Mr. Arvo Ojala - fast draw shooter
Skrivet av D.McLellan   
2007-01-06 17:12


Fast-draw shooter taught TV stars

    By Dennis McLellan/Los Angeles Times
(Not obituary
original photo)

Mr. Arvo Ojala died July 1 2005 at his home in Gresham, Ore., his family said. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Born in Seattle to Finnish parents, Mr. Ojala grew up on an apple ranch in the Yakima Valley. He later recalled that he taught himself marksmanship by "shooting the heads off rattlesnakes."

With an ability to cock his pistol, fire and reportedly hit his target in one-sixth of a second, Mr. Ojala was the go-to guy to learn the art of the fast-draw during the heyday of TV Westerns in the 1950s and '60s.

Mr. Ojala, a stuntman and bit player who turned his skill with a six-gun into a lucrative business, manufactured patented, metal-lined fast-draw holsters that were used by countless sagebrush heroes, as well as quick-draw competitors.

Among those who benefited from Mr. Ojala's quick-draw tutelage were Hugh O'Brian ("The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp"), James Garner ("Maverick"), Ty Hardin ("Bronco"), Dale Robertson ("Tales of Wells Fargo") and Wayde Preston ("Colt .45").

Mr. Ojala also served as the gun coach on films such as "The War Wagon," "Silverado," "Three Amigos" and "Back to the Future Part III." Among his students were Kevin Kline, Michael J. Fox, Kevin Costner, Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

But it was because of his quick-draw duel with Arness on a Dodge City street — a fleeting appearance for which Mr. Ojala initially received $100 but earned him thousands of dollars more in residuals — that he achieved a degree of small-screen immortality.

Mr. Ojala earned high praise from the star of "Gunsmoke."

"There's no one faster with a gun," Arness said in a 1959 Los Angeles Times story.

"He was the top gun, you might say," Hardin, who played Western adventurer Bronco Layne for four seasons, told the Los Angeles Times last week. "He certainly had the knowledge and the background."

Mr. Ojala spent a great deal of time with Hardin on the set, showing him techniques such as where to position the holster so he could draw his revolver in one motion without reaching for it, and how to rapidly fire three rounds that sounded like one. They later worked on a ranch shooting live ammunition.

"I was a little leery of it," Hardin recalled. "I heard a story where someone shot the (gun) off before it left the holster."

Hardin said Mr. Ojala "was a wonderful guy and a very patient person. He was just a real gentleman — and deadly with a gun."

For Hardin, working with Mr. Ojala paid off.

"I became the fastest gun at Warner Bros.," Hardin said, then laughed. "Of course, other people will claim that, too. There was a lot of us out there."

In 1959, Mr. Ojala ranked Preston, Garner and Arness as the best of those he taught to fast draw, although "not necessarily in that order."

"Gunfighters are made, not born. It's just as true on the movie sets today as it was in the days of the early West," Mr. Ojala said. "Most of our present TV and film cowboys had little more than a nodding acquaintance with a revolver before they landed roles as Western heroes."

Mr. Ojala's wife, Doris, an actress, model and professional figure skater, died in 1978. The couple had been married for 26 years.

He is survived by his sons, Jon and Erikk; daughters Valerie, Kym and Inga; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Arvo Ojala, a legendary Hollywood quick-draw expert who appeared as the bad guy who loses the gun duel with James Arness' Marshal Matt Dillon in the opening of the long-running TV series "Gunsmoke," has died. He was 85.


ARVO OJALA, Died July 1, 2005

For twenty years, fans of the Western TV series "Gunsmoke" watched the opening credits in which James Arness as Matt Dillon faced down a gunslinger. Each week, Dillon killed the badguy. What many people didn’t know was the name of the gunslinger in the famous credit sequence, now you do: Arvo Ojala. The sequence was actually filmed four different times during the series's two decade run, but Mr. Ojala was the duelist in the first version. Arvo Ojala was one of the top gun coaches in Hollywood history. He was a master of the quick draw, and not just in the movies. Mr. Ojala was a marksman with few peers. The man who lost the draw against Matt Dillon every week finally lost the draw that all of will face someday. Arvo Ojala died at age 85. Mr. Arvo worked both in front and behind the cameras. He acted in such films and TV shows as "Lancer," "Two-Gun Lady" and "The Oregon Trail." He was technical advisor and gun coach on such films and TV shows as "Silverado," "The War Wagon," "Back to the Future III," "Sugarfoot," "Maverick," the rock and roll Western "Zachariah" and "Three Amigos."

Senast uppdaterad 2007-01-06 18:09
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