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Ben Johnson, Someone to remember


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"I'm hungry... "

 

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"Beans?"

 

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"Didn't nobody ever tell the army that they grew beef in this part of the country?"

 

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"One of you better ride up ahead and tell the Leftenant that that water hole I come by down there this mornin's all muddied up."

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"Heap big Indian signs...."

 

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My hero....

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JackF - Oh, those are nice! I love that classic front-hat-brim folded back look. I see he's eating out of a "tin can".

 

Ben, from what I understand, was a real working person, just doing a job (wrangling), when he started in films. So, he stayed a down to earth, regular person all his life - he already knew who he was and what his standards were to be in his life.

 

JackF - did he have a falling out with John Ford along the way?

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

> JackF - Oh, those are nice! I love that classic front-hat-brim folded back look. I see he's eating out of a "tin can".

 

I like him so much in these scenes - with the hat folded up like that, which makes him look kind of goofy, or without it. You can really see his Irish/Cherokee ancestry in some of these pictures.

 

I am actually so impressed with him because he opens that can in like two seconds, and I don't know how anyone could do that with a knife or those old fashioned can openers.

 

> Ben, from what I understand, was a real working person, just doing a job (wrangling), when he started in films. So, he stayed a down to earth, regular person all his life - he already knew who he was and what his standards were to be in his life.

 

Ben was 30 in 1948. He had been married for 7 years, and as you say, was a working man already by the time Ford "discovered" him. Although he has kind of a baby face in the early pictures, (She wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, Wagon Master, and Mighty Joe Young), there is a man behind the youthful complexion and those baby blue eyes. And he was a man who had lived and worked with cowboys from the age of eleven on, so I imagine there was no room for doubt about one's self or one's beliefs.

 

> JackF - did he have a falling out with John Ford along the way?

 

According to Harry Carey, Jr., two things happened between Ford and Johnson.

 

The first was during the shooting of *Rio Grande*. Ford always held court at the dinner table. The entire cast would be assembled along a long rectangular table, with Ford at one end, playing father. The big stars (and those closest to Pappy), like John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, would be placed on either side of him. The seating went down the table according to your rank in the film. Dobe (Harry Carey, Jr.) and Ben were somewhere pretty far down the line at the table.

 

Halfway through dinner, Ben was saying something innocuous to Dobe about the stunts of that day. I don't remember exactly what it was, but I think it was something like, "The Navajos were getting shot a lot but they weren't doing a lot of falling off of their horses." Now Ben would know about falling because he had been a stuntman for years at this point, and did all his own stunts for Ford. Anyway, just as Ben said this there was a lag in conversation at the head of the table. Pappy overheard his remark and asked loudly what he had said. Ford made a habit of singling out someone every once in a while and making them squirm. I don't think he meant it to be particularly personal, it was a kind of ritual in some respects. He tested those he cared about to see if they could take it. However, he could be very personal, and extremely hurtful and mean sometimes. He had never singled out Ben before.

 

Well, on this night he picked Ben. He asked him again loudly what he had said, and Ben repeated that the Navajo riders had not been falling much that day. Ford looked around in amazement and said in an even louder voice, (again, I am paraphrasing here), "Hey, stupid. You think you can direct the picture, go ahead ! ".

 

Well, there was deadly quiet as everyone looked at Ben. He sat there for a minute, then threw his napkin down and got up from the table. He walked up to Pappy (I think he had to go by him to leave the room). As he went by Ford's chair, he stopped and leaned quietly over to say something in his ear. Apparently, he told him what he could do with his movie, in no uncertain terms. Then he walked out.

 

Dobe said that after Ben had angrily left the table, Pappy had asked that someone please bring him back, he was only kidding. Ford realized he had gone too far. Dobe went back to see Ben after dinner and Ben was upset. He said, "I suppose I'm off the picture now." However, Ford continued the next day as if nothing had happened. Everything went smoothly on the shoot after that, with Ford taking up right where he had left off with Ben.

