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Hollywood Thrillmakers

Hollywood Thrillmakers(1954)

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After Dave Wilson's two young children, Nancy and adopted son Billy, see their father performing stunts in an old serial on television, they ask him how he got started in that business. Dave recalls: He is working at a gas station in Ojai, California when a well-known stunt man, Bill Cummings, drives in for gas. Bill tells Dave that he is filming a stunt nearby, under the supervision of his manager and stunt coordinator Risky Russell. Dave visits the location and, as the crew prepares to shoot, meets Risky's attractive daughter Marion. The stunt involves Bill doing a motorcycle jump over a sixty-two foot gap in the terrain but, as he approaches the take-off point, his motorcycle crashes and he suffers a sprained ankle. Dave, who owns a motorcycle and feels confident that he can substitute for Bill, approaches the film's director who agrees to let him perform the stunt. Dave makes the jump successfully and is paid $125, the equivalent of what he earns in three weeks at the gas station. Believing that Dave could make a first-class stunt man, Risky agrees to manage him and shortly afterward, Dave drives to Hollywood with the Russells and moves into their large house. Marion soon becomes romantically interested in the bashful Dave, but would prefer that he not pursue a career in stunt work as she knows that Bill's wife, Joan, is perpetually concerned about her husband's safety. Risky gets several stunt assignments for Dave, who eventually summons up the courage to ask Marion to marry him. Although she agrees, she remains concerned about his chosen profession. Six months after Dave and Marion are married, Dave tries to persuade Risky to let him attempt a plane crash stunt for an upcoming film. Although Risky tells Dave that he does not have enough experience for this kind of stunt, Dave signs up to perform the stunt anyway. When Dave returns home the night before the stunt, Marion is very angry because she has been having nightmares about his work and asks him to quit. Upon awakening the next morning, Dave finds a note from Marion stating that she has given up hope of changing him and has decided to leave. Something goes wrong in the biplane stunt and Dave suffers several cracked ribs. When he wakes up in a hospital, Dave promises Marion that he will give up stunt work if she will come back to him and she agrees. Three months later, after Dave has returned to the gas station business, Bill visits him and tells him that stunt work has fallen off badly and that he and Joan will soon be parents. When Risky offers Dave $5,000 for one day's work on a complicated, three-part aerial stunt, Dave tells him that he cannot go back on his word to Marion and confides that he has lost his nerve. After Dave declines the job, Bill accepts it. Dave is on the set when Bill decides to do the last part of the stunt first, but the plane catches fire and spins to the ground, killing Bill. Dave then tells the director that he will do the stunt, with the fee going to Joan, and states that he should have done it in the first place but was too cowardly. Marion approves of his decision and all watch nervously as Dave successfully completes all three stunts. When Dave returns to the principal camera position, the director tells him that he did a better job than Bill could ever have done. Angered, Bill slugs the director then swears to Marion that he will never do another stunt. In the present, Dave tells Billy and Nancy that he kept his word and is happy at the gas station. Dave then tells the adopted Billy that the baby Joan was expecting was he, and that after Joan died giving birth, the Wilsons adopted him. Marion interrupts to say that their cat Fluffy is stuck in a tree and Dave swings into action, jumping into the tree and bringing Fluffy to safety. Dave and Marion then remember her father's dictum, "Once a stunt man, always a stunt man."