Danger on the Silver Screen: 50 Films Celebrating Cinema’s Greatest Stunts by Scott McGee, the latest in a series of books on cinema by TCM and Running Press, debuts in stores on April 5th, 2022. Featuring great behind-the-scenes photos, filmic imagery, and incredible anecdotes, this oversized paperback is a great addition to the TCM lineup of movie books.
Author Scott McGee, the senior director of original productions of Turner Classic Movies, had his work cut out for him with Danger on the Silver Screen. The stunt performer has long been the unsung hero of the movie industry, and little exists in the annals of early cinema in terms of documentation on who did which stunt and how it was performed. Even on some of Hollywood’s earliest action films, such as 1922’s Robin Hood, McGee shines a light on the incredible, typically anonymous, performers who risked life and limb in place of their famous counterparts to bring audiences thrills for generations to come. What’s interesting is just how many on screen performers— such as Gloria Swanson, who famously laid still while a massive lion perched his paws on her bare back for 1919’s Male and Female, or Tom Mix, who racked up an “A to Z” list of injuries ranging from a fractured skull to a broken arm on such films as Three Jumps Ahead— took part in dangerous moments which would have film production insurers cringing if they happened today.
Danger on the Silver Screen does a nice job of balancing the overall history of movie stunt work with specific anecdotes from each of the 50 films highlighted for the text. There’s a plethora of trivia and tidbits here to entertain even the most knowledgeable movie historians. It’s interesting to see how similar stunts have evolved over time, and the text reveals how advances in the industry have both made things safer but also upped the ante on what could be accomplished for the camera. And the stories behind how modern daredevils such as Zoë Bell, Jackie Chan, and Tom Cruise pulled off their most breathtaking stunts are as engaging as what ended up in the final cuts of their films! As the movies become more modern, the book becomes more detailed about the various stunt performers and teams who worked on each set. This is thanks in part to the fact that the industry is now starting to give more credit (both in production credits and in exposure to behind-the-scenes materials in promotional material, special features, etc.) to the brave men and women who make us go “Wow!” in the movie theater.
The book is a great size to open up and really enjoy without feeling to big or heavy for the hands. The cover is made of a heavier cardstock with glossy enhancements to the book’s title. It feels like a book that could hold up to multiple readings and the pages have a thick and firm quality to them that make them feel nice to flip through and revisit earlier images. This book will sit nice on the shelf alongside the other TCM Running Press Classics.
No matter what your favorite action movie is, Danger on the Silver Screen has something for every movie fan out there, and it’s a fantastic homage to the all of the incredible, difficult, and dangerous work that everyone in front of and behind the camera puts into creating the movie moments we’ll never forget.