Helen Gibson Silent Serial Queen is a book by Larry Telles about the life story of a woman who spent her 51 year career in film, rodeo, circus and vaudeville. In 1930 she became Hollywood’s first professional stunt woman for many of the major studios. She was fearless in her career and life on and off the screen until her death at age 86.
Helen Gibson got into film during the time when movies were silent and cameras were cranked. Long before certain individuals on a movie set would be called to double for an actor or actress. Long before a stuntwomen learned the trade in a special school. Helen learned that skill on the job and through her instincts.
In a career of leaping from a moving car to a moving train, or from a moving horse to a moving train, accidents would happen. They did, but not in Helen’s case, because she was smart. She wore no harness or protective devices in her fifty-one year career.
Many journalists and film historians wrote about what they thought was her most dangerous stunt. For example: Traveling at full speed on a motorcycle as she pursued a runaway freight train, she rode through a wooden gate, shattering it completely, up a station platform, and through the open doors of a boxcar on a siding, with her machine traveling through the air until it landed on a flatcar in a passing train.
But Helen disagreed. “I did it in A Girl’s Grit, doubling for Helen Holmes. The distance between station roof and train top was accurately measured, and I practiced the jump with the train standing still. The train had to be moving on camera for about a quarter of a mile and its accelerating velocity was timed to the second. I was not nervous as the train approached, and leapt without hesitation. I landed right, but the train’s motion made me roll toward the end of the car…”