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Ben Johnson, Someone to remember


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Ben Johnson is not someone who comes to mind first when asked who's your favorite, but he always gave a solid performance. He knew his way around horses and was cast in supporting roles in westerns. There is something about a man on a horse that intrigues me! John Ford and/or John Wayne knew their stuff whenever they had him in their films. He had authenticity, and he never lost his accent. His characters always added to the story line instead of getting in the way. I was so glad when he won his Academy Award for The Last Picture Show. I remember how humble and grateful he was when accepting it. Whatever you call him, a cowboy who could act, or an actor who played a cowboy, Ben Johson is someone worth remembering. Who else remembers this cowboy with a big smile?

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Count me as one of his biggest admirers. I particularly enjoyed him in Wagon Master

and feel he added a enormous degree of authenticity to any western he appeared in. I

can never get enough of watching him ride a horse flat out!

 

benjohnson.jpg

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42-16078425.jpg?size=67&uid={CF7FAF81-CA45-4C19-A356-88AAC2EDBC98}

 

It's always great when movie fans take notice of the "less famous" actors who helped give life to so many great characters. The presence of someone like Ben Johnson in any part, large or small, adds infinitely to any movie. Someone already mentioned "Wagon Master", and there are many other westerns.

 

Sad to say, the first time I watched "The Last Picture Show", I didn't really know who he was. I'm glad I know now.

 

Message was edited by: route66

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Great screen caps!!

 

Ben Johnson is one of my favorite actors. And he was a far superior horseman than either John Wayne or John Ford. He once remarked that he "had come to Hollywood in a carload of horses".

 

And he's in some of my favorite films....

 

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

Rio Grande

Wagon Master

Shane

The Wild Bunch

Junior Bonner

Chisum

The Last Picture Show

Bite the Bullet

Breakheart Pass

 

Some info I grabbed online....hope you all don't mind.

 

Howard Hughes had purchased some horses from his father's ranch in Oklahoma for Hughes' feature film "The Outlaw" with Jane Russell and her marvelous upper chest.

 

Hughes went on to hire Johnson to handle the wrangling chores on his film on location in Arizona. Later Hughes had Johnson bring the horses to Hollywood and after this experience, Johnson was hired by director David Howard to handle the wrangler duties on his film "The Fighting Gringo". He also worked as a stunt man on this film, thus beginning his long career as a Hollywood stuntman.

 

It was during the forties that director John Ford became aware of Johnson through his stunt work and hired Johnson for his next film "Fort Apache" as a wrangler and stunt double for Henry Fonda. During filming of a scene involving a team of horses pulling a wagon, the team got away and stampeded. Johnson just happened to be sitting around on another horse and immediately took off after the stampeding horses. He got them to stop and in the process saved the three men who were on the wagon. Ford promised Johnson that he would be rewarded for what he had done. Johnson thought another doubling job would be in his future. Instead, Ford decided to offer Johnson a seven-year contract.

 

His first credited role was in 3 Godfathers, then Ford suggested him for 1949's Mighty Joe Young. Ford went on to cast him in three of his cavalry films, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande.

 

The rest is history.....

 

In 1971, Johnson won a well-deserved Best Supporting Acting Oscar for his performance as the theater operator, 'Sam the Lion' in Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show".

 

He also managed to co-star in four Sam Pechinpah films, including the very violent "The Wild Bunch". He was also in one of my favorite John Wayne westerns "Chisum". His role was actually more than just your regular supporting role. And boy did he take advantage of it with great lines of dialogue.

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> {quote:title=fxreyman wrote:}{quote}

> Howard Hughes had purchased some horses from his father's ranch in Oklahoma for Hughes' feature film "The Outlaw" with Jane Russell and her marvelous upper chest.

>

 

sure is good to hear jane russell continues to be apprciated in such a non-sexist manner :P

 

glad you mentioned 'shane', tho, it is one of my favrites with ben johnson in it

 

9464228_tml.jpg

 

do you remember who said he was the better horseman than wayne or ford? maybe he was just tootin' his own horn ;)

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Hey Rey,

 

I believe he was a rodeo rider as well before making his way to Hollywood. His horsemanship in *Yellow Ribbon* is one of the great things about that film but it is his relationship with Wayne in that film that always gets my attention. Brittles may be passing command of the troops to Parnell and Cohill but it is Johnson' s Tyree that is most like Brittles and will likely fill his boots in the years to come.

 

I've been a big fan of Johnson's for many, many years. His turn as Sam the Lion in *Last Picture Show* is very moving and he didn't want to do the role. Bogdanovich had to appeal to Ford to get Johnson to agree. Johnson was worried that with the salty language and brief nudity in *Picture Show* that his mother wouldn't enjoy the movie.

 

But his remembrance at the horse tank when he talking to Timothy Bottoms is one of the best scenes in American film. He was up against Richard Jaeckle in *Sometimes a Great Notion* for the Oscar that year. Both gave tremendous, memorable performances and I often wish they had tied for the award because they were both terrific in their very different roles.

 

He's in a couple of documentaries. One on Sam Peckinpah that airs regularly on the Encore Western channel and another one *Golden Boots, Silver Spurs* about B-westerns, that I have never seen but have heard good things about.

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just made a list of all upcomin ben johnson movies on tcm:

 

Fort Apache

Mar 07, 01:30PM

 

Shane

Apr 04, 06:00PM

 

She Wore A Yellow Ribbon

Apr 15, 12:00AM

 

Junior Bonner

May 17, 08:00PM

 

Shane

May 27, 10:00PM

 

 

i think 'junior bonner' is the only one i haven't seen.

