Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Man Movie

Todays' Real Man of Hollywood: Ben Johnson.


If you're a fan of westerns like I am, you've probably seen several movies starring Ben Johnson in supporting roles. Ben Johnson was originally a rodeo rider who knew his way around horses. He was hired by Howard Hughes in 1940 to bring a bunch of horses to Hollywood from Oklahoma. He managed to turn that into a job as a horse wrangler and stuntman for the movie companies until, as luck would have it, he wound up being in the right place at the right time.

In 1948, Director John Ford hired Johnson for stunt work on the film Fort Apache. One day during production, some horses pulling a wagon stampeded, taking three men along for the ride. Johnson, who was sitting on a nearby horse, rode after the runaway wagon and managed to stop it, saving the wagon and the men. Director Ford told Johnson that he'd reward him for his heroics and called him into his office. Johnson had apparently been expecting a small role or even a speaking part in a future film was shocked when Ford handed him a 7-year contract as a full-time actor. And his abilities were in great demand as many of the western actors at the time really weren't all that great as horsemen. He often rode as stunt double for actors like John Wayne, James Stewart and Randolph Scott.

Here he is doing some dangerous stunt-riding alongside actor Harry Carey Jr. in the 1950 classic Rio Grande. Notice that this was actually done by the actors in front of the cameras--no fake horses or stunt men and close-ups that pretended to show the actors riding--they really did this.


Here's Ben Johnson in that same movie showing us how to use a horse for cover to engage pursuing indians.



Ben Johnson kept right on working until he died in 1996, playing over 100 different roles in the movies and on TV.

Remember the store owner who gave the Wolverines his daughters in Red Dawn in 1984? That was Ben Johnson.

2 comments:

  1. Ben Johnson was the real deal.

    Loved him in Shane.

    ReplyDelete