Friday, October 25, 2013

Hal Needham, 1931-2013

When I was looking up a movie on IMDb, I saw that one of their news headlines mentioned the passing of Hal Needham, at the age of 82. He's one of those faces I'd never have recognized, to an extent only having seen his face in a piece TCM ran earlier this year, I believe (or maybe it was last year) about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors' Awards, which are now awarded in a ceremony separate from the main Oscar ceremony. Needham was honored in 2012 for his body of work, which was predominantly as a stuntman.

That, of course, is why one wouldn't be so likely to recognize Needham's face. He did stunts in quite a few movies, including some I've blogged about, and others that are well-known even though I never got around to doing a post on them. Obviously this includes a bunch of westerns, such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, the 1960s version of Stagecoach, and Bandolero!, but there are also war movies such as Pork Chop Hill or The Devil's Brigade, and even other genres: IMDb lists Needham as being in The Spirit of St. Louis and The Great Race.

Needham also did some actual acting, playing small roles, and especially on TV. He was one of the state troopers in W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, and is listed as a sergeant in the aforementioned The Devil's Brigade. W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings was not the first time Needham worked with Burt Reynolds, and it turned out to be somewhat auspicious, as it got him the chance to direct a story he had written: Smokey and the Bandit. Needham would go on to direct the sequel, as well as directing Burt Reynolds in the Cannonball Run movies.

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