Saranac Lake native highlighted for impact in Hollywood

Saranac Lake resident Leslie Hoffman, who worked as a stuntwoman and stunt coordinator in Hollywood, shows a page in the recent book “Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and Movies” that highlights her story as the first stuntwoman elected to the Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

SARANAC LAKE — The story of a Saranac Lake native that helped break ground for women in Hollywood has been chronicled in a recently published book, “Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and Movies.”

The book, written by Jill Tietjen and Barbara Bridges, was released April 26. It highlights the impact female writers, directors, actresses and other entertainment professionals had on the history of Hollywood and the movie industry at large.

Saranac Lake resident Leslie Hoffman, 64, got prime real estate in the 400-page book alongside the likes of Ruby Dee, an actress in “The Jackie Robinson Story,” and Heather Angel, who starred in “Hound of Baskervilles.”

Hoffman was a professional stuntwoman and stunt coordinator through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. She worked on classic television shows like “The Love Boat” and “M*A*S*H,” as well as movies, including the 1984 thriller “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

She made history in the 1980s when she became the first stuntwoman elected to the Screen Actors’ Guild Board of Directors. She also became the national chairwoman of the Stunt and Safety Committee and the co-chair of the Young Performers Committee.

An entry in the new book “Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and Movies” showcases the life of silent film actress Olga Petrova, who visited Saranac Lake many times throughout the course of her life. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

She used her position to lobby on behalf of stuntwomen and people of color, she said.

“I’m extremely honored to be a part of the history of Hollywood,” Hoffman said. “To think that my contribution to Hollywood was valuable enough to be a part of this book… it’s really cool.

“I’m so honored to be considered a part of Hollywood history, and to be a part of the Saranac Lake connection.”

Hoffman isn’t the only woman highlighted in the new book with a connection to Saranac Lake.

Among them are Rosalind Russell, Faye Dunaway and Olga Petrova.

Russell, best known for playing a newspaper reporter in the 1940 comedy “His Girl Friday,” lived at the former seven-story Alpine Hotel in Saranac Lake in the 1920s. She worked at a local stock company, and performed in summer theater productions as a member of the Adirondack Players, before moving on a few months later to Hartford, Connecticut.

Dunaway, now an award-winning actress, had a summer job as a waitress at the Dew Drop Inn while she was in college.

Petrova was a silent film star and a vaudeville actress who made several stops in Saranac Lake during the course of her lifetime. The Petrova School, built in 1925 to replace the former Saranac Lake High School, was named after her.

Copies of “Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and Movies” are available for purchase online or via special order through the Book Nook on Broadway in Saranac Lake.


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