Was One of the Stunts in the Fall Guy Opening Not Even Performed by a Stuntman?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: One of the stunt shots in the beginning of the Fall Guy was not even done by a stuntman.


The theme song to Lee Majors’ TV series, The Fall Guy, about a Hollywood stuntman, was titled “The Unknown Stuntman,” and had lyrics such as:

I might fall from a tall building,
I might roll a brand new car.
‘Cause I’m the unknown stuntman that made Redford such a star.

I never spend much time in school
But I taught ladies plenty.
It’s true I hire my body out for pay, Hey Hey.


I might jump an open drawbridge,
Or Tarzan from a vine.
‘Cause I’m the unknown stuntman that makes Eastwood look so fine.

The opening credits for the series always had a number of notable film and TV stunt shots.

Amazingly enough, one of the more prominent stunts (it appeared in the opening credits the whole run of the show, unlike most of the other stunts, which were cycled out over the years) was actually NOT performed by a stuntman, but by the actual actor from the film!!!

In the 1976 film, The Sky Riders, James Coburn plays a man who….okay, prepare yourself for the plot of this film….must help his ex-wife’s new husband when Coburn’s ex-wife and his children are kidnapped by terrorists. All attempts to rescue her have failed because the bad guys are hold up in a mountain cliffside fortress that is inaccessible by most means of transportation. So Coburn hires a crack team of (wait for it) hang gliders and he and the hang gliders go to rescue his kids and his ex-wife.

Well, at one point in the film, the bad guys are attacking Coburn with a helicopter, and he actually jumps on to the chopper!



The picture quality isn’t great, but you can tell that it IS Coburn (I’ve watched the scene – we don’t actually get to see him jump on, we just see him later as he is hanging on to the helicoptor).

Well, during the Fall Guy opening credits…


There is Coburn, featured as Lee Majors sings about being the “Unknown Stuntman” subbing in for all the stars!

Now, the daughter of stuntman Peter Brayham, Sam, notes in the comments, that her father did the helicopter stunt, and now that I re-watch the scene, while I still maintain that Coburn rode the helicopter in the scene shown in The Fall Guy, it is clear that a stuntman was used for all the other shots of Coburn’s character on the helicopter (and any future close-ups in the film were done through movie magic).

So credit to the late Peter Brayham for doing MOST of the stunts on the helicopter, but Coburn definitely DID get on the helicopter in the film (the studio even did promotional materials using Coburn’s stunt), and it’s one of the Coburn shots that is used in the opening credits of The Fall Guy.

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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10 Responses to “Was One of the Stunts in the Fall Guy Opening Not Even Performed by a Stuntman?”

  1. Here’s a stunt that caught my attention but was in none of the episodes but can be seen in the 1982 intro. It was a barnstorming'” stunt before the “hay hitting” stunt that was followed by a second lyrical verse “Hey Hey!”.
    For those who don’t know what I’m talking about or having a hard time following this scene shows a yellow biplane after landing in a farm field, races across a farm yard & crashes into the side of a small barn. This stunt I believe but I might be wrong, feel free to double check but might come from The Great Waldo Pepper movie staring Robert Redford. Which by the way came out in 1975 just a few short years before The Fall Guy came out.
    After looking at a short You Tube video of the movie, there was a scene were one of the characters hung from a rope ladder below the biplane and had crashed their body through the barn roof which may have caused them to fall into the hay.
    This stunt was copied into one of The Fall Guy episodes titled ‘Guess who’s coming to town’; which stared Albert Salmy.
    None the less the “barnstorming/hayhitting” stunts seemed quited convincing growing up.

  2. In my last post I felt I left some people hanging when I used the term “hay hitting”.
    We all know the expression “hit the hay” as ‘to go to bed’. But because stuffing our matress’ with hay or straw don’t apply to us anymore,I came up with a different definition that can be used in modern era.
    Hit the hay- A stunt involving a person to fall or be thrown into the hay.
    I felt this would better describe the stunt. In addition, changing the lyrics from “But when I wind up in the hay” to “But when I wind up hittin’ the hay” as Colt explains a stunt he performs which inevitably shows him thrown into the hay ending the stunt with “Hey Hey!” As exacted in the 1983 intro.

  3. Indeed Jody, The stunt you described about the biplane crashing into a barn, was never seen in the show however the part were the stuntman falls into the hay was.
    That scene did come from the episode ‘Guess who’s coming to town’ from a stunt at the begining when the stuntman was hanging below the plane but lever safely went over the barn but rather crashes through and fell into the hay.

    But when adding various scenes from the show & other movies (from that era) in with the lyrics to the theme song,
    it worked out that “When I wind up hittin’ the hay, it’s only hay” was edited along with the biplane leaving the field and crashing into the (hay) barn followed immediately with the stuntman falling/thrown into the hay at the same time ending the verse with “Hey Hey”.

    As cheesy as it may looked, it was definitely the ’80’s where being over the top didn’t necessarily have to make sense as long as it was entertaining.

  4. Evening,

    The man on the helicopter is stunt legend Peter Brayham. I know this because I am one of his daughters.

    Please make the appropriate amendments.

  5. Pretty cool. It reminds me of a helicopter stunt that Lynda Carter did as Wonder Woman.

  6. I would like to correct Jody Banks about the barnstorming stunt.
    The scene showing a yellow biplane running off a field and sraight into the side of a barn was more than likely extra footage of miscelanious stunts filmed on locations.
    As for the scene were the stuntman is thrown onto the hay, that came from an episode of The Fall Guy titled Guess who’s coming to town. As the stunt sinario at the begining was a copied scene from a movie called The Great Waldo Pepper.

  7. Hey Sam,
    Just curious who piloted the plane crashing it into the barn in The Fall Guy intro? And where did the stunt sceen come from; a movie or random stunt footage film?

  8. What is the name of the movie where the car hits the train in the opening credits? I remember seeing many years ago. I thinks it’s about two guys and a girl running from the cops.

  9. Chris,

    In case you haven’t found out already, the movie with the car hitting the train is called Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.

  10. Thanks Sam for true information.

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