Apr 19, 2014

Howard Curtis

Howard Curtis (1927-1979)

Howard Curtis was an athlete and physical education major at Oberlin college in Ohio. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles to coach soccer and lacrosse at UCLA. Howard was also a pilot and avid skydiver. His first stunt job was in a cereal commercial that required some parachute work. He eventually left coaching to devote himself entirely to stunt work.

Howard worked on many big films including "Moonraker" (1979), "The Deep" (1977), "Jaws" (1975), "The Towering Inferno" (1974), "Earthquake" (1974), and "The Poseidon Adventure (1973).

Below: Howard Curtis (holding the gun) is filming a sky diving sequence for the TV series, "Ripcord" in 1963. Leigh Hunt is in the white helmet and the cameraman is Doyle Fields.

Below: Howard Curtis (top) doubling Paul Newman and Mickey Gilbert (bottom) doubling Robert Redford performed the famous stunt in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969).

The stunt was filmed at the Fox Ranch (now Malibu Creek State Park.) The stuntmen leaped off a crane, and the cliff walls were matted in.

Below: Howard (doubling Robert Wagner) is flipped by Julie Newmar's stunt double in the "It Takes a Thief" episode, "The Funeral is on Munday" (1969).

Below: Howard played "Hans" in "The Albatross" episode of "The Doris Day Show" (1971).

Below: Howard performed this body burn for an episode of "Emergency" entitled "The Mouse" (1975).

Below: Howard (top) is doubling Charles Bronson while Tony Brubaker doubles Archie Moore in "Breakheart Pass" (1975).
("Breakheart Pass" was 2nd unit director Yakima Canutt's final film.)

Below: Howard, (in red outfit, doubling Robert Shaw) along with Chuck Waters and Jophrey Brown, performed what may be one of the greatest stunts in movie history. For the film, "Swashbuckler" (1976), they rode a wagon off an 85 foot cliff into the water.

Here is the stunt.

Howard was a serious student and collector of early European Arms and Armor, and the author of one of the only decent books on the chronology and development of the helmet, "2,500 Years of European Helmets 800 B.C. - 1700 A.D." published in 1978. 

Howard died a hero in 1979 during a skydiving exhibition at Lake Elsinore, CA while trying to save an amateur skydiver who had gotten tangled up in his own chute. When Howard soared over to try and untangle him, the man panicked, grabbed hold of Howard and wouldn't let go. Both men fell to their deaths. His good friend, Robert Wagner, gave the eulogy at his funeral.

Below: In this sequence from "The Second Time Around" episode of "It Takes a Thief" (1969), Howard Curtis (with rifle) is overtaken by stuntman Dave Sharpe, who is doubling Fred Astaire.