How the West Was Won

The scene: A man is shot and leaps off a train into a cactus. How was it done? Hint: a stuntman.

“One of my favorite stunts was for ‘How the West Was Won’ in 1962. I was doubling for an actor who was shot. I had to leap off a train going 30 mph, hit a cactus and tumble down a rocky hill. A cactus is like a telephone pole. Hitting it dead on would have sent me back under the train. So I had to figure out the right angle to hit the thing.

“I also wanted the cactus to be flexible. I dug four feet down and cut out the tap root. Then I filled in the hole with the dirt so it would spray up when I hit. I also calculated the angle so I knew when to jump from the train. Next I took a blowtorch to the cactus needles where I had planned to hit to avoid being impaled.

“In the scene, the train sped along, I jumped, hit the cactus just right, the cactus fell over with me and I went down the hill perfectly.

They killed the cactus?!!!??

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July 2020

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