As I had pointed out in some previous articles about stuntmen in Hollywood, oftentimes, the performers of such “derring do” never receive the full credit. The opposite is often true, as it is in the interest of selling tickets that the studio promotes the marque stars over the technicians who toil behind the scenes. Such is the case of today’s subject, who has several reasons for not being acknowledged to the degree worthy of his impressive career.
Bob Anderson is a beloved and respected icon of Las Vegas fame. He was a lounge singer in the golden Rat Pack era, holding court in the smokey, intimate lounge at the Dunes Casino. The headliners from down the Strip would congregate in his after hours venue to hear his brilliant vocal impersonations and comedy. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Steve Lawrence , and Steve Rossi might show up in the audience on any given night. Anderson did not start his show until 2 am to make sure lounge lizards had a chance to arrive. Bob Anderson was the warm up act for stars like Red Skelton, Shirley MacLaine , and Don Rickles. He was a guest of Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Bob continues to sing the classic songs, often times at the fabulous new Smith Center, which is akin to being the “Carnegie Hall” of Sin City. Be sure to catch his show when you visit.
So you can see the confusion. The Bob Anderson who is the subject of this article was an Olympic fencer, a stunt man and a choreographer of sword fighting who had a career that spanned over 50 years. He began as a soldier in the British Royal Marines and represented England in the 1952 Olympics. Although not a medal winner, he was recruited as the first official British National Coach.
Even before his Olympic appearance, Anderson joined the production of a pirate movie, “The Master of Ballantrae” , starring Errol Flynn. The flamboyant Flynn was distracted during rehearsal by some (presumably) young and pretty fans on the set. His lapse of attention led to Anderson wounding Flynn on the leg, much to the chagrin of the stunt man. Flynn was quick to take the blame and insisted on recalling Anderson for later movies, but the incident led Anderson to a serious disposition and hence the nickname, “Grumpy Bob.”
Bob Anderson worked with many of the top leading men of Tinsel Town. Besides Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, Bob was a coach for Sean Connery, Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Cary Elwes and Johnny Depp. Examples of his work can be found in the movies : Die Another Day, The Mask of Zorro, Highlander, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, and most famously, The Princess Bride. For the Hobbit movies, Anderson developed different fighting styles for the various elves, trolls, goblins, and Orcs.
Perhaps the biggest project that Bob Anderson is not famous for is his participation in the “Star Wars” franchise. With the input from George Lucas, it was Bob Anderson who defined the art of dueling with Light Sabres. That was Bob in the Darth Vader suit fighting with the aged Jedi, Obi Wan Kenobi. For years, the credit for that iconic encounter was attributed to body builder, David Prowse. Not long ago, Bob Anderson, (the sword master), passed away. His respectable career and his role in the history of film making will probably never get the acknowledgement that it deserves.
Here are some links to similar articles I wrote :
Yakima Canutt, Stunt Man and Rodeo Star
Hollywood Stunt Men are the Unsung Heroes
Circus Star and Leading Man , Burt Lancaster
Thanks for reading.