From Publishers Weekly
Needham worked more than 40 years in Hollywood as a stuntman who filled in for John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Dustin Hoffman, and Burt Reynolds. Given the exciting and dangerous jobs he performed wrangling horses, staging fights, doing "high falls," and crashing cars, Needham has plenty of material, and he writes like a guy telling stories at a bar, laying out one anecdote after another about 1960s and '70s directors and big-time actors. Of course, as a thrice married, hard-living stuntman who was not only Reynolds's stunt-double but also his best friend, Needham has his share of fun and not-so-dirty little secrets that he doles out in a playful prose that makes it obvious that no matter how serious he took his job, he knew how to enjoy life. Indeed, Needham's personal life—bootlegging alcohol (he grew up in Arkansas), racing a car cross-country—has informed his work as both stuntman and director of such movies as Smokey and the Bandit, Stroker Ace, Cannonball Run, and Hooper. (Feb.)
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An absolute must for fans of books about moviemaking, this autobiography of one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed stuntmen—not to mention one of the most financially successful directors of the 1970s and early 1980s—is guaranteed to keep readers glued to their seats. Needham, who broke into stunt work in the late 1950s, was the stunt coordinator for the television series Have Gun—Will Travel for six seasons. Moving to the big screen, he worked on movies directed by some of Hollywood’s heavyweights (Wilder, Penn, Frankenheimer, Schaffner) and starring some of the movie business’ biggest names (Wayne, Douglas, Hoffman, Hackman, Sinatra). In the seventies, he segued into directing, launching that career with the wildly successful, if critically reviled, Smokey and the Bandit (which, he reminds us, was beaten at the box office that year by only one movie, Star Wars). Needham also, for better or worse, pioneered the use of outtakes during a movie’s closing credits. A well-written and exciting book. --David Pitt
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