Summary

Birth:
13 Jun 1918 1
Foraker, OK 2
Death:
08 Apr 1996 1
Mesa AZ 2
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Ben Johnson 1
Also known as:
Son 2
Birth:
13 Jun 1918 1
Foraker, OK 2
Death:
08 Apr 1996 1
Mesa AZ 2
Residence:
Last Residence: Mesa, AZ 1
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Social Security:
Social Security Number: ***-**-8219 1

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Stories

Of his acting ability, Ben Johnson, Jr., often said, "Everybody in town's a better actor than I am, but none of them can play Ben Johnson." Rodeo cowboy, Hollywood stunt man, actor, and rancher, Ben Johnson was born June 13, 1919, near Foraker, Oklahoma. His father, Ben Johnson, Sr., was a notedOsage County rancher and rodeo champion. The younger Johnson traveled the rodeo circuit in the 1940s and 1950s and in 1953 captured the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Team Roping Championship. In 1941 he married Carol E. Jones.

Ben Johnson, Jr., found work at a Hollywood studio in 1943 as a horse wrangler and later became a stunt man. He acted in front of the camera for the first time (uncredited) in 1945 in Abbott and Costello's Naughty Nineties.Mighty Joe Young, a 1949 special-effects film in which he appeared, still remains popular.

Better roles followed, many in John Ford-directed films starring John Wayne. Among the more notable were Three Godfathers(1949), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Wagonmaster (1950). Johnson also appeared briefly (uncredited) in the movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (1955) and later in One-Eyed Jacks(1961) and The Wild Bunch (1969). Johnson's 1971 portrayal of Sam the Lion in The Last Picture Show brought him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 1972 he appeared briefly in The Getaway (with Steve McQueen), written by fellow Oklahoman Jim Thompson. In the 1980s and 1990s Johnson acted in television and films intermittently, his performances including a role in My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (1991), filmed in Guthrie. His final screen appearance came in 1994.

While ranching in California and Arizona, he played a major role in raising money for Children's Hospital of Oklahoma and Children's Medical Research, Inc., through his sponsorship the Ben Johnson Pro Celebrity Team Roping and Penning, held every year since 1985 at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Ben Johnson, Jr., died April 8, 1996, in Mesa, Arizona.


Actor. He is best remembered for his role of Sam the Lion in "The Last Picture Show" (1971), for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Born in Foraker, Oklahoma, his father, Ben Johnson, Senior, was a cattleman and rancher in Osage County, Oklahoma, as well as a champion rodeo steer roper. Naturally, young Ben would follow in the footsteps of his father, learning how to work a ranch and going on the rodeo circuit. Young Ben was soon a rodeo star in his own right. Both he and his father would earn Belt-Buckles together for rodeo team roping. In 1939, he made his first appearance in front of the camera, doing stunt work in the film, "The Fighting Gringo" (1939). In 1940, Producer Howard Hughes hired him to take a herd of horses to California, and to manage the horses upon arrival, for one of the films. As he considered the pay better in California, Ben decided to stick around (in Oklahoma he was paid $30 a month; Hughes paid him $300 a month). In 1941, he married Carol Elaine Jones, daughter of Western film star Buck Jones; although they would have no children, they remained together all their lives. He worked for several years as a stunt man, horse wrangler and film double for such notable stars as John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. He played Cavalryman Travis Tyree in both of John Wayne's Cavalry movies, "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949) and "Rio Grande" (1950). His big break in acting occurred when director John Ford gave him the starring role in Wagon Master (1950). Johnson would go on to play supporting roles in such films as "Shane" (1953), "Major Dundee" (1965), "The Wild Bunch" (1969), and "Chisum" (1970). When offered the role of Sam in "The Last Picture Show" (1971) for which he would win an Oscar, he first turned it down because he didn't believe in swearing or in nudity in films. His friend, Director John Ford, got him to change his mind, but only after Ben got permission to rewrite all of his scenes with the offensive words removed. In 1982, Ben was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, as well as earning a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994. Ben continued to find steady work in films, between continuing his ranching back in Mesa, Arizona. He died at his home in Mesa, Arizona, of an apparent heart attack, at the age of 77

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