Stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil, who was Lynda Carter’s stunt double for the Wonder Woman TV show, passed away from pneumonia on November 2, 2018. She was 72 years old.
O’Neil was an in-demand stuntwoman during the 1970s. She performed stunts for Carter during most of the popular show’s run from 1977 to 1979 and doubled Lindsay Wagner during the full run of The Bionic Woman.
Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, on March 24, 1946, O’Neil was struck by multiple illnesses and lost her hearing when she was five months old. During her teen years, O’Neil was a competitive diver, but her career was derailed after she broke her wrist and contracted spinal meningitis. She turned to sports like water skiing and skydiving to enjoy more daredevil activities.
O’Neil started racing in the early 1970s on water and the road before getting into film work in events like the Baja 500 and Mint 400. While still in the midst of her stunt career, she attained the women’s land-speed record for driving a rocket-powered race car. She still holds that record for driving an average speed of 512 mph.
Her entrance into film stunt work came in Airport 1975 in ’74, followed by Two-Minute Warning, Airport ’77, September 30, 1955, and Foes. She performed stunts in Damien: Omen II, Foul Play, The Blues Brothers, and Smokey and the Bandit II.
In celebration of her accomplishments, a biopic on O’Neil’s success as a stuntwoman and race car driver were commemorated in the 1979 film Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story. Stockard Channing played O’Neil, and of course, O’Neil performed stunts for the movie – doubling for the actress who was playing herself.
Her success and influence were so infectious that O’Neil was immortalized as a Barbie doll and she was the first woman to join the agency, Stunts Unlimited.
O’Neil retired in the 1980s and moved to South Dakota where she spent the remainder of her days.