She stunt-doubled for Lucille Ball and Bette Davis. But you probably haven't heard of her.

Jeannie Epper is a stuntwoman extraordinaire.

She doubled for Lynda Carter in the 1970s TV show "Wonder Woman," she slid down a 200-foot mudslide in "Romancing the Stone," and she jumped through a plate-glass window at 66 years old.

It’s easy to see why she’s one of Hollywood’s most famous stuntwomen, but where did she learn the tricks of her trade?


According to Epper, it all goes back to Polly Burson, the “Queen of Western Stuntwomen.”

Burson doubled for some of cinema’s biggest stars in an era when men had a monopoly on stunt work.

Born in 1919 in Oregon, Burson was a real-life cowgirl who performed trick riding stunts for audiences across the world, often appearing alongside Western celebrities like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. But eventually, she packed her saddlebags and headed to Hollywood. As she put it, “After rodeoing, stunt work seemed like whipped cream.”

Gif from "True Grit."

But becoming a stuntwoman in the 1940s was easier said than done.

The industry was an “old boys’ network,” and usually, men would don skirts and wigs to double for leading ladies, stealing jobs from their female counterparts.

Couple that with a major wage gap, and you can see why Hollywood stuntwomen were few and far between.

But Burson didn’t back down, and in 1945, she got a job on a serial called "The Purple Monster Strikes."

Playing a villainous Martian, Burson took a dive off a 75-foot cliff, reportedly earning $150 for the fall.

Her next big stunt was for "The Perils of Pauline." Doubling for comedian Betty Hutton, Burson rode a galloping horse next to a speeding locomotive, grabbed onto a boxcar ladder, and pulled herself aboard. She actually had to perform the stunt three times because the director was having so much fun shooting the scene.

Gif from "Perils of Pauline."

Soon, Burson was one of the biggest stuntwomen in the business, doubling for stars like Doris Day, Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, and Sophia Loren.

‌GIF from "Creature from the Black Lagoon."‌

Burson also appeared in some of Hollywood’s greatest films. She made a 60-foot fall from a tower in "Vertigo," she was dragged into the depths in "Creature from the Black Lagoon," and she showed off her riding skills in "True Grit." Occasionally, Burson also doubled for men, like the time she played a Native American horseman in "Pillars of the Sky."

Then, in 1951, Burson became the first female stunt coordinator (aka “ramrod”) for a Hollywood film.

‌GIF from "Westward the Women."‌

On a picture called "Westward the Women," Burson was in charge of all the stunts involving the female crew. While she didn’t have complete control over the movie, this was still a huge step in the right direction. 16 years later, Burson would become a charter member of the Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures, the first organization to support and champion female stunt doubles.

Despite her success, Burson still faced sexism on the job.

In 1963, John Wayne was starring in a Western-comedy called "McLintock!" In one scene, two female characters were supposed to tumble down a flight of stairs. Even though Burson was working on the movie, Wayne was worried she might get hurt so he used stuntmen dressed as women instead.

‌GIF from "McLintock!

While he meant well, Burson didn’t need to be patronized. She’d taken more risks than any A-list actor, and as she put it, she would keep putting her life on the line until her body told her to quit.

Unfortunately, Burson's career essentially came to an end while filming 1974’s "Earthquake," a disaster movie with some insanely dangerous set pieces.

For one stunt, Burson was hit with 3,000 gallons of water. As a result, she broke a leg and several bones in her face. Even worse, Burson later learned the scene was just a trial run for the special effects. According to author Mollie Gregory, nobody had actually been filming.

After "Earthquake," Burson decided it was “time to quit the business.” While she appeared in a few more films, she spent most of her time organizing horse races for female jockeys, appearing at rodeos, and at one point, sailing from Hawaii to New Zealand on her own schooner.

But while she was no longer part of the Hollywood scene, people still remember her amazing contributions to women on the silver screen.

‌GIF from "Vertigo."‌

In addition to winning the Golden Boot Award from the Motion Pictures & Television Fund, she was also inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, and the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame.

On April 4, 2006, Polly Burson passed away at the age of 86.

She left behind an impressive collection of jumps, falls, and fistfights, preserved in films like "The Ten Commandments," "Spartacus," and "Some Like It Hot."

Burson also made an incredible impact on the Hollywood system.

She inspired a new generation of stuntwomen and paved the way for future behind-the-scenes stars. For that, we can all be thankful.

True

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday are teaming up to find the people who lead with love everyday.

Know someone in your neighborhood who's known for their optimistic attitude, commitment to bettering their community and always leading with love? Tell us about them for the chance to win a $2,000 grant to keep doing good in their community.

Nomination ends November 22, 2020

Acts of kindness and compassion are always inspiring. A veterinarian gave a different spin on the phrase "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".

The poor little pup in this video walked into this shelter with a history of being abused. He was so traumatized that he wasn't eating. The vet treating him wasn't sure what to do, so he decided to book a table for two: a the dog's place. It is not clear whether he got an official invite from the canine in question, but he felt pretty safe about showing up unannounced. He walked into the cage and sat down next to the dog. With his back up against the corner of his new (and hopefully temporary) domain, the rescue stared apprehensively at his human guest. The vet presented a dog dish with food and put it in front of the dog. The frightened pup just looked at the dish and made no attempt to eat. Then he broke out another dog dish identical to the one he just gave to his four-legged patient and started eating out of that bowl. And then came the turning point.


Keep Reading Show less
True

A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
True

When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

Before beginning the intense three-year training required to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Swegle had never been in an aircraft before; piloting was simply something she was interested in. It turns out she's got a gift for it—and not only is she skilled, she finds the "exhilaration to be unmatched."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

As Swegle's story shows, representation and equality matter. And the responsibility to advance equality for all people - especially Black Americans facing racism - falls on individuals, organizations, businesses, and governmental leadership. This clear need for equality is why P&G established the Take On Race Fund to fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care, and make our communities more equitable. The funds raised go directly into organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund, helping to level the playing field.

Keep Reading Show less

Do you know that guy who has never had an issue with his TV/internet provider? Neither do I. If you claim you have never had issues with your bill going up without warning, then you are either lying or you own the cable company. Jake Lawson apparently does not own a cable company, and was prepared to communicate his frustrations regarding his bill in a most creative way.

First off, Jake understands what everyone should realize. The customer service representative doesn't own the cable company either, so yelling at someone who is just trying to make a living like all of us is not the answer. Their job is hard enough as it is so give them a break. Jake gave them more than a break. He gave them a song.


Keep Reading Show less