundee, Cat Ballou, The Professionals, Alvarez Kelly, The Sons of Katie Elder, The War Wagon and many more up to the 1999 film Wild Wild West.
Williams owed his success to his horse Coco. "Coco bought the ranch," he said, referring to the horse he rode in many of his most famous scenes. Williams was best known for having trained his horse to fall dramatically on cue at a given spot as if it had taken a bullet or arrow.
A horse named Coco
Williams was inspired by his father, George Williams, a Montana cowboy who could train a horse to fall on cue. Jack recalled, "There was probably no feat I could have imagined that was as fascinating as that. So I took the technique and perfected it."
"He was the top falling-horse stuntman in the business," said stuntman Bob Hoy, who first worked with Williams in 1950. "He had a great horse called Coco, and they were inseparable. The horse had an instinct. A lot of horses will fight you when you get to the spot where they'll make the fall and won't go there. But Coco went there. She was just so great."
Said stuntman Joe Canutt: "You can get great falls a lot of times out of horses, but when you're attacking the Alamo, for example, and you've got bombs and cannons going off ... some of them don't work at all. That mare [Coco] consistently got spectacular falls."
But beyond doing the falling-horse stunt, Hoy said, "Jack drove stagecoaches, he wrecked wagons, he could transfer from the horse to the train -- he could do anything pertaining to horse work."
Coco died at age 33 and was buried on Williams' California ranch.
"As a stuntman, life's an adventure," he said. "It's marvelous, but so fragile. You remember in 'The War Wagon' where they've got the dynamite shaking and it could go off any second? That's the way life is."
- Merrill's Marauders (1962)
- Peeples, Stephen K. Stunt Double Enjoys Newfound Tranquility The Santa Clarita Signal April 25, 2005
- McLellan, Dennis Jack Williams, 85; stuntman known for horse-riding skills Los Angeles Times Obituaries April 16, 2007
- Peeples, Stephen K. Stunt Double Enjoys Newfound Tranquility Santa Clarita Signal April 25, 2005