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‘Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story’ (review)

Produced by Stephanie Austin,
Michael Gruskoff, Marion Rosenberg

Narration written by Nell Scovell
Based on the book by Mollie Gregory
Narrated by Michelle Rodriguez
Directed by April Wright
Featuring Jeannie Epper, Julie Ann Johnson,
Jadie David, Donna Evans, Debbie Evans,
Donna Keegan, Amy Johnston, Paul Feig,
Ben Mankiewicz, Paul Verhoeven, Al Ruddy,
Heidi Moneymaker, Renae Moneymaker,
Anne Fletcher,  Alyma Dorsey,
Keisha Tucker

 

Solid documentary on the history of stuntwomen in film and television isn’t truly the first film on the subject, despite the title.

There was a very enjoyable doc from 2004 from director Amanda Micheli called Double Dare which also tackled the subject.

Still, the two films complement one another well, with different interviews, anecdotes and observations from each.
Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story goes all the way back to the silent era, giving props to badass women of the era who did stunt work on films and serials such as The Perils of Pauline.

Unfortunately, the next few decades saw mostly men donning women’s wardrobe to double for actresses because “it’s too dangerous for women”.

This sexist attitude proliferated until (and really beyond) the seventies, when women like Jeannie Epper changed the game a bit.

Epper doubled many actresses on many TV shows and movies of the era, most famously standing in for Lynda Carter on the very popular TV series Wonder Woman.

She proved to the stuntman boys’ club that women could do the work and do it well, gaining the respect of many male stuntmen and stunt coordinators and even leading to women moving up to stunt coordinators themselves.

This was a hard fought battle that wasn’t completely settled. Some men were still resistant to hire a woman as a coordinator.

Stuntwomen entertainingly covers these and other issues – such as the prevalence of drugs on film sets in the 70s and 80s leading to major safety issues – interspersed with terrific interviews and film clips.

The doc even gets a bit emotional at times, with some of the women discussing loss of life on set and the rampant sexism that was incredibly frustrating in their lives and careers.

At 84 minutes, the film covers a lot of ground briskly and never wears out its welcome.

While it’s no classic in the behind-the-scenes doc subgenre, Stuntwomen is a must for film history buffs and students of women’s rights and progress.

Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story is now available On Demand

 

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