Southern Utah News Articles
Western Legends honoree Jackie Rife
Jackie was hooked on the big screen at an early age (about five). She would grab the hand of her little sister and off to the Sunday matinee they would go. Mom and dad always knew where to look for them when they came up missing. They would find two little toe-heads sitting down on the front row, eyes glued to the screen.
Norma and Jack Rife felt they must stop this action, so Jack tied them up to the back porch where they were to stay for a short time ‘til they learned their lesson. But it didn’t take Jackie long to get untied. She was shortly off to the movies again with her little sister in tow.
When the movies came to town, you could be sure Jackie was out among them. Movies were in her blood. Her father always worked for the movies, so he kept an eye on her when she was young, but soon she was on her own. What can you do when a girl gets star struck?
Jackie worked for every film crew that came to town, and met every star that came with them. She could ride a horse well and do all kinds of tricks. When she took up stunt riding in her teens, she would ride her horse as fast as she could and then fall off. She had a few broken fingers, ribs, etc., hardly anything to write home about.
She did have a few dangerous close calls. A wagon broke loose during the filming of “Westward the Women,” nearly crushing her. While making “Yellow Tomahawk,” Jackie was doubling for Peggy Castle. She was supposed to dive into a frozen lake (Three Lakes, north of Kanab) and stay underwater for a time until actor Roy Calbourn waded in to save her. They had to break the ice before Jackie could plunge into the frigid water. She said, “It was so cold I couldn’t breathe. I became so cold and tired I started to sink, and I didn’t think I could make it back up.” But the show must go on.
The stunt that put Jackie down and out was when she was leading an attack downhill and her cinch and sheepskin broke throwing her under her horse. The Indians ran over the top of her because they couldn’t see her. She was lucky to escape with her pulled stomach muscles and injured knees. The doctor told her she would never ride again.
So she thought the next best thing was to talk about the movies. Jackie gives out travel information for Kane County Travel Council. There’s the occasional traveler who has heard of Kanab’s glitzy past and asks Jackie about it. She’s the perfect one to ask. She can direct tourists to Parry Lodge, where the murder mystery, “The Girl in the Black Stockings,” was shot and rooms are named for their most famous guest, beginning with Ronald Reagan, who stayed in room 125. Jackie can tell visitors how to get to the old town movie sets and just about all they could want to know about the western stars and the places she hit the dirt.
Our pretty hometown cowgirl was a poplar stand-in, double and extra for western films shot in and around her hometown of Kanab, Utah. Some of these films are: Frontier Scout; Buffalo Bill; Smoky; Green Grass of Wyoming; Calamity Jane and Sam Bass; Red Canyon; The Outriders; The Girl in Black Stockings; Revolt at Fort Laramie; The Badlanders; Sergeants 3; Bugles in the Afternoon; Westward the Women; Pony Express; Fort Yuma; Ghost Town; Quincannon, Frontier Scout; and War Drums.
She is still popular with the tourists and all who come through the doors of the Kane County Office of Tourism and Film Commission.