7 on-set accidents that could have killed television stars
Even filming 'The Brady Bunch' can lead to a brush with death.
Even if you're shooting a silly sitcom, making TV is a serious affair. Thousands of pounds of hot, bright lights hang above the actors. High voltage courses through cables snaking all over the set. And then there is the dangerous stunt work.
Tragically, television production has led to some deaths. Cameramen died working on The Dukes of Hazzard and Magnum, P.I., just to name a couple examples. With all the careful preparation and skilled workers, it's incredibly rare.
There have been countless close calls, too, even with the stars of hit series. Let's take a look at some accidents that led to close calls with the cast.
A rollercoaster on 'The Brady Bunch'
In the episode "The Cincinnati Kids," the whole clan heads to the Kings Island Amusement Park in Ohio. The Bradys and Alice hop on the Racer rollercoaster for a ride. Before filming the scene, Robert Reed had an eerie feeling about the set-up. He did not trust the camera mounted to the front of the coaster cars. The crew tested the rigging, and sure enough the camera flew off its mount. It surely could have killed the actors had they been riding. Phew! Always test the rigging.
A lion on 'Gilligan's Island'
The episode title "Feed the Kitty" almost turned a little too literal for Bob Denver. In one famously uproarious moment, Gilligan is barricading his hut to keep out a lion that has turned up on the island… only to discover that the lion is lying right there on the bed. The big cat made a move for the actor when filming the scene. As Denver recalled in an interview years later, "The only thing that saved me was the twin beds splitting part when he tried to push off, then I turned to see the trainer in mid-air as he tackled the lion to keep him away from me. Other than that, none of us had any close calls. Believe me, that was close enough!"
A sharp turn on 'Batman'
Burt Ward has told many tales of being battered and bruised filming his Robin role. The Boy Wonder was nearly tossed from a sharply turning Batmobile as the door flung open during filming. He dislocated his finger in that incident. Later, shooting the episodes with Otto Preminger as Mr. Freeze, he hurt his arm breaking out of a cage. At the end of "Deep Freeze," Ward clearly hides his injured right arm behinds his back and cape, though when turns to enter an elevator, his cast becomes visible. In "Marsha, Queen of Diamonds," he earned some arm wounds filming sword fights.
A motorcycle wreck on 'CHiPs'
In August 1979, Erik Estrada was "critically injured" in a motorcycle crash on set. The star was rushed to UCLA, as doctors feared he had damaged his aorta. With eight broken rib, a cracked sternum, a snapped collarbone, and a fractured wrist, there were worries of additional internal injuries. The news report said the accident happened filming a "routine, slow-speed scene," and was likely caused by a camera vehicle suddenly braking in front of him, forcing a sudden stop. When "Ponch" returned to work, the production gifted him a $100,000 white Rolls-Royce Cornishe for his troubles. Larry Wilcox flipped his bike the following year.
A rolling Jeep on 'The Rat Patrol'
In 1967, former Marine and Rat Patrol star Christopher George was involved in a frightening incident with fellow cast members Justin Tarr and Gary Raymond. Their Jeep rolled over while making a sharp turn in a dry lakebed. George suffered tissue tears, neck injuries and damage elsewhere, including his heart. When the veteran suddenly died of a heart attack in 1983, it was believed to have been a result of chest injuries sustained years early filming the war series.
A nasty fall on 'The Wild, Wild West'
While filming the season four episode "Night of the Fugitives," Conrad fell a dozen feet and landed on his head. The stunt called for the star to dive from the top of a saloon staircase, catch a chandelier, and swing a vicious kick into one unfortunate guy. Conrad lost his grip from the chandelier and konked his head rather severley. He was rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, stunt coordinator Whitey Hughes was off filming a commercial that day. What's amazing, is that the accident made the final cut.
A pyrotechnics burn on 'The Power of Matthew Star'
Peter Barton starred alongside Lou Gossett, Jr., in this 1982 superhero series. Production began in 1981, though was put on hold after Barton fell onto a pyrotechnics flare, suffering severe third degree burns. Production was shut down, as the actor healed for several months in a hospital.
Image: CBS Television Distribution