 

The other story seems to be the one that ended the Ford/Johnson relationship for some time. After Rio Grande, Ford was starting another picture, I don't remember which one, maybe The Sun Shines Bright. He got in touch with Ben's agent, who came over and asked for $1500.00 a day for Ben's salary. It was fair, but not what Ben and Dobe had been making for Ford. I am not sure about the details, but Ford felt jerked around by this agent, and he thought it was because Ben had put him up to it . He never hired him again until *Cheyenne Autumn*, years later. The unfortunate thing is that according to Dobe, Ben never actually knew why Ford stopped using him. Dobe only heard the agent story years later. He said that Ben wasn't the kind of guy to sit around wondering what happened, but that in later years, it seemed like it bothered him a little.

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It's sad to read about the falling out between Johnson and Ford, but as a number of actors who worked under him said in Directed by John Ford, he could be really mean, or at least appear really mean, to someone in the cast or crew for no particular reason except that it was someone's turn to be on his bad side.

 

They say that sometimes those with a gift for the artistic also tend to have a more temperamental side, and it seems like this was definitely the case with Ford. It was a great thing for his art, but evidently not so great for those who were working for him.

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> Dobe said that after Ben had angrily left the table, Pappy had asked that someone please bring him back, he was only kidding. Ford realized he had gone too far. Dobe went back to see Ben after dinner and Ben was upset. He said, "I suppose I'm off the picture now." However, Ford continued the next day as if nothing had happened. Everything went smoothly on the shoot after that, with Ford taking up right where he had left off with Ben.

 

Sounds like Ford was one of those people who never apologize, never make amends, just act like nothing ever happened. Destructive pride. No offense to Ford, but it must have driven those around him crazy.

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

> > Dobe said that after Ben had angrily left the table, Pappy had asked that someone please bring him back, he was only kidding. Ford realized he had gone too far. Dobe went back to see Ben after dinner and Ben was upset. He said, "I suppose I'm off the picture now." However, Ford continued the next day as if nothing had happened. Everything went smoothly on the shoot after that, with Ford taking up right where he had left off with Ben.

>

> Sounds like Ford was one of those people who never apologize, never make amends, just act like nothing ever happened. Destructive pride. No offense to Ford, but it must have driven those around him crazy.

 

I'm sure it did. It drives me crazy, reading about it, and I wasn't even there! However, those in his stock company always said they loved him dearly. I think in some cases, Ford did try to make amends, just not in an outward, straightforward way. And sometimes it was too late. He remembered everything, which speaks to his caring a great deal about his friends.

 

I actually feel sorry for him, because the person he always hurt the worst was himself. Wayne knew Pappy better than anyone, and took more abuse than anyone. And yet, he loved him like a father. Ford seems to me to have been desperately trying to hide his soft, more intellectual side. Not to make excuses for him, but I have always thought a lot of his behavior was due to his early family life. I really haven't read much on those early years, but I can't imagine how he got to be this way without some help. There are stories about Ford starting out in the business with his older brother Francis, that would curl your hair.... but whether they are true, I don't know. Perhaps someone else with more information will chime in and illuminate. I am out of my depth when trying to psychoanalyze someone that complicated, and I haven't got the expertise on this subject.....

 

I do think that Ben's reaction to Pappy on that day was unusual, because most of the people he picked on simply put up with it.

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

> Look! He's such a good boy he even takes his hat off when he's being arrested.

 

(giggle.) He is so cute! What is it he says in this scene? The marshal says "Come along, peaceful-like, now." and Ben says, "I'm always peaceful, officer."

 

Besides, it wasn't his fault. That guy he took out messed with his sister...

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>

> (giggle.) He is so cute! What is it he says in this scene? The marshal says "Come along, peaceful-like, now." and Ben says, "I'm always peaceful, officer."

>

> Besides, it wasn't his fault. That guy he took out messed with his sister...

 

Course not! Ben's an honorable guy. I love how hot under the collar Maureen

gets over how they're treating that "poor boy"! lol!

