Jack N. Young, Stuntman Who Doubled for Clark Gable, Dies at 91

Courtesy of The Young Family
Jack N. Young (right) courted danger during many years as a stuntman.

Nicknamed "Black Jack," he worked in films with John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark and was nearly trampled to death filming 'The Alamo.'

Jack N. Young, a Navy frogman turned stuntman who stood in for Richard Widmark in Slattery's Hurricane, for Rock Hudson in Winchester '73 and for look-alike Clark Gable in the legendary actor's final film, The Misfits, has died. He was 91.

Young died Sept. 12 in Tucson, Arizona, his son, University of Arizona film professor Cody Young, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Young also doubled for Edmond O'Brien in D.O.A. (1949), and his résumé as a stuntman includes the John Wayne films She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), Hondo (1953), The Searchers (1956), The Alamo (1959) and McLintock! (1963); the Gary Cooper classic High Noon (1952); and Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954).

In Rio Bravo (1959), filmed at the famed Old Tucson studios, the guy Young is playing gets shot by Dean Martin's Dude in a saloon and tumbles out of a loft. And during a shootout at the end of the movie, he is shot after emerging from a barn that is then blown up.

An expert horseman who played the harmonica and went by the nickname "Black Jack," Young appeared frequently in movies shot at Old Tucson — known as "Hollywood in the Desert" — and later did casting and served as a production manager, location scout and industry go-to guy in Southern Arizona.

He was quite busy as a stuntman in the 1950s.

"We would start one of those movies on Monday, finish on Wednesday, start another one on Wednesday and finish on Friday," Young told the Tucson Weekly in 2001. "It was truly Hollywood in those days. I was having a ball playing cowboy and making big money."

On The Alamo, Young lost control of his horse during a scene that featured more than a dozen horses and riders and was nearly trampled to death when his body resembled a "rag doll." He fractured his skull, punctured his lung and broke several bones, spending 17 days in a coma and six months in the hospital.

Still, Young continued to perform, even after he watched a fellow stuntman lose his leg while filming a train robbery in How the West Was Won (1962).

Born on Sept. 25, 1926, in Fincastle, Virginia, and raised on a farm, Young "didn't take to schooling," his son said. With an eighth-grade education, he joined the U.S. Navy when he was 15 and became an Underwater Demolitions Team frogman, surviving more than 100 missions during World War II.

After the service, Young came to Hollywood and worked as an extra for $2 a day. When he heard Fox was having trouble making a movie that contained several water scenes, he drove to the lot and got hired as an underwater stunt consultant. 

In one of his first jobs as a Western stuntman, Young was asked to fall off a horse. "The plan was simple: fall off and land in the sand pit," he recalled in a 2012 interview. "I managed one out of two. I missed the sand by 30 feet and bounced like a rubber ball. I jumped up and asked if they wanted me to do it again."

He said he learned how to do stunts from Chuck Roberson, who at 6-foot-5 would become Wayne's personal double.

Young got his SAG card for working on The Street With No Name (1948) and put his Navy skills to use in The Frogman (1951). Both of those films starred Widmark, and he would work in many of the actor's movies, including Slattery's Hurricane (1949), Panic in the Streets (1950), The Law and Jake Wade (1958), The Alamo and How the West Was Won.

Though he said he respected Widmark's skills as an actor, "I never cared for him very much," Young wrote in an unpublished memoir. "He always seemed to be a little standoffish, didn't like the crewmembers, and whined a lot."

He did, however, think a great deal of Jimmy Stewart; they were together on such films as Winchester '73 (1950) — where Young appeared as Native Americans — The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1954), The Man From Laramie (1955) and The Cheyenne Social Club (1970).

"Jimmy was a great guy and really treated everyone well," he wrote. "He loved the stuntmen and liked to hang out when he could."

Young worked with Gable in Across the Wide Missouri (1951), Lone Star (1952), The Tall Men (1955), The King and Four Queens (1956) and, most famously, on John Huston's The Misfits (1961). 

While employed on McLintock! at Old Tucson, Young met Bob Shelton, the founder of the studio, who later hired Young as a gunfighter as part of a stunt show for tourists. In 1972, he launched his own company, Young Film Productions.

In addition to Cody, survivors include another son, John, and daughters Melanie and Teresa.