Breakaway Babe: The Babe DeFreest Story – One of the Greatest Horse Riders of Our Time
I love when the stories come to me, as in this one, from an acquaintance I met a few years back and who is an actress and author. She relocated back to SoCal and reconnected with an old friend who asked her if she could help in getting her grandmother Babe’s story out there.
Here it begins!
I also found these on You Tube: Girl jockey Babe De Freest wins a horse race at the Auga Caliente Racetrack in Me…HD Stock Footage…and Zorro’s Black Whip – Ep.1, The Masked Avenger – Linda Stirling. I enjoyed the 25 minute clip! https://youtu.be/z72ylva_bgs.
Babe comes in at about 17 minutes. Her life’s passion, horses, not celebrity.
Babe DeFreest was the first female horse stunt rider in film and the first woman offered a professional jockey license which made her life an intriguing and captivating story. At a time when boys were forced to dress like women as stand-ins for the actresses in Westerns so popular in the early days of filmmaking, directors were hard-pressed to find any woman who could handle the demands of stunt horse riding. When it was discovered, there was such a woman, a whole new world opened for the beautiful, blonde, talented, horse racer, Babe DeFreest.
She was one of kind, no one came close to her skills as she began working on a Buck Jones Western, with the director Ray Taylor. She impressed everyone and made a name for herself. Her career spanned the years 1932 to 1946, as a double for so many well-known actors. Never really receiving the credit she deserved by the industry until later in her life.
She stood in early on for Linda Sterling, who had very little to do with the film “Zorro’s Black Whip” when Babe did most of the stunts with a mask on. No one would have known how it was Babe who was in most of the film. She also stood in for Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Yvonne DeCarlo, Joan Crawford, Maria Montez, Jean Carmen, Audrey Scott, Nell O’Day, Frances Gifford, Kay Aldridge, Shirley O’Hara, and others.
Babe possessed a beauty which made it easy for a make-up artist to create a resemblance to any of the top name actresses in the business. It was a dilemma for directors who would have much rather had her be the lead actress and save the trouble of casting someone who barely had any thespian skills, along with needing a stand-in for the horse stunts. But Babe chose what she was passionate about, and continued to do the stunts and stand-in jobs, never shying away from any dangerous stunts, she was in so many wagon wrecks she got the nickname Breakaway Babe. Since horses were her first love, she had no wish for the fame offered as a position of leading lady in a film. Babe was basically a very shy woman but when it came to working with horses, nothing came close to the exhilaration of competition and the joy of riding. She was eventually inducted into the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame in 1976 in addition to receiving a special Presidents Award.
I have it on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
This is how the rest of her story begins, at least the best parts.
“The trouble was, he was in love. It had to do with an innocent blonde goddess, whose face and figure could make a man weak; whose smile was Sunrise in Ireland, and who was an executioner in the saddle of a running horse.”