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Movie cowboy Harry Carey Jr. dies at 91

By Greg Goodsell
December 31st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

He wasn't a household name, but anyone who watched American films knew the face. Veteran cowboy star Harry Carey has died at the age of 91. He died of natural causes in a hospice, surrounded by his family.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) Carey was a member of John Ford's stock company of actors and played in a number of the director's classic Westerns.

The son of silent movie superstar Harry Carey and actress Olive Carey, he performed in roughly 100 movies and on numerous TV shows. Tall and with a rough-hewn look, Carey was one of Hollywood's most prolific character actors from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Carey lent his talents to director John Ford's greatest Westerns, including "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949), "Rio Grande" (1950) and "The Searchers" (1956). He also appeared for the director in "Wagon Master" (1950), "The Long Gray Line" (1955) as Dwight Eisenhower, "Two Rode Together" (1961) with James Stewart and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). Carey appeared in 11 Ford films and about 50 Westerns.

Carey's very first film with Ford was the John Wayne vehicle "3 Godfathers" (1948), which Ford dedicated to Harry Carey, the director's first patron and star. Carey was a member of a cadre of actors informally known as the John Ford Stock Company.

"Company of Heroes, My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company," was the title of his 1996 autobiography.

He appeared with John Wayne in a number of other movies, including "Red River" (1948), "Island in the Sky" (1953), "Rio Bravo" (1959), "The Undefeated" (1969), "Big Jake" (1971) and "Cahill U.S. Marshal" (1973). He played opposite James Arness in "Gun the Man Down" (1956) and in "Escort West" (1958) with Victor Mature, two films produced by Wayne.

On TV, he co-starred with fellow "Rio Grande" star Ben Johnson in "Wild Times," a miniseries about a Wild West show.

Carey remained in high demand throughout the Eighties. In later years, Carey played the leader of a group of bikers in "Mask" (1985). During that period, he also appeared in Walter Hill's "The Long Riders" (1980) as well as in "Endangered Species" (1982).

Harry Carey Jr. was in 1921, on a ranch in Saugus, California, which his father owned to distance the family from Hollywood. Originally he wanted to pursue a career as a singer, but those plans were put on hold when he entered the Navy and served for six years.

He planned on entering the cattle business but was cast by producer as a cowboy in a 1946 Western titled "Rolling Home." He won a part the next year in Raoul Walsh's "Pursued," and Wayne suggested him to Howard Hawks for a role in "Red River." Wayne also recommended him to Ford.

Carey was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 2003. He is survived by a son, two daughters, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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