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Ben Johnson (1918-1996)
Ben Johnson

Quint-Cident, April 27, 1963 Written by Kathleen Hite, Directed by Andrew McLaglen, Guest Cast: Mary Ia Roche, Ben Johnson, Don Keefer

Quaker Girl, December 10, l966 Written by Preston Wood, Directed by Bernard Kowalski, Guest Cast: William Shatner, Ariane Quinn, Liam Sullivan, Ben Johnson, Warren Vanders, Tom Reese, William Bryant, Timothy Carey, Joseph Breen

Drago, November 22, 1971 Written by Jim Byrnes, Directed by Paul Stanley, Guest Cast: Buddy Ebsen, Ben Johnson, Edward Faulkner, Michael Silverman, Rich Gates, Del Monroe, Tani Phelps Guthrie

Ben Johnson was the epitome of the western cowboy and, in reality, he was a true-life cowboy. Tall, lanky and "aw shucks" shy with a weather-beaten, but handsome face he was the perfect screen cowboy. Born in Foraker, Oklahoma near the town of Pawhuska on June 13, 1918, he grew up a cowboy on the Chapman-Bernard Horse Ranch. He was a champion steer-roper and rodeo cowboy. He fell into acting accidentally as Howard Hughes ordered a load of horses, for the film "The Outlaw" (1939), from the ranch and hired Ben as a groom and trainer. After working as a horse wrangler he worked as a double and stuntman in Hollywood westerns until director John Ford cast him in larger roles. As a part of the John Ford/John Wayne repertory company he appeared in some major films. His winning of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and New York Film Critics Award in 1971 for his role as Sam the Lion in "The Last Picture Show" was the highlight of his career. His other film credits include: "The Outlaw" (1943) in a bit part, his film debut; "Three Godfathers" (1948) as a Posse Member; "Mighty Joe Young" (1949) as Gregg, one of my favorites of his roles; "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949) as Sgt. Tyree, one of his best roles; "Rio Grande" (1950) as Trooper Travis Tyree; "Fort Defiance" (1951) as Ben Shelby; "Shane" (1953) as Chris Calloway; "Simba" (1955) as Kimani; "Ten Who Dared" (1960) as George Bradley; "One-Eyed Jacks" (1961) as Bob Amory; "Cheyenne Autumn" (1964) as Trooper Plumtree; "Major Dundee" (1965) with Charlton Heston, as Sgt. Chillum; "Hang 'em High" (1967) as Bliss; "Will Penny" (1968) as Alex; "The Wild Bunch" (1969) as Tector Gorch; "Chisum" (1970) as James Pepper; "Junior Bonner" (1972) with Steve McQueen, as Buck Roan; "Dillinger" (1973) as Melvin Purvis; "Breakheart Pass" (1975) as Nathan Pearce; "Tex" (1982) with Matt Dillon, as Cole Collins; "Radio Flyer" (1992) as Geronimo Bill; "Angels in the Outfield" (1994) as Hank Murphy and "Evening Star" (1996) with Shirley MacLaine, as Arthur Cotton, his final theatrical film. He appeared as a regular on the TV series: "The Monroes" (1966-67) as Sleeve and "Dream West" (1986) as Jim Bridger. He appeared in some major TV movies including: "The Red Pony" (1973); "Blood Sport" (1973); "The Sacketts" (1979); "The Shadow Riders" (1982) and "Ruby Jean and Joe" (1996). He guest starred on such TV series as: "Alfred Hitchcock Presents"; "Laramie"; "Bonanza"; "Gunsmoke"; "Branded"; "The Virginian" and "Perry Mason." In 1985 he created the Ben Johnson Celebrity Rodeo in Guthrie, Oklahoma which raised millions to benefit children's cancer research. He died on April 8, 1996 in Mesa, Arizona of a heart attack while visiting his mother.

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