May 11, 2014

Joe Bonomo

Joe Bonomo (1901-1978) was one of the greatest stuntman/stars of the 1920's. He was born in Coney Island, New York and started bodybuilding at a young age.

Below: After winning a bodybuilding contest, the first prize was a role in "The Light in the Dark" (1922). Left to right: unidentified, director Clarence Brown (in chair), Joe Bonomo, Hope Hampton, and screen legend Lon Chaney.

After performing stunts on the East Coast, Joe moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the movies.

Below: Joe, sliding down the rope, is doubling Lon Chaney, who played Quasimodo, in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923).
(One man had already attempted the slide, but he had no safety precautions and was badly burned after sliding about two-thirds of the way down. He fell the rest of the way. Joe lined his gloves and pants with tin foil and made the slide easily.)

Below: Joe leaps from a fire escape to a flag pole in an unidentified film.

Below: Joe does a car-to-plane transfer in the serial, "The Great Circus Mystery" (1925) in which he was the star.

Below: Joe, with Margaret Quimby, starred in another serial entitled, "Perils of the Wild" (1925) which was based on "The Swiss Family Robinson."

Below: No tricks here. Strongman Joe is actually holding that man above his head in Joe's starring serial, "The Chinatown Mystery" (1928). That's Ruth Hiatt on the staircase.

Below: Joe makes a rooftop leap with the aid of a spring board.

Joe had been cast to play Tarzan in "Tarzan the Mighty" (1928) but lost the role due to an injury.

Below: One of Joe's last film jobs was as a Tiger Man in the horror classic, "Island of Lost Souls" (1932) starring Charles Laughton.

After retiring from acting and stunt work due to a hip injury, Joe became a highly successful retail inventory liquidator. Many of the discount bins seen in stores are based on his marketing techniques.

Joe also published many books and articles on bodybuilding, nutrition, healthy living, and self-improvement. In 2009, Joe Bonomo's name was honored posthumously with his induction to the National Fitness Hall of Fame. He was also an honorary member of the Stuntmen's Association.