 

 

I also found this in his tcm bio:

*Johnson was an active supporter of children's charities. The Ben Johnson Pro-Celebrity Rodeo raises money for children's organizations in eight cities. He also appeared regularly at various youth benefits.*

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I'm one of Ben Johnson's legions of fans here in Texas! I think he also had a good role in the

oft-maligned *The Undefeated* with John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Lee Meriwether, Merlin Olsen, and Roman Gabriel, in Victor McLaglen's film, which also showcased Paul Fix, Dub Taylor, Big John Hamilton, Harry Carey, Jr., Bruce Cabot, Pedro Armendariz, James McEachin, Henry Beckman, Royal Dano, and John Agar!

 

Johnson had one of those sage-o-the-prairie roles with salty wisdom and a twinkle in his eye.

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I have always enjoyed Ben Johnson in just about any film I have seen him in... (I really like him for his voice...but also think he just has the most hones looking smile too)

 

My absolute favorite film for him though is not a western... (though he DOES play a cowboy sort of character) *Mighty Joe Young*.

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Terrific actor and seemingly one of the nicest guys around. He worked very late in life too. A small but interesting role had him as owner of the California Angels in Disney's "Angels In The Outfield." I though it was a great inside joke to have one cowboy legend play another, Gene Autry. (If you didn't know Autry owned the Angels for a long time,)

 

A real cowboy who added a great deal from everything from the great Ford pictures to some made-for-tv westerns later on,

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  • 3 months later...

Gasp! There is a Ben Johnson thread ?! I have to get out and about here more often. Holy smokes, this is the place for me.

 

I have been on a Ben Johnson tear, watching every movie of his I can find. One of these days I will find a copy of "Third Cowboy on the Right", a documentary about this incredible cowboy-turned-actor.

 

He is the best natural actor I've ever seen. I wonder what might have happened had he been taken under someone's wing and groomed for stardom like John Wayne was. I suspect he would've hated it....My favorite thing about Ol' Ben is his voice, so soothing and relaxed. He is just a country boy, no pretention, not full of himself, but very manly.

 

He is a real hero to me, and as someone has already pointed out, he saved 3 people from what is termed "a wagon accident" in most of his biographies on the net. He was married to the same woman for 54 years, always taking care to protect her when she was near the action and foul language of a movie set. He was known to walk up to rowdies, mentioning quietly that his wife was nearby, and then suggest that they stop the cussing or he would have to take them out. I have no doubt he could do it, too. He was a gentle man, but I would hate to have been on the wrong side of him.

 

He has a way of looking down when he speaks that is very effective. It gives weight to his words, and when he looks up again, it's like the the sun came out. It makes me want to watch him.

 

He is the only actor I can think of who, in his fight scenes, actually gets looser and more relaxed before the fight. I believe this was because he enjoyed the action more than saying the lines, rather than some deep motivation, but it works. In *Shane*, watch his demeanor closely in his first scene with Shane, the one where he dumps his drink down Alan Ladd's front. He becomes deadly calm, his arms swing casually at his sides as he walks up to the bar where Shane is ordering a "sody pop". He leans lazily on the bar and looks Shane up and down. He picks his thumb. All the while telling Shane that he isn't a man. Whew! I would have been terrified of him!

 

In the bar fight, Ben draws himself up to full height (and this would be 6'3"). He hitches his thumbs in his belt, and tells Shane he is not allowed in the bar with the "Men". Now I know that Alan Ladd was only 5'5", so I watched this scene closely. It is set up so that Ladd is filmed behind a table, or from the waist up almost all the time. They must have built platforms or "apple boxes" for Ladd to stand on, so that he would be roughly the same height as Ben, then covered his feet with shots of the table. He is always behind a table. It is fascinating! The first time Shane connects, Johnson goes flying through the saloon doors, into the other room and falls on the floor against the counter..... he propels himself backwards a good ten feet. Now imagine that you have to do that without ever being hit..... Ladd ducks once in a while, but Johnson is all over the place! He really actually carries that whole fight - throwing vicious punches, knocking over bar glasses, throwing himself up over the bar backwards, then dropping to the ground as Shane finishes him off. It is great fun to watch it with all this in mind.

 

I have a lot of screen captures of Ben, and would like to post some later. Thanks for starting this thread, you made my day!

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He is a real hero to me, and as someone has already pointed out, he saved 3 people from what is termed "a wagon accident" in most of his biographies on the net. He was married to the same woman for 54 years, always taking care to protect her when she was near the action and foul language of a movie set. He was known to walk up to rowdies, mentioning quietly that his wife was nearby, and then suggest that they stop the cussing or he would have to take them out. I have no doubt he could do it, too. He was a gentle man, but I would hate to have been on the wrong side of him.

 

Wow...now I think I'm in love with him.

 

I enjoyed your blow-by-blow of the "Shane" fight sequence, Wendy. When you dig into

westerns you really dig in, don't you girl? :D

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I enjoyed your blow-by-blow of the "Shane" fight sequence, Wendy. When you dig into

westerns you really dig in, don't you girl? :D

 

I dig Ben, that's why I dug in so deep. I just wanted to watch him roll around on the floor. Is it getting hot in here? Or is it me?

 

Wow...now I think I'm in love with him.

 

You stay away from my man! I asked Bronxie the other day how long you can have a torrid love affair with a man who's been dead for 13 years and never met you. She said about nine years.....

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> {quote:title=JackFavell wrote:}{quote}

> I have a lot of screen captures of Ben, and would like to post some later. Thanks for starting this thread, you made my day!

 

This thread could definitely use more screencaps, Wendy. They will definitely be very much appreciated!

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Oh rats. I don't get Encore Westerns!

 

I actually can watch *War Drums* on Netflix "watch instantly" and I have a few times. It's not the greatest movie, with Lex flaring his nostrils all over the place, but it's enjoyable. I would have told Lex to go jump in the lake, I am running off with sweet Ben......

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