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Richard Farnsworth

Richard Farnsworth

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Also Known As: Dick Farnsworth, Richard W Farnsworth Died: October 6, 2000
Born: September 1, 1920 Cause of Death: self-inflicted gunshot wound
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA Profession: actor, stuntman, stunt coordinator, rodeo performer, cowboy

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Possessing a crinkly yet boyish face and sparkling blue eyes, quintessential cowboy Richard Farnsworth began working as a stuntman and extra in the movie industry during the late 1930s. After forty years of relative anonymity, the ultimate late bloomer matured into one of Hollywood's archetypal aging country gentleman. Already making his living as a rodeo performer when he answered a casting call for 500 Mongolian horsemen, the Los Angeles native subsequently made his film debut as a stunt rider in "The Adventures of Marco Polo" (1938), starring Gary Cooper. Farnsworth continued on the rodeo circuit for another decade before concentrating exclusively on films, beginning with Howard Hawks' "Red River" (1948) and eventually appearing as a stuntman in more than 300 films. Some of his more notable feats included changing horses on the run in "The Pony Express" (1953) with Charlton Heston, driving a chariot in Cecil B DeMille's 1956 remake of "The Ten Commandments", doubling for Henry Fonda in Anthony Mann's "The Tin Star" (1957), and riding and fighting as a gladiator in Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" (1960), not to mention numerous exploits for Western TV series like "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok"...

Possessing a crinkly yet boyish face and sparkling blue eyes, quintessential cowboy Richard Farnsworth began working as a stuntman and extra in the movie industry during the late 1930s. After forty years of relative anonymity, the ultimate late bloomer matured into one of Hollywood's archetypal aging country gentleman. Already making his living as a rodeo performer when he answered a casting call for 500 Mongolian horsemen, the Los Angeles native subsequently made his film debut as a stunt rider in "The Adventures of Marco Polo" (1938), starring Gary Cooper. Farnsworth continued on the rodeo circuit for another decade before concentrating exclusively on films, beginning with Howard Hawks' "Red River" (1948) and eventually appearing as a stuntman in more than 300 films. Some of his more notable feats included changing horses on the run in "The Pony Express" (1953) with Charlton Heston, driving a chariot in Cecil B DeMille's 1956 remake of "The Ten Commandments", doubling for Henry Fonda in Anthony Mann's "The Tin Star" (1957), and riding and fighting as a gladiator in Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" (1960), not to mention numerous exploits for Western TV series like "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" (syndicated), "Zorro" (ABC), "Bonanza" and "High Chaparral" (both NBC).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Straight Story, The (1999) Alvin
2.
 Best Friends For Life (1998) Will
3.
 Lassie (1994) Len Collins
4.
 Getaway, The (1994) Slim
5.
 Highway to Hell (1992) Sam
6.
 Havana (1990) Professor
7.
 Two Jakes, The (1990) Earl Rawley
8.
 Misery (1990) Buster
9.
 Red Earth, White Earth (1989) Helmer Pehrsson
10.
 Desperado: The Outlaw Wars (1989) Sheriff Campbell
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Milestones close milestones

1930:
Learned to ride a horse at the age of 10 (date approximate)
1937:
By the age of 17, was making a living competing in rodeos; continued on rodeo circuit until 1946
:
Was working in a Hollywood stable that provided horse rentals for filmmakers when he answered a casting call for 500 Mongolian horseman
1938:
Feature debut as a stunt rider in "The Adventures of Marco Polo", starring Gary Cooper
:
Began working exclusively performing stunts, beginning with Howard Hawks' classic John Wayne Western "Red River" (1948)
:
Worked as a stuntman and stunt coordinator for four decades on over 300 films and many TV Westerns of the 1950s and 1960s
1961:
Co-founded the Stuntman's Association, which lobbied for and got better working conditions for its constituents
1966:
Credited as 'Dick Farnsworth' for his Medicine Man role in "Texas Across the River"
1975:
Appeared uncredited as John Wayne's deputy in "Rooster Cogburn"
1976:
Enjoyed first significant speaking role as the stagecoach driver in "The Dutchess and the Dirtwater Fox"
1977:
Retired from stunt work to concentrate on acting
1978:
Received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for "Comes a Horseman"
1982:
Starred in Phillip Borsos' "The Grey Fox", winning the Gold Mask of Taormina, in addition to a Genie Award for his efforts
1984:
Was part of the top-flight supporting cast of "The Natural"
1986:
Acted in acclaimed Canadian miniseries "Anne of Green Gables", which aired as part of PBS' "Wonderworks"
1987:
Starred as ex-cop in sci-fi Western "Space Rage"
1990:
Had roles in "Havana", "The Two Jakes" and "Misery"
1992:
Honored with the 1,961st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
1993:
Portrayed Craig T Nelson's ailing father in CBS' apocalyptic miniseries "The Fire Next Time"
1994:
Appeared out of nowhere at the end of Roger Donaldson's remake of "The Getaway", but his words of wisdom were not enough to save the abysmal mess
1994:
Had featured role as the grandfather in "Lassie"
1998:
Essayed the new love interest in Linda Lavin's life in "Best Friends for Life" (CBS)
1999:
Enjoyed one of his best screen roles as Alvin Straight, a man who rode a tractor over 250 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin in order to reconcile with his estranged brother, in David Lynch's based-on-fact "The Straight Story"; premiered at the Cannes Film Festival; received Best Actor Oscar nomination
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Notes

Farnsworth is the oldest male to be nominated in the Best Actor category.

From his 53 years in the movie business, Farnsworth had no trouble selecting the high point. "I think 'Comes a Horseman' was my proudest moment," he said. "I wasn't the lead, but it was the kind of role you get once in a lifetime. And I'm a cowboy, so I was really at home in that role. For my kind of film, I like to be out around livestock." --From publicity release for "Red Earth, White Earth", a 1989 CBS TV-movie

"The minute I read this script, I identified with this old character, and I fell in love with the story. Alvin is an example in fortitude and a lot of guts." --Richard Farnsworth quoted in production notes for 1999's "The Straight Story"

"On the day of the movie's one and only stunt, when Straight's lawn mower is barreling brakeless down a hill, the veteran stagecoach crasher gave the young stuntman hired to play his double some humble advice. "I told him, 'Don't be a hero. If this thing turns over on you, you got no chance.'" --From Los Angeles, October 1999.

Farnsworth lived on a ranch near Lincoln, New Mexico, population 65. According to the actor, the town, which hosted events like the annual Billy the Kid Days, hadn't changed much since the 80s--the 1880s.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Maggie Farnsworth. Married from 1947 until her death in 1985.
companion:
Jewel Van Valin. Survived him.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Missy Farnsworth. Born in 1948; survived him.
son:
Richard H Farnsworth. Stuntman. Born in 1949; survived him.

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