Recommended Reading

"Helen Gibson: Silent Serial Queen Who Became Hollywood's First Professional Stunt Woman"

by Larry Telles (Bitteroot Mountain Publishing 2013, 302 pages)

Larry Telles told me a few years ago he wanted to document the lives of two all but forgotten stars of the silent screen ­ Helen Holmes and Helen Gibson. Since they both got their starts as serial stars in "The Hazards of Helen," he wasn't sure if each should have a separate book to document their careers or one book that would include both. Larry made the right choice. Helen Gibson's life as one of the early luminaries of the silent screen and who made movies her life for about 50 years deserved a book ­ and what a book it is. Larry's telling of this star's exploits, daring, professional success, admiration by her fans and durability will amaze the reader. In the days when trick photography wasn't an option and stars did their own stunts, Helen Gibson ranked with the best of the "stunters," male or female ­ brushing off injuries as a hazard of the trade and moving on to the next more daring, more spectacular feat on the screen. Her days as a rodeo star and subsequent rise to stardom in "The Hazards of Helen" provide engrossing reading. Moving on to starring feature roles in the twenties, she didn't let sound slow her down as she continued doing stunt work and bit part well into the 1950's. One of the most stunning parts of this book is the collection of photos Telles was able to amass - not only photos from the silent years, but photos during the next three decades with other stars, as well as ads, documents and more. That being said, he only regret we have about this book is that it wasn't published in hardback, "coffee-table" format. Telles does a very thorough job of documenting Helen's life, too, including interviews with those who knew her and her husband, Clifton Johnson, in the final years, months and days of her life. "Helen Gibson: Silent Serial Queen" is a deserved tribute to one of the silent cinema's most interesting and brightest stars, and kudos to Larry Telles for bringing us her story in such an enjoyable and well-researched read. Most highly recommended!

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