Harry Carey, Jr., character actor for John Ford was 91

harry-carey-jr-rifleman.jpgThe son of cowboy star Harry Carey was born at his father's horse ranch near Saugus and went on to ride in the westerns directed by family pal John Ford and act in many other films and TV shows. Carey Jr.'s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, placed in 1960, is at 6363 Vine Street, not far from his father's star.

Through Ford, Harry Carey Jr., also was part of an exclusive San Fernando Valley club of Hollywood men that's now mostly forgotten. First, from the LA Times obituary.

Carey, whose career spanned more than 50 years and included such Ford classics as "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "The Searchers," died of natural causes in Santa Barbara, said Melinda Carey, a daughter.


"In recent years, he became kind of the living historian of the modern era," film critic Leonard Maltin told The Times on Friday. "He wrote a very good book, 'Company of Heroes,' and kept working into his 80s.

"He would get hired on films by young directors who just wanted to work with him, to be one step away from the legends," Maltin said. "Some hired him to just hear his stories between takes."

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The son of silent-film western star Harry Carey Sr. and his actress wife, Olive, Carey made more than 100 films. They included "Red River," "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef," "Big Jake," "Cahill U.S. Marshal," "Nickelodeon," "The Long Riders," "Mask" and "The Whales of August". In one of his final films, 1993's "Tombstone," he played a marshal who gets shot down.

The red-haired, boyishly handsome Carey lacked the screen-dominating star quality of his longtime pal, John Wayne, with whom he appeared in nearly a dozen films. Instead, Carey made his mark as a character actor whose work in westerns bore an authenticity unmatched by most actors: He was considered one of Hollywood's best horsemen.

Also there's this little slice of Hollywood and Valleywood lore.

During World War II, Carey served in a unit Ford formed and commanded, the Field Photographic Reserve, which shot films for the Navy and the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA) and whose members included many Hollywood figures, among them writers Garson Kanin and Budd Schulberg. John Wayne, who starred in Ford's Oscar winner "Stagecoach" before the war, tried to get in but never was accepted.

After the war, Ford established the Field Photo Memorial Farm on acreage in Reseda bought from a Columbia Studios executive. The farm became part clubhouse where Ford and his Valleywood buddies could drink together and talk about the war, and part shrine to the members of the unit who didn't make it back. Ford displayed the documentary Oscars for "Battle of Midway" and "December 7th" at the farm, which featured a bar, pool, chapel, parade grounds and a master bedroom reserved for Gen. William Donovan, founder of the OSS.

The Field Photo Farm became the scene of charity events and family socials at Christmas where Santa Claus would be played by big-bodied Hollywood figures such as Burl Ives or Andy Devine, and Jimmy Stewart would play "Jingle Bells" on the accordion while riding atop a stagecoach delivering presents. The coach and horses came from Valleywood's famed Fat Jones stables, which supplied the westerns.

When Harry Carey, Sr. died in 1947, after years of estrangement from Ford, the farm hosted an elaborate funeral. His body lay in state in the chapel for two days, with a uniformed honor guard and, out front, Carey's horse Sunny. Ford, Wayne and actors Ward Bond and Spencer Tracy acted as pallbearers. It was after the funeral that the son, previously known as Henry "Dobe" Carey, began to be billed as Harry Carey, Jr., on the insistence of Ford and Wayne, according to author Tag Gallagher in "John Ford: The Man and his Films."

Nostalgia for the war years began to lose it appeal as the men got older. Fewer came to the farm. In his memoir, "Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company," Carey Jr. wrote that he once complained to Ford that his 13-button pants and sailor hat were starting to look silly. When Carey suggested that he had grown out of his uniform, Ford snapped "Rent one!’" As the Field Photo Farm began to see more funerals (including Ward Bond's in 1960) than fun, Ford sold off half of the acreage. In 1965 the grounds were sold to a developer for $300,000 that was reportedly donated to the Motion Picture and Television Country Home in Woodland Hills, which also received the chapel.

Today there is a tract of suburban homes on John Ford's old Field Photo Farm at 18201 Calvert Street.

Photo: Carey in an episode of "The Rifleman" TV series.


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