Jock Mahoney is fully captured in JOCK MAHONEY: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF A HOLLYWOOD STUNTMAN by Gene Freese, published by McFarland & Company.
Although I'd heard his name for years, not least because he was the stepfather of Oscar-winning actress Sally Field, Jock Mahoney is someone I've just begun to appreciate relatively recently.
I'm discovering that in addition to being a talented stuntman, Mahoney was an engaging actor. I thoroughly enjoyed him in the Western SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE (1956), which prompted my interest in reading his biography; in addition to liking his performance, Mahoney's talent as a stuntman was on full display in that film. He made a couple of flying leaps which really wowed me!
I've seen Mahoney in a variety of smaller roles, and I enjoy being able to now pick out his face in early bit roles, even possibly spotting him doubling for more famous actors. I still have some of his starring roles ahead of me to see for the first time, including JOE DAKOTA (1957) and SLIM CARTER (1957).
Mahoney had a busy career as a working stuntman and actor for decades, but given that he wasn't in the top ranks of movie celebrities, I was all the more impressed with the level of detail with which Frees was able to reconstruct Mahoney's life.
Frees includes considerable details on Mahoney's early years as a high school and college athlete and his work as a lifeguard and athletic instructor at the Pacific Coast Club in Long Beach. (Coincidentally, I recently linked to an interesting article on the history of the Pacific Coast Club.) Frees was also able to reconstruct Mahoney's service record as a Marine during WWII and then the beginnings of his career as a stuntman on Charles Starrett Westerns; having made the acquaintance of director Derwin Abrahams, Mahoney taught an actor to ride a horse in a week, and the rest was history.
Mahoney initially felt he didn't have the talent to act and saw stunt work as a way to have a career in the film industry, but as author Frees notes, Mahoney had screen presence from the very start. He gradually worked his way up through the Western ranks as a stuntman, bit player, and supporting actor; offscreen he dated actresses such as Yvonne DeCarlo and Peggy Stewart before marrying Margaret Field. Chapters in the book are devoted to Mahoney's time as a stuntman, his work on the TV series RANGE RIDER and YANCEY DERRINGER, his years as a Universal Western star, his time as TARZAN, and more.
JOCK MAHONEY: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF A HOLLYWOOD STUNTMAN is a very interesting read and a must for the bookshelf of any dedicated fan of Hollywood Westerns.
JOCK MAHONEY: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF A HOLLYWOOD STUNTMAN is a softcover which is 214 pages long, including the index. It's illustrated with photos printed directly on the book's non-glossy pages; for the most part the print quality of the photos is quite good.
Thanks to McFarland for providing a review copy of this book. The book may be ordered from McFarland at the company website or via their phone order line (800-253-2187). It may also be purchased from other sources including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.