Mar 13, 2014

Hal Needham

Hal Brett Needham (1931-2013)

No stuntman had more drive or ambition than Hal Needham. His talent and will to succeed took him to the top of the stunt profession.

Below: In one of his first stunt jobs, Hal jumped out of an airplane and bulldogged stuntman Cliff Rose off a horse for the TV series, "You Asked for It."

After his appearance, Hal's phone didn't ring, so he started working as an extra to make contacts. Below: This is from "The Haunted Trees" (1959) episode of "Have Gun - Will Travel." Hal is on the far left. On the far right is another future stuntman and director, Chuck Bail.

In that episode, they needed someone to climb a tree with professional equipment. None of the stuntmen could make the climb. Hal had previously been a tree trimmer, so he stepped up and said he could do it. Hal didn't just climb the tree, he ran up it. Star Richard Boone was very impressed. A few days later, Boone had a disagreement with his stunt double, Fred Dale. When Dale was dismissed, Hal asked Boone for a chance to double him. Boone gave him a shot, and Hal doubled Boone on the show for the next six years. 

Below: Hal doubling Richard Boone on an episode of "Have Gun - Will Travel." 

During the filming of "Have Gun - Will Travel," Richard Boone had an acting school, and Hal was one of his students. When Boone directed the episode, "Dream Girl" (1962), he gave Hal (below: right) the guest starring role. On the left is Richard Boone as Paladin.

Below: Hal takes a fall in "Kings of the Sun" (1963).

Below: Chuck Roberson (left) and Hal Needham (right) in "Shenandoah" (1965)

Below: Hal (left) is doubling Richard Long in the "Big Valley" episode, "A Day of Terror" (1966), while martial arts and stunt legend, Gene LeBell (right), is doubling Ken Swofford.

Below: Hal makes a transfer to rescue stuntwomen Patty Elder and Stephanie Epper in "The Rare Breed" (1966). The wagon overturned on top of the women, but they only had minor injuries.

Below: In "Gator" (1976), Hal jumped from this truck as it's being turned over.

Below: In 1977, Gabriel toys released a Hal Needham Stunt Set. 

After working as a stunt coordinator and second unit director, Hal went on to a highly successful directing career. His directing credits include "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977), "Hooper" (1978), "The Villain" (1979), "Smokey and the Bandit 2" (1980), and "The Cannonball Run" (1981).