Gwen Kaae was the first "stunt girl" in Hollywood in 1938.
Childhood She was born Gwendlyn Lorraine Gillaspy at her parents home in Los Angeles, California on October 9 1926. Her father, Cranmer "Charlie" Gillaspy, was a casket maker and also worked for the railroads. Her mother, Agnes Zeta Kendall Gillaspy was a homemaker. Gwen was their third and last child; she was 18 years younger than her oldest sister, Florence LaVerne "Vernie", and nine years younger than her brother, William Kendall Herndon "Kenny."
All the Gillaspy children had strong musical abilities apparent at a young age. Vernie played and taught violin, Kenny played accordion, and Gwen played violin. Along with her musical talents, Gwen showed a strong interest and talent for acrobatics and dance. By the time she was 6, she was performing on stage. Gwen played violin in the Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. She could perform tap, ballet (toe) and modern dance.
Stunt woman The movie Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus starring Spanky McFarland of Our Gang fame needed a stunt double for the 12 year old Anne Gillis, who was portraying a bareback rider in the circus in the film. The producers thought they could use a little person stuntman as Anne's stunt double, but none of them looked convincingly enough like a 12 year old girl. Then Gwen's dance teacher convinced the producers that Gwen could do this and she was hired.
Marriage During World War II, Gwen was a member of the Civilian Air Patrol (CAP). In September of 1945 she met her future husband, United Statea Army Air Corps lieutenant Glenn Kaae, who proposed to her ten days after meeting her.
Gwen's mother died of cancer shortly before the wedding. Her last wish was that the marriage not be delayed. They were married in Hollywood on April 21, 1946. Gwen's father died six months after the wedding.
Family life After six years of marriage and almost as long trying to conceive a child, Gwen and Glenn decided to adopt a child. Through the "Children's Home Society" their son, Kenneth ("Kenny"), was born on December 18, 1953 and came to live with them six weeks later. Their second child, Kathleen ("Kathy"), was born on September 8, 1956 and came home with her new family three weeks later.
In 1959, the family moved from El Segundo, California to Canoga Park, California (now West Hills). Glenn worked as an engineer at Litton Industries, while Gwen was a stay at home Mom.
Death After a lifetime of smoking, which continued even after open heart surgery in 1977, Gwen was diagnosed with lung cancer in November 1987. Since the cancer was inoperable, she decided there was no need to quit smoking. The cancer was very slow growing, but the chemotherapy weakened her immune system until she was totally septic. She died suddenly on May 25 1988.