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.
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.
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