View Full Version : How did they keep those hats on?
04-26-2004, 06:46 PM
I saw "Republic Serials" invoked on another post here, so I can't resist throwing in a little tidbit of trivia about one of my favorite subjects. Ever wonder how the stunt guys' hats stayed on in those room-leveling fight scenes? You've probably all scene the backstage footage of Harrison Ford "stapling" on his Indy fedora with a staple gun, and may have seen the odd picture or two of Dale Van Sickel, one of the Republic greats, with an elastic band under his chin holding his hats on. But I was fortunate enough to know Tom Steele -- the "Masked Marvel" -- the last few years of his life, and I put the question to him. "You never saw that on me!" he declared about the elastic band. What Tom used to do was put rubber surgical tubing down into his hatband so that the fit was so tight the hat wouldn't come off, no matter what. Some of the boys used cigarettes, but Tom said they weren't as flexible, so they gave one a headache (yeah, they plummet two stories onto a breakway piece of furniture, or fly off off of cliff, or jump onto a movie vehicle, and they're worried about a headache!). In Tom's case, keeping the hat on was imperative, since even as a young man in the 30s he was going bald. Once the hat flew off, you sure knew it wasn't Clayton Moore!
09-02-2004, 07:50 AM
According to Clayton Moore in his autobiography, he inserted surgical tubing inside the hat band to keep his hat on. I always thought it looked odd for hats to stay on during those furious serial fistfights.
09-02-2004, 08:00 AM
Tom Steele worked with Clayton Moore a lot, and doubled him on occasion (though I think Dale Van Sickel doubled him more). They'd all pass on the tips. And the reason the hats stayed on was because it diguised the stuntmen. This was particularly important for Tom since, under that hat, he had very little hair. Republic use to hire leading men based on their resemblances to the stuntmen, which is why so many of the leads were no great shakes as actors. They had a door jamb at the casting office on which the height of each stunt guy was imprinted, and they'd make any actor auditioning stand up against it so they could see if he'd be an easy double!
09-02-2004, 08:11 AM
Two questions... Where can I get this tubing for my Akubra and could you pass this information on to Spileberg?
09-02-2004, 09:21 AM
I've never actually tried to get any of the tubing, but I'm told it's available at any surgical/medical supply store. I'm sure someone would have it on line. I'm actually sold on these adhesive pad strips you can get from hat stores. They're great, particularly for straw, since they blot the sweat and you don't get the discoloration around the band. And the next time I see Steven, I'll let him know (though since the last time I saw him was about 1995, it might be a while). He always says Harrison Ford staples on his hat with a staple gun for Indiana Jones.
09-02-2004, 10:16 AM
You can go to hardware stores, too, and get the foam for weatherstripping (I think that's what it's called) doors and windows. They all have all different widths and thicknesses. Sort of like what Akubra ships their hats with, but with some sizing options. I use a pretty thick but narrow type for the Akubra I wear when going...um, 'urban exploring.' It makes that hat pretty tight, though I'm sure the tubing would work even better.
Of course...another trick is to just wear a hat that's a little small on you. Whenever I travel, I try to wear a hat that's a little tight on me so that if I'm standing around waiting for a cab or something, I know there's no way I'll end up chasing my hat down a street. I have a couple of hats which are dead ringers for some of my favorite vintage dress hats, but they're a little too small for me, and those are usually the ones I'll wear when traveling.
09-02-2004, 06:47 PM
The surgical tubing is also available in the plumbing section of Home Depot type stores.
Of course, it means you'll actually have to visit a store like that AND find the plumbing section...
09-02-2004, 07:14 PM
Be sure to bring a lunch and pack a compass. I understand you can get lost in those places.
09-02-2004, 07:14 PM
I personally think it's silly to wear surgical tubing in your hat. You are not on Sound Stage 12 and the lights and camera are NOT on! C'mon! Your hat should fit your head like a wonderful pair of nice leather shoes. Able to wear all day and not notice a bit of discomfort.
If you are in the movies, they have buckets of spirit gum and glue to make anything stick. But our resident makeup man will have to chime in on this.
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