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Fall Girl

My Life as a Western Stunt Double, by Martha Crawford Cantarini (with Chrystopher J Spicer); McFarland. Softcover, 235pp. RRP $US35. ISBN: 978 0 85131 899 9.

July 2, 2010

Martha Crawford had an amazing life during Hollywood's golden years - rubbing shoulders with famous actors and personalities right from a young age.

She shares some fascinating stories about the celebrities of the day, including Clark Gable, Ronald Reagan, Jean Simmons, Robert Taylor, and Elvis Presley.

Her father had high-level inside connections to the movie world, and urged her to do a screen test for a movie contract - she lost to Marilyn Monroe. Not that keen, the youngster was quite relieved and told the studio folks that she wanted to be a stunt rider instead, for actress Anne Baxter in the upcoming movie Yellow Sky. "It was because of my non-success as an actor that I was able to follow my dream and have a stunt career doubling for the stars," Martha says.

Martha and Frosty with Don Burt at the dice table in the Thunderbird Hotel's casino in 1963.

Eleanor Parker and Martha dressed for the fire scene in Interrupted Melody.

From there, she never looked back.

At age 18 she took time out from her stunt career to marry Bill Lear's son, William P Lear (of Lear Jet fame). However the marriage did not last and Martha was soon back on set.

Among the actresses she doubled for were Eleanor Parker, Shirley MacLaine, Rhonda Fleming, Jean Simmons, Carol Baker, and Claudette Colbert. Martha's uncanny resemblance to Eleanor Parker meant she was often her double in films.

Martha was born in 1928 and sadly her father died when she was six months old. Her mother then married Carl Crawford, a well-known polo player, and it was from Carl that Martha was introduced to the world of horses.

She became a very good rider, trainer and handler, and formed a remarkable relationship with an unwanted palomino foal, named Frosty, who became her partner both on screen and off.

After she ended her stunt career in about 1958, Frosty became a celebrity horse starring in many advertising promotions under the care and training of Martha, who married horseman Don Burt in 1959.

The trio travelled together for appearances and television commercials, and Frosty even threw dice (a seven) at the casino at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas.

In 2005 Martha was the deserving recipient of a Golden Boot Award, which celebrates the achievements of cowboy film stars, writers, directors, stunt people and actors.

Fall Girl is a great read giving an insider's look at the movie horse industry, as well as being a fascinating biography of a talented and dedicated horsewoman.



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