Judo, The Avengers & Me by Cyd Child/Chris Gallie 7th Dan (book review).

The reference in The Book Palace’s ‘Illustrators’ special about Peter O’Donnell having made a book of photos for martial arts moves for his Modesty Blaise artists to reference made me interested in tracking down Cyd Child aka Christine Child aka Christine Gallie (the last being her married name) and found this recent book, ‘Judo, The Avengers & Me’.

A woman judo expert in the 1960s when it was hard to get training in it a male dominated martial arts arena. Seeing her go over her history and dedication to training shows some remarkable persistence as she progresses up the dan gradings and doing stuntwork at the same time.

Child’s career took a different direction into becoming a stuntwoman for Diana Rigg on ‘The Avengers’ at a time most of the stunts were done by men. She had to lose some weight but was of a similar height and with hair changed made a good match. Reading of the stunts she did, I’ll defy anyone whose seen the series to spot the difference and, as she points out, her face was accidentally caught on camera once and it didn’t make any difference. She went on to stunt for Linda Thorson and Joanna Lumley in the series.

She also gives her some insight into the life she led, including living on a barge with pets. Cats being a necessity to keep rats away. Amongst her pets was a macaw called Chrome, once owned by Diana Rigg, and appeared in ‘The Avengers’ episode ‘The Bird Who Knew Too Much’. Under her ownership, the talkative Chrome had an extensive TV and film career. I wish she had included Chrome’s bibliography because every time I’m seeing a macaw, like with ‘UFO’s ‘A Question Of Priorities’, I wonder if its him.

Child’s appearances in ‘UFO’ and ‘Space: 1999’ are barely remembered by her simply because she was brought in for a scene and was gone again but I can see she would easily have been a ringer for Tracy Reed and Catherine Schell, whom she also doubled for in ‘The Return Of The Pink Panther’.

Her martial arts background is also covered in detail and was crucial in ensuring women in the UK had more opportunities in the sport. Seeing the list of injuries she received, I have to admire her persistence. Likewise attending various international tournaments in days before sponsorship made me realise how lucky people are today in comparison.

Her TV and film credits pop up and there is a checklist at the back of the book and if you tick off what you’ve seen, you’ll probably realise you’ve seen a lot of Cyd Child without realising it.

So, let’s address part of the reason for reading this book, Child’s involvement with Brian Jacks doing martial arts photographs for Peter O’Donnell for the Modesty Blaise newspaper strip. There are six large photos here and although I’d be hard put to work out in what strips they were used, I can see how they could be used for their technique.

About the only mistake in this book is on page 115 where the last paragraph is ended in mid-sentence and not continued further in which is a shame as it features something about Chris Reeves boots in the first ‘Superman’ film.

This truly is a fascinating book giving insight not only into not only Child but also women’s martial arts in this country and abroad from the 1960s-80s but also her stunt career from the early days when stunt people weren’t officially recognised in the credits to what we have today. It is also of note that the press did recognise her for her tournament status because of ‘The Avengers’, even if she kept away from them in the build-up. Plenty for everyone here.

Geoff Willmetts

December 2022

(pub: Fantom Publishing, 2021. 146 page illustrated large softcover. Price: I pulled my copy for nearly £13.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78196-379-1)

check out website: www.fantompublishing.co.uk

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