Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Late Great Harry Carey Jr.

Harry Carey Jr., best known for his many roles in Westerns by John Ford, Howard Hawks, and other directors, died 27 December 2012 at the age of 91.

Harry Carey Jr. was born on 16 May 1921 on his family's ranch near Saugus, California. His father was silent star Harry Carey Sr. and his mother was actress Olive Carey (herself the daughter of vaudeville star George Fuller Golden). He attended and graduated from Black-Foxe Military Institute in Hollywood, California. During World War II he served in the United States Navy.

Following Word War II Harry Carey Jr. made his film debut in Rolling Home (1946). He first worked with Howard Hawks on the Western classic Red River in 1948. His first feature film with John Ford was 3 Godfathers in the same year. In the late Forties Mr. Carey appeared in such films as Moonrise (1948), Blood on the Moon (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Wagon Master (1950),  Copper Canyon (1950), and Rio Grande (1950). In the Fifties he appeared in such films as Cattle Drive (1951), Warpath (1951), The Wild Blue Yonder (1951), Monkey Business (1952), The Studebaker Story (1953), Niagara (1953), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Island in the Sky (1953), The Outcast (1954), The Searchers (1956) , Mr. Roberts (1955), The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), Kiss Them for Me (1957), The River's Edge (1957) , From Hell to Texas (1958),  and Noose for a Gunman (1960).  He made his television debut on an episode of Chevron Theatre in 1952. He was a regular on the serial "The Adventures of Spin and Marty," which aired on The Mickey Mouse Club. He appeared on such shows as Racket Squad, Fireside Theatre, Big Town, The Public Defender, The Lone Ranger, Climax, The Gray Ghost, Broken Arrow, Tombstone Territory, Men into Space, Hotel De Paree, and The Tall Man.

In the Sixties Harry Carey Jr. appeared in such films as Two Rode Together (1961), The Great Impostor (1961),  A Public Affair (1962), The Raiders (1963), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), Shenandoah (1965), The Rare Breed (1966), Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966), The Ballad of Josie (1967), The Way West (1967), The Devil's Brigade (1968), Bandolero! (1968), Death of a Gunfighter (1969), and Dirty Dingus Magee (1970). He appeared in such TV shows as Gunsmoke, Whispering Smith, The Rifleman, Perry Mason, Rawhide, Lawman, Checkmate, Laramie, Have Gun--Will Travel, Wagon Train, Branded, Bonanza, Run For Your Life, The Outcasts, Mannix, and The Virginian.

In the Seventies Mr. Carey appeared in such films as One More Train to Rob (1971), Big Jake (1971), Trinity Is STILL My Name! (1971), Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973), Take a Hard Ride (1975) , Nickelodeon (1976), and The Long Riders (1980). He appeared on such television shows as Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour, Banacek, The Streets of San Francisco, Hec Ramsey, Police Woman, and Little House on the Prairie. In the Eighties he appeared  in such movies Endangered Species (1982), Gremlins (1984), Mask (1985), Crossroads (1986), The Whales of August (1987), Cherry 2000 (1987), and Back to the Future Part III (1990).  He appeared on such shows as Dallas, Crossbow, and B. L. Stryker. In the Nineties he appeared in the films Tombstone (1993), Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone (1994), and The Sunchaser (1996).

Like many actors who appeared primarily in Westerns, I think Harry Carey Jr. was always under-appreciated as an actor. In truth he was one of the best character actors of his era. He played a wide array of roles, from a reporter General Eisenhower in The Long Grey Line to Capt. Rose in The Devil's Brigade to a bartender in Crossroads. Of course, he was best known for his Westerns, but even then he played a variety of roles. He played  a cowboy (Red River),  an outlaw (3 Godfathers), part of the U. S. Cavalry (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande), a lawman (Gun the Man Down), and several other various roles. And that is only counting his movie roles. On television he frequently appeared in the role of sheriffs, although he also appeared in such varied roles as cowboys, gunmen, Cavalry officers, and even bankers and shopkeepers. Harry Carey Jr. did all of them well. In fact, I suspect that was much of why he was a favourite of both John Ford and John Wayne, as well as the fact that he was so prolific. Harry Carey Jr. was an actor who could play nearly anything in any genre and not seem out of place.

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