What does the name Yakima Canutt mean to you? Some have likely never heard the name. Others may be familiar with the longtime Hollywood stunt double. A former rodeo cowboy, Canutt, became a favorite stuntman and coordinator on several of John Wayne’s projects.
The pair developed a friendship, and what came out of it is still entertaining us today. In fact, Wayne liked one of Canutt’s stunts so much that he used it in multiple films.
While John Wayne is best known for his iconic voice, gait, and overall swagger, his Westerns were all the more entertaining for the groundbreaking action sequences. And not taking anything away from Duke, but Yakima Canutt was responsible for many of the most iconic scenes in John Wayne’s movies, directly and indirectly.
In the 1947 film “Angel and the Badman,” iconic Western star John Wayne is involved in a dramatic wagon chase. At one point, the wagon hits a bump in the road and takes off. The front wheels come down first, making for a dramatic landing. It was Yakima Canutt who developed the memorable jump.
Years later, and this time in a car, the John Wayne movie “McQ” from 1974 depicts a car chase on a beach. The same stunt is employed during the chase. You can watch the comparison for yourself below.
John Wayne Modeled Much of His Own Perfomance on Yakima Canutt
The relationship between John Wayne and Yakima Canutt was as much teacher and student as it was friendly. When Wayne first encountered the cowboy, he was taken with the persona of the former rodeo star. And after observing him for a while, John Wayne knew Canutt had something he could use.
Yakima Canutt influenced everything from Wayne’s walk to his talk.
“I noticed that the angrier he got, the lower his voice, the slower his tempo. I try to say my lines low and strong and slow, the way Yak did,” Wayne once said.
And beyond the physical attributes, it appears that Yakima Canutt’s dedication to his craft inspired Duke to do his own stunts on several occasions. In movies such as “Sons of Katie Elder” and “Big Jake,” Wayne opted to do a few stunts in certain scenes. But in “Back to Bataan,” Duke insisted that he handle every stunt from the top down.
Over the course of his entire career, John Wayne and Yakima Canutt worked on at least a dozen movies together in an official capacity. And likely, even more, as friends looking to help each other out. Whatever the number, Canutt’s legacy is on full display in “McQ.” His invented stunt from twenty years prior surfaced in a movie set a hundred years after the days depicted in “Angel and the Badman.”
The impact of both men has truly been timeless.