I was researching something completely unrelated this afternoon and stumbled upon a news article that made me sad….Particularly so because I did not catch it at the time it happened. On December 27, 2012, barely 4 months ago, another one of “those guys” passed away. If you recall from previous entries here, “those guys” are talented, recognizable and hugely popular character actors that make classic films so much fun to watch.
Harry Carey Jr was a noted and very respected character actor who came from a long line of talented performers. His grandfather was Fuller Golden, a legendary stage and vaudeville performer of the late 19th century. His father, Harry Carey Sr was also a stage entertainer and also a silent film era star. Harry came into the business naturally.
Born Henry George Carey Jr in 1921, Harry was nicknamed “Dobe” (short for Adobe) as a child because of his rare strawberry blond (ginger) hair color, a trademark look he maintained well into his advanced years. As a young man, Carey made friends with John Ford who was already a legendary director and through Ford he became friends with John Wayne. With Ford and Wayne, Carey appeared in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon & Rio Grande, the last 2 of Ford’s great Cavalry trilogy. He also appeared in 9 more films directed by Ford including, Cheyenne Autumn, Mr. Roberts and the legendary film the Searchers that re-paired him opposite John Wayne. In fact, Carey appeared with Wayne 4 times in his career. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Carey was a staple on television, having found a huge niche in the Western genre. He appeared on Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Have Gun Will Travel, Wagon Train and even had a regular role in the Walt Disney show, Spin & Marty. Carey is one of those legendary golden age figures you see in films and go, “I know that guy!”.
In his later years, Carey joined a long cast of western greats who made comeback cameos well into their advanced years. Most of you might remember him as the aged Marshal of Tombstone in the great film Tombstone starring Kurt Russell, Powers Boothe, Michael Rooker, Bill Paxton and of course Val Kilmer. Carey is the town marshal cruelly gunned down by a stoned Curly Bill (Boothe) early on in the film. Carey married Marilyn Fix, the daughter of actor Paul Fix (known by most as the original doctor in the very first episode of star Trek, before Dee Kelly’s Doctor McCoy appeared.) They remained devoted to each other until Carey’s death just four short months ago. How I could have missed that particular bit of news escapes me but it made me very sad. During his life Carey was friends with greats like John Ford, John Wayne, Ken Curtis (Festus on Gunsmoke) and legendary western actor Ben Johnson. As an aside, a book I have now added to my Kindle que, Carey wrote a book, published in 1994. Called, “A Company of Heroes – My Life As An Actor in the John Ford Stock Company”, the book detailed his life working on 11 major motion pictures for the legendary director and his recollections of those experiences.
This week I salute Harry Carey Jr. If you happen to come across one of his films give it a viewing. Start with She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) If not that then by all means find one of the more than 100 other films he appeared in.