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Finding Aid of the Russell M. Saunders film collection 0323
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Acquisition
  • Preferred Citation
  • Scope and Content
  • Biographical Note
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Conditions Governing Access

  • Title: Russell M. Saunders film collection
    Collection number: 0323
    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 8.0 Linear feet 8 boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1939-1980
    Abstract: The Russell M. Saunders film collection consists of slides, 16mm and 8mm films of performers at Muscle Beach in Santa Monica and other acrobatic, gymnastic and/or athletic acts in a variety of locations. Most of the films show men, women and children involved in acts such as adagio, acrobalance, acrobatics, teeterboard, ballet, trapeze, gymnastics, trampoline, uneven bars, rings, tightrope, ice skating, water skiing, tandem surfing, cannon jumping, Olympic diving and various other variety and circus performances, including some with animals. Russell M. Saunders was one of the star performers at Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, where he also taught acrobatics and gymnastics for free.
    creator: Saunders, Russell M., (Russell Maurice), 1919-2001

    Acquisition

    The Russell M. Saunders film collection was donated by Paula Boelsems in 2005.

    Preferred Citation

    [Box/folder# or item name], Russell M. Saunders film collection, Collection no. 0323, Regional History Collection, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

    Scope and Content

    The film portion of the Russell M. Saunders film collection consists of 90 to 100 reels of 16mm film (roughly 10,000 feet of footage) and over 100 reels of 8mm film. Some of the content is "home movie" footage of Muscle Beach from the 1950s and 60s, including muscle men, beauty contests and acrobatic acts performed for beach crowds. Most of the footage was shot in various places in Southern California, but some reels were shot in Hawaii, Oregon, New York and Canada. All other footage includes, but is not limited to, stage performances, circuses, Olympic tryouts, ice skating performances, water skiing, surfing and various commercially-made productions featuring Russ Saunders and his performance troupe. Most of the films show men, women and children involved in acts such as adagio, acrobalance, acrobatics, teeterboard, ballet, trapeze, gymnastics, trampoline, uneven bars, rings, tightrope, ice skating, water skiing, tandem surfing, cannon jumping, Olympic diving and various other variety and circus performances, including some with animals. The collection also includes nearly 500 slides and some reels of 1/4" audio tape.
    The 16mm film has been examined and cataloged at the reel level; the 8mm film reels and the slides, however, have not been cataloged individually.

    Biographical Note

    Russell M. Saunders was born in Manitoba, Canada on May 21, 1919. He grew up on a farm outside of Winnepeg and developed his acrobatic and gymnastic skills at a summer camp and by watching movies at the local theater. Saunders moved to California before World War II and began working in water shows and as a stunt double in Los Angeles. During World War II, he served in the Armed Forces Aquacade as a diver. After the war, Saunders became one of the star performers at Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, where he also taught acrobatics and gymnastics for free. He met Paula Boelsems in 1940, and they performed together for the next fifty years. In 1975, they became the first two American judges accredited by the International Federation of Sports Acrobatics. Saunders was also a renowned stunt man who doubled for many of Hollywood's most famous actors, including Gene Kelly, Alan Ladd and Jack Benny. He passed away in Los Angeles on May 29, 2001.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The collection contains film and audio footage. Please consult the Regional History Curator for license and copyright information.

    Conditions Governing Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access. The collection is housed in the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, located in the basement of the Norris Theater Complex. Access to select films (those that have been digitized) is available there.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Boelsems, Paula
    Saunders, Russell M., (Russell Maurice), 1919-2001
    Acrobatics--Archival resources
    Aerialists--Archival resources
    Amateur films--Archival resources
    Beaches--California--Santa Monica--Archival resources
    Beauty contests--Archival resources
    Bodybuilding--Archival resources
    Circus performers--Archival resources
    Circus--Archival resources
    Gymnastics--Archival resources
    Home movies
    Santa Monica (Calif.)--Archival resources
    Slides (photographs)
    Sound recordings
    Stunt performers--Archival resources
    Trampolining--Archival resources
    Tumbling--Archival resources