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Also Known As: Francis Benjamin Johnson Died: April 8, 1996
Born: June 13, 1918 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Foreacre, Oklahoma, USA Profession: actor, stuntman, riding double, rodeo performer, rancher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

"Having Ben Johnson was having the real thing," Peter Bogdanovich once said of the actor who won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Sam 'the Lion' in the director's memorable "The Last Picture Show" (1971). Indeed, for half a century Johnson was the "real thing" as far as Hollywood was concerned, a rancher and rodeo cowboy who accidentally drifted into acting and proved himself a highly capable actor of warmth and grit, believably embodying a vision of the American West.

"Having Ben Johnson was having the real thing," Peter Bogdanovich once said of the actor who won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Sam 'the Lion' in the director's memorable "The Last Picture Show" (1971). Indeed, for half a century Johnson was the "real thing" as far as Hollywood was concerned, a rancher and rodeo cowboy who accidentally drifted into acting and proved himself a highly capable actor of warmth and grit, believably embodying a vision of the American West.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Last Ride, The (1989) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Evening Star, The (1996) Arthur Cotton
2.
 Ruby Jean and Joe (1996) Big Man
4.
 Bonanza: Under Attack (1995) Bronc Evans
6.
 Angels in the Outfield (1994) Hank Murphy
7.
 Bonanza: The Return (1993) Bronc Evans
8.
 Radio Flyer (1992) Geronimo Bill
9.
 My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (1991) Jessie Dalton
10.
 Chase, The (1991) John Laurienti
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Went to schools in Ramona and Bartlesville, OK
:
Worked as a rancher and performed in rodeos
1941:
Was hired to deliver a herd of horses to the location shooting of the Western feature, "The Outlaw" (released 1943), at the time being directed by Howard Hawks but later taken over by producer Howard Hughes; ended up working as a stuntman and a wrangler
:
Occasionally did other work as a stuntman, wrangler and riding double for actors including James Stewart and Joel McCrea during the 1940s
1945:
Made film debut in a bit part in the Abbott and Costello comedy, "The Naughty Nineties"
1948:
Reputedly saved the lives of several crew members during a wagon accident while working on "Fort Apache"; came to the attention of John Ford, who placed him under personal contract
1948:
Played first major acting role in "Three Godfathers", directed by Ford; film also marked first of six acting appearances with John Wayne and the first of eight with Harry Carey, Jr.
1949:
First leading role in a feature, "Mighty Joe Young"
1952:
Last leading role for a number of years, "Wild Stallion"
1953:
Last film for three years, "Shane"; concentrated for a time on his rodeo career; became RCA world champion team roper
1956:
Returned to features in "Rebel in Town"
:
Played leads again in "Fort Bowie" (1958) and "Tomboy and the Champ" (1961)
1964:
Last film with director John Ford, "Cheyenne Autumn"
1964:
First film with director Sam Peckinpah, "Major Dundee"
1965:
First film with director Andrew V. McLaglen, "The Rare Breed"
1966:
Played Sleeve on the ABC Western drama series, "The Monroes"
1973:
Made TV-movie debut in an adaptation of John Steinbeck's novella, "The Red Pony"
1977:
Received top billing in both "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" and "Grayeagle"
1979:
First TV miniseries, "The Sacketts"
1989:
Played a leading role in a short film about an aging cowboy, "The Last Ride"
1992:
Appeared on the Arts & Entertainment network's western documentary miniseries, "Legends of the American West"
1993:
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
1996:
Final TV-movie, Showtime's "Ruby Jean and Joe"
1996:
Final screen appearance, "Evening Star"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Johnson was an active supporter of children's charities. The Ben Johnson Pro-Celebrity Rodeo raises money for children's organizations in eight cities. He also appeared regularly at various youth benefits.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Carol Elaine Johnson. Married from August 31, 1941 until her death in 1994.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Benjamin John Johnson. Rodeo cowboy. Was at