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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Parry in Peril

"A great stuntman's mind must be 14 ft ahead of his body. That's the way you stay alive, you know." 

Like a chess player, a stuntman must plan out and be thinking several spaces ahead of real time. For the movie goer this flows across the screen looking as if the moment to moment action is thoughtless nanoseconds of movement created out of necessity. No one was better at it than one of the first stuntmen, Harvey Parry. 

Born with the advent of film at the turn of the century Parry became a creator of movie magic. Try to imagine, the stunts you see in early silent pictures are not green screened, very little of it is split screen. Envision- if you can-a man pulling his body from a moving car to a moving train, with another train coming at him from the opposite direction. Its real. As real as one can be- he must before, during and after- be able to save his own life as well as create for the camera a movie star ease. 

Harvey Parry did this for 60 years. From the early days of silent movies he was a daring contributor to the magic. Seems unbelievable that he created a believable false world with real life physically extraordinary feats. 
 It all happens so fast, from frame to frame, and when done expertly shows the audience nothing. "I could have any measures, anything I wanted, except publicity." Publicity wasn't his goal. Craftsmanship - the ability to not be seen- and stay alive- was his ultimate goal. A hero, in a different sense of the idea. 

Thanks Harvey, for a legacy from the secret society of first stuntmen. Invisible, deadly, inventions of heartthumping thrills. 

 Photos and Quotes from "Hollywood" a Thames production 1980. 

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