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Livingston woman was once a Hollywood stuntwoman

Source: Bozman Daily Chronicle
Time: December 18, 2005

LIVINGSTON -- Nearly seven decades have passed since Hazel Warp put on a Scarlett O'Hara costume and tumbled down the stairs of Tara in the epic film "Gone With the Wind."

But that Hollywood stunt marked a high point in Warp's life. "I never will forget it," the 91-year-old said recently, her blue eyes sparkling beneath a crown of white hair. She sat quietly for a moment, then added, "I liked it, everything about it. I just liked my work."

Warp was the stunt double for actress Vivien Leigh, who played the narcissistic Southern belle in the 1939 Civil War movie.

It's hard to imagine the petite Warp, who now gets around in a wheelchair, willingly throwing herself down the stairs. But it was no problem, she said. Years of horse training and rodeo trick riding had taught her a few things about taking a tumble.

"I was black and blue for awhile," she said. "But I knew how to fall. The director said I spoiled them because I knew what to do."

In addition to the famous miscarriage-triggering tumble down the stairs, Warp stood in for Leigh in several horseback riding scenes.

Leigh was "kind of afraid of" horses, Warp recalled. "Most of them on the movie was afraid of them. But I was practically born on one.

"Clark Gable told me I was going to break my neck. I said, 'I haven't yet.'"

Her performance was good enough to get her a callback for Leigh's next movie, "Wuthering Heights."

"With 'Wuthering Heights,' (Leigh) told them that she wanted me or she wouldn't work," Warp recalled in an interview at Evergreen Healthcare, where she now lives.

Warp's journey from a self-described "little runt" growing up in Sweet Grass County to a Hollywood stuntwoman with a spot in the one of the most popular movies of all time was somewhat serendipitous.

But she remained humble and grateful for the experience.

And her family?

"We thought it was tops," her brother, Bob Hash, said proudly, reaching for the aging photo albums that document his sister's Hollywood days.

Rural roots

Hazel Hash was born in 1914 in Harlowton, shortly after her Scotch-Irish parents moved to Sweet Grass County from Virginia.

"Daddy came West to see what it was like," she said. "He always said, 'Here, I'm happy.' We all were."

She grew up with four siblings on a small farm near Melville, "in that big, wide-open country." The family had "plenty of sheep," four head of cattle, six dairy cows and a big garden.

All of them had to work, she recalled. "You didn't sit on your butt."

Hash, who is now 82 and lives in Bozeman, agreed. "We did everything by hand."

The Hash siblings were among the 10 students in a one-room schoolhouse a mile from home. Bob and Hazel both remembered churning and selling butter to make money to buy school clothes.

She was a blond, blue-eyed child. "I got sunburned you know because I never did wear a hat much. ... I was a little runt."

Little runt or not, she was attracted to horses. She rode whenever she could, always bareback.

"There was nothing she wouldn't do and nothing she couldn't ride," her brother said.

She quit school after ninth grade and started training horses. Being brave and a thrill-seeker at heart, she wound up working as a rodeo trick rider.

"It wasn't too hard, I liked it," she said. "I did Roman riding in the horse shows. I made all the horse shows I could.

"Mama was always afraid I was gonna get hurt. I said, 'Quit arguing with me.' They was afraid they'd lose me because I wasn't afraid."

To California

During the Depression, the family moved around a bit, from Melville to Springdale to Springhill, near Bozeman, Hash recalled. Their oldest sister, Mary "Peg" Dupee, moved to California with her husband, and after awhile, Hazel decided to follow her

"I went to Hollywood on a whim," taking a Greyhound bus all the way, she recalled.

The Dupees ran Rancho Rio Stables in Culver City, where they bred and trained champion horses and gave riding lessons to stars.

"Peg was an outstanding horsewoman," Hash said. "She taught Liz Taylor, Grace Kelly, Gary Cooper."

Warp was right there in the thick of it. Photographs from those days show her wearing blue jeans and Western shirts, always around the horses. She gave lessons, worked with the stock and started making connections.

Montie Montana, a real-life cowboy turned actor and stuntman, helped Warp get work in the rodeos and films.

"He helped me," she said. "He showed me how and I went."

Before long, Warp was doing stunts in a number of movies, according to a crumbling newspaper clipping that her brother keeps tucked in a photo album. She worked on "Julia Thayer," the serial picture "The Painted Stallion," "Prison of Zender" and others.

"I was a go getter," Warp remembered. "I took anything I could get."

Eventually, she caught the attention of the director of "Gone with the Wind."

"There was a girl that told the director about me," Warp said. "She told him I rode bareback all the time."

Warp was one of thousands of people working on the movie. The cast was huge, with more than 50 speaking roles and 2,400 extras, according to

She didn't know any of the stars when she started, but by the time it was over she had formed a few opinions.

Of Vivien Leigh, she said, "I liked her. She was likable."

Of Clark Gable, who played Rhett Butler: "He was a good man."

And Margaret Mitchell, who wrote the novel on which the film was based: "She was pretty nice."

Although Warp did the stunts for Leigh in several scenes, the one that rings a bell with most people is the tumble down the stairs. That scene takes place toward the end of the film, when Rhett returns to find Scarlett pregnant again.

Rhett: "Indeed. And who is the happy father?"

Scarlett: "You know it's yours. I don't want it any more than you do. No woman would want a child of a cad like you. ... I wish for anybody's child but yours."

Rhett: "Cheer up, maybe you'll have an accident."

Then, reaching out to hit him, Scarlett loses her balance and falls down the long flight of stairs, aborting her pregnancy.

And Warp's place in cinematic history was secure.

Winding road home

When "Gone With the Wind" was released, Bob said he drove his parents over the pass to Livingston to see the movie.

"In those days, we didn't know where the next gallon of gas was coming from," he said. "But we got up there and there was people lined up for two blocks to get into that show."

They were seated quietly in the theater, when the screen filled with the image of Hazel on a horse.

"My mother got scared and called out, 'Hazel, don't do that!' right there in the theater," Bob said.

After winding things up in Hollywood, Hazel moved to Virginia to live with another one of her sisters. She quit riding at age 38. "I got tired of doing it."

While in Virginia, she began a long-distance courtship with Lars Warp, a Norwegian and a family friend from Big Timber, Bob recalled.

"He was bashful, but one night he started asking me about Hazel," Bob said. "I said, 'Well, she's in Virginia. No she's not married. She's free, white and 21, here's your chance.'"

But Lars couldn't write in English, so "he got his sister to write love letters to Hazel."

Eventually, he sent Hazel the money to move back to Montana and she returned to, "that big wide-open country," married Lars and eventually settled in Bozeman.

"There's not another state like it," she said.

And she's part of the reason why.

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