JOHNSON, Ben

(1918–1996)
   Born in Oklahoma, Ben Johnson worked on ranches and wrangled horses before coming to Hollywood. There, he first served a long apprenticeship as a stuntman before turning actor as the affable Sergeant Tyree in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon(1949), a role he reprised in another of John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy, Rio Grande (1950). In both cases, Johnson is the bright young enlisted man who was formerly a member of the Confederate army and now serves with no bitterness at all in the Union Cavalry fighting Indians.
   Johnson’s career in Westerns followed the trend of the genre throughout the last half of the 20th century. He played supporting roles in other classic Westerns such as Shane (1953) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964), but as the classic Westerns changed, Johnson changed as well. By 1968 he was playing with Clint Eastwood in Hang ’em High, and he was one of the bunch in The Wild Bunch (1969). His last Western film was the forgettable The Outlaws: Legend of O. B. Taggart (1994), opposite Mickey Rooney. Throughout his career, Johnson regularly played in television Westerns and made-for-television Western movies. His best performance was in the modern Western The Last Picture Show (1971), for which he won an Oscar for best supporting actor.
   See also STUNTS.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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