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What makes me laugh every time is John Wayne's reaction when someone tells him that Mrs. Yorke "has taken a special interest in the case". He has this big "Whaaat?! " but then I think Ben steals his horse and they all run outside.......

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

> What makes me laugh every time is John Wayne's reaction when someone tells him that Mrs. Yorke "has taken a special interest in the case". He has this big "Whaaat?! " but then I think Ben steals his horse and they all run outside.......

 

Lol!! Yes, she's not there what? Even one day? And she's already getting mixed up

in things and turning his world upside down. Love it.

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hee hee hee! I am liking Rio Grande so much more every time I watch it. Its growing on me. And it had My Gal is Purple.

 

Every time I see the scene where Maureen comes int the tent where Jeff is recuperating from his fight, and she kisses him three times.... I think poor Claude Jarman, Jr. looks like he is gonna pass out.

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

> hee hee hee! I am liking Rio Grande so much more every time I watch it. Its growing on me. And it had My Gal is Purple.

>

 

That song kills me. That whole shimmering scene with the river in the background---rivers

are another recurring motif in Ford films. John Wayne has one of his most emotional moments

in that scene, without a word.

 

> Every time I see the scene where Maureen comes int the tent where Jeff is recuperating from his fight, and she kisses him three times.... I think poor Claude Jarman, Jr. looks like he is gonna pass out.

 

I know! I bet he did as soon as Ford called "Cut! That is well."

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

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

> > hee hee hee! I am liking Rio Grande so much more every time I watch it. Its growing on me. And it had My Gal is Purple.

>

> That song kills me. That whole shimmering scene with the river in the background---rivers

> are another recurring motif in Ford films. John Wayne has one of his most emotional moments

> in that scene, without a word.

 

I agree. In fact, for me, that scene is so much more emotional than the Nathan Brittles gift scene in SWAYR, maybe because this one is there without fanfare or buildup. It is just Yorke alone, figuring out almost too late what's important.

 

> Every time I see the scene where Maureen comes int the tent where Jeff is recuperating from his fight, and she kisses him three times.... I think poor Claude Jarman, Jr. looks like he is gonna pass out.

>

> I know! I bet he did as soon as Ford called "Cut! That is well."

 

Maybe he messed it up on purpose so they would have to reshoot.... :)

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>

> I agree. In fact, for me, that scene is so much more emotional than the Nathan Brittles gift scene in SWAYR, maybe because this one is there without fanfare or buildup. It is just Yorke alone, figuring out almost too late what's important.

>

 

In the very next scene Kirby comes to Kathleen with flowers...another Fordesque motif. :x

 

 

>

> Maybe he messed it up on purpose so they would have to reshoot.... :)

 

:D I'm sure the other men in the cast were envious. Maureen is positively luminous in Rio Grande.

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

> In Dobe's book, he talks about how no one was allowed to kiss Maureen but John Wayne. He said he was very jealous of him. He said he never saw a more beautiful woman.

 

I forgot about that, ha! So Duke got some perks with the job.

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

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

> > In Dobe's book, he talks about how no one was allowed to kiss Maureen but John Wayne. He said he was very jealous of him. He said he never saw a more beautiful woman.

>

> I forgot about that, ha! So Duke got some perks with the job.

 

 

I guess Pappy made amends, after all.... :)

 

 

More hats. Notice how Jeff, Travis and Sandy's hats are all folded up in front:

 

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> More hats. Notice how Jeff, Travis and Sandy's hats are all folded up in front:

>

 

Sharp eye! As if to say these are the guys to pay attention to, distinguishing them

from the rest of the troop/cast.

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Cinemafan and Kathy got me looking at hats so closely. I never really noticed it before!

 

I was thinking about Dobe and Maureen O'Hara. As I recall, the only scene they really have together in Rio Grande is the washing scene, in which she is throwing wet laundry on him! He's her drying rack! Ha ha! Poor boy.....

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