A fall from a chandelier during The Wild Wild West was nearly the end for Robert Conrad

Even with training, practice and communication, things can still go wrong in the world of television stunts.

Robert Conrad, star of The Wild Wild West, didn't hesitate when it came to tackling and taking on whatever his role called for. He often took on his own stunts, and in a show like The Wild Wild West, that was no easy task. 

Conrad devoted countless practice hours and training to improve and perfect his stunt skills. For the character of Jim West, no stunt was too small, and there was no amount of set time to get it right. These tricks, tumbles and tackles were complex according to Conrad. 

"The stunts were monumental," he said in an interview with Pioneers of Television. "It took a long time to prep the stunts and for people in show business, to prepare a stunt and to choreograph the action took quite a while."

Stunts of the magnitude seen in The Wild Wild West weren't cheap, either. To help cut production costs and save time surrounding the outlandish stunts and thrills, Conrad stepped right into the danger. 

"I said, 'you know what? What he's doing, I can do. And if I do it, it's going to cut the time period in half.' The director shrugged his shoulders and said 'have at it.'"

Even with training, practice and communication, things can still go wrong in the world of television stunts. A few stories have made headlines as we look back at classic television, and one of the biggest involved Conrad. It happened during the filming of "The Night of the Fugitives," during season three. 

"We had choreographed it," Conrad said. "I was to jump off the second floor onto the chandelier and this guy was supposed to stop my forward motion, I was supposed to kick him through a window. He was late coming to me and I said 'let's do this again.'"

Rather than correct the mistake on the second attempt (keep in mind, any further attempts only made the stunt more dangerous), things got worse.

"The second time he was really late and he didn't stop my forward momentum," Conrad continued. "My hands slid and I fell 15 feet to the floor and had a high temporal concussion and a six-inch linear fracture of the skull." 

As a result, Conrad was rushed to the hospital and the season was put on hold. Season three finished with only 24 episodes compared to the 28 episodes in each of the first two seasons. "The Night of the Fugitives" was completed and aired in season four. With a fall like the one Conrad took, the show, and Conrad, were lucky to continue on at all. 

According to an obituary from The New York Times, The Boston Globe wrote, "It was almost curtains for the actor. Doctors said he was lucky to be alive." 

Conrad recounted the incident and acknowledged how lucky he was by saying, "I almost ate the cookie, but I didn't." 

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31 Comments

Jameswest22 13 days ago
I'm so glad The Wild Wild West
Is back on MeTV 2023
The best one was The Night of the Eccentric's 1966
Ira1213 15 days ago
I met him in the late 1970's at "Jay's on Rush" where I worked. He was as nice as could be. Reserved and a real gentlemen! Liked him in both the Wild Wild West and Black Sheep Squadron that he starred in.
audie65 15 days ago
Loved all the cool gadgets Jim West used to get out of predicaments. I remember watching reruns in the 1970's waiting during each episode to see what gadgets would save him!
Coldnorth audie65 11 days ago
But he didn’t have the utility belt Batman had.
saswifteagle 16 days ago
I find it fascinating Robert Conrad did his own stunts. But that what stunts people are for. When a star injured "hear me Tom Cruise " production shuts down. Crew are out of work. In my opinion let the actors act and stunt people take the fall. I couldn't resist!
Laffy 17 days ago
Yes, many avenues in business and entertainment do not want the actors, actresses, athletes, singers, musicians to get into a situation with the possibility of injury or grave danger.
The gorgantuan cushion was to be in place.
As this would be the correct pre positioning for the stunt man.
A staff neglected their job/duty.
Yes, I enjoyed Mr. Robert Conrad's acting.
Their are other shows such as Hawaiian Eye and 77 Sunset strip, too.
Mr. Ross Martin, as with Mr. Sorrel Brooke, Dukes of Hazzard, could speak 05 or 06 languages.
I stumble speaking only American English.
Avie 17 days ago
And theu ltimate consequence of Conrad's foolish insistence on doing his own stunts is exactly why stars should NEVER be allowed to do them. Even a minor injury costing the company an hour or two's delay can have cascading effects, as television production rips along at a breakneck pace of 10-12 script pages a day (as opposed to a feature film that might film 2-3 pages a day), that can keep an episode from being completed in time to make its air date. That delays ALL the episodes scheduled to be filmed subsequent to it, with the aggregate cost to the studio and network (back then) a couple of million dollars.

That's why the cost of hiring stunt people, who can be replaced quickly in the unfortunate event that they're injured -- who can often be shot by a second unit director, if necessary, while the lead actors can be filming dramatic scenes elsewhere -- is VERY cheap insurance that the production will stay on schedule.
tootsieg 17 days ago
Robert Conrad was as tough as the characters he played. Wow!
AgingDisgracefully 17 days ago
He didn't listen when Sergeant Esterhaus said, "Hey! (Pause) Be careful up there."
Avie AgingDisgracefully 17 days ago
Sgt. Esterhaus said, "Be careful OUT there."

Of course, he wasn't expecting any of his "Hill Street Blues" officers to be swinging on chandeliers.
AgingDisgracefully Avie 17 days ago
Not even Norman Buntz?
carmellabella 18 days ago
I loved him ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️still do
StrayCat 18 days ago
I remember watching this episode, and also recall another story about it that said Conrad kept on going and finished the scene. In fact, when they were about to shoot an episode the joke on the set was: Everybody in place, get the ambulances ready, action.
john72ss StrayCat 17 days ago
which eppisode was this?
wssteven55 StrayCat 17 days ago
Actually they did t fish the episode until he came back but the actuall fall and when he hit the table and floor was left in, then when the picked it up showed him get up to finish the fight.
rvoyttbots john72ss 16 days ago
The episode is THE NIGHT OF THE FUGITIVES, first shown 8 Nov 68. It`s amazing when you see how high the chandelier was, I`m surprised the stunt was even attempted.
Mblack 19 days ago
This is the downside of doing your own stunts.

Christopher George suffered in Rat Patrol, though I don't know if thatwas stunt work.
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Oh I see. Well unfortunately we don’t have an antenna. 🤭
You can put your location (zip code?) into the internet to see of you're close to a transmitter. There are 800 numbers to help advise. And if you are close, you can order an antenna (make sure it can be returned). And these antennas are for the inside. Mine hangs near a large window. The connection usually goes into the back of the TV.
Hmmm…I’m in Canada. We get METV of Seattle which is a few hours drive. Not sure if I could get an antenna. 🤔
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