From storming the beach of Iwo Jima as a Marine to performing as a stuntman for more than 60 years in movies such as “Friday the 13th: Part 4” as Jason and in “Rio Bravo,” doubling for John Wayne, 92-year-old former Marine Cpl. Alex Bayouth, known as Ted White in Hollywood, has had an exciting life.
Call to Service
In 1943, the United States was at war. “The country had done a lot for me, so I thought it was time for me to do something for the country,” White said.
White headed to Camp Pendleton in San Diego for boot camp and training and then joined the 4th Marine Division. The division shipped out Jan. 13, 1944, and in 13 months, made four major amphibious assaults in the battles of Kwajalein (Roi-Namur), Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima, suffering more than 17,000 casualties. It was awarded two Presidential Unit Citations.
White fought in the four major amphibious assaults, with Iwo Jima being his final engagement. “We got pinned down on the black shifting sands for a long, long time,” he said, looking back. “And those were a lot of casualties we were taking at that beach.”
White said he felt mixed up and confused on the beach, because he hadn’t been told what was going to happen. “They told us it was going to be tough. They told us what they felt, but they hadn’t ever landed on the beach,” he said. “The memory of what happened is very vivid in my mind, and it’s vivid in the guys’ minds that made it and are still alive today.”
White suffered injuries from a Japanese cement block house blowing up and the gunfire from the .25-caliber machine gun inside it. He was taken to the hospital ship USS Comfort and then to a naval hospital at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Because of his injuries, White separated from the Marine Corps after six years. He said he hopes that as people remember Iwo Jima each year, they not only honor those who lost their lives in the battle, but also those who suffered injuries and later passed away.
The Next Adventure
After returning home to Snyder, Texas, where he grew up on a ranch, White decided to use his scholarship and play football for the University of Oklahoma. He met Miss Oklahoma, they married, and he worked for a glass company. After having two children, they moved to California, where he started working for a friend’s car dealership. “I also worked for this airline company – he owned it, this man – what was his name?- Howard Hughes – for about eight or nine months,” White said casually, lighting his cigar.
While working at the dealership, White said, he sold a car to a professional stuntman, Roy Clark. They’ve been friends for 50 years now.
Becoming a Stuntman
White and Clark would meet up for lunch every two or three weeks and talk about the motion picture business, White said. “I was making very good money where I was, and I had no idea of ever going about the motion picture business.”
Clark told White he was making a western with Warner Bros. “He said, ‘I know you’re from Texas, and you used to ride and rope a lot,’” White said. Clark asked him to come to the set and watch.
Having come from work, White said, he was standing on the sidelines in a suit. He told his buddy, “I can’t believe he can’t rope him. There’s a man standing completely still. We rope them on the run,” he said. He said his friend went over to the director, Howard W. Koch, who later became the president of Paramount Studios, and told him that White could do it.
White said Koch told him they would put him wardrobe and have him do the scene once. “So I had to double the guy on the horse and not knowing the motion picture business, I roped the guy and damn near killed him. I jerked him 20 feet in the air,” he said laughing. “He was screaming like a wounded dog. And from that moment on, I got the fever and started working on small TV shows.”
Stunt Doubling for John Wayne
As White re-lit his cigar, he said he became fast friends with fellow Oklahoma graduate Jim Garner. In 1958, he said, he was sent to Tucson, Arizona, for a show but had no idea what it was. “They don’t tell you sometimes what the show is. You go down, you get wardrobe fitted and then they tell you where you’re going,” he said. The movie ended up being “Rio Bravo” with John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and more.
“My God, it had a great cast, that’s where I met him, and fortunately enough, he asked me to continue working for him, and I did. I worked with him until he passed away,” White said about John Wayne. He doubled John Wayne in 18 movies.
Because of his work with John Wayne, he had the chance to work with Clark Gable. “In fact, I worked the last show he did. Another stuntman was doubling him named Chuck Roberson, and he got hurt on ‘The Misfits,’ and they called me in to take his place,” White said. “I finished ‘The Misfits’ with Gable, and then I worked with Gable after that for awhile on different shows.”
White said that the excitement of stunt work never went away. “No matter how many times I worked, when I put on Wayne’s clothes, the excitement of putting on his clothes, knowing I was doubling one of the biggest stars in the history of the motion picture business, and then Clark Gable, my God, the cold chills that went up and down me when I found out I was doubling for him,” he said.
“I was so honored and thrilled to be able to do that,” White added. He said when he goes to conventions, people don’t just come to buy pictures of him as Jason. “They want to talk about Clark Gable and John Wayne and all of the different big names I worked with over the last 60 years.”
White said he takes as much time as he can with the conventioneers because at 92, he’s never going to work with the greats again. “They’re all gone, and I’m too old,” he said wistfully.
Playing Jason Voorhees
White said movies and television shows generally don’t shoot in the summer. But he got a call one day to go to Columbia Studios, though he had worked mostly for Warner Bros. He said he had read for the policeman role and waited around for 45 minutes because several other guys were reading for parts as well.
“They called me back in and said, ‘We’re definitely going to go with you, Ted.’ I said, ‘That’s the part of the policeman?’ They said, ‘No, we want you to be the part of Jason.’ I said, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. Jason doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t say anything. He just kills people,” White said. “I’ve got two boys that are grown and have kids. I’d hate for them to see their grandpa out there killing people. I’d better pass on that.”
He said he initially passed and went home, but after talking to a friend who was working on the project about the fans and the horror business, he reconsidered.
“That was 1984, and I played him. I actually enjoyed it after I got into it and met the people they hired to work in the business,” White said. “I’ve been doing conventions ever since then.“I’ve been to so many countries.”
Recent Projects, Hobbies
His grandchildren not only saw him play Jason, but also can watch him as a stunt driver in “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.”
When he’s not out at a convention or doing stunt work, White is repairing furniture for his neighbors in his own 1,800-square -oot woodworking shop. “I have people come over and leave their broken chairs out in front of my gate and say, ‘Ted, can you fix this for me?’ I’m fixing broken pieces of furniture for neighbors up and down the street.”
From One Marine to Another
White said he believes in the Marine Corps principle “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” For those who serve as Marines or are considering becoming Marines, he offered some advice.
“This country has given us so much in so many different ways,” he said. “When you have the opportunity to give back what this country has given you, I say take that opportunity and if that opportunity includes being a Marine for the rest of your life, you’ll carry that with you every step you take, every moment you breathe, every person you meet. You’ll always remember if they were a Marine, they are friends, and they’ll be friends for the rest of your life and their lives as well.
“To me, it’s an honor that, it’s very hard to say that there’s another thing out that surpasses this as far as being proud of what you’ve done,” he continued. “Being a Marine and being in World War II is something that, well, you can’t really explain to people that weren’t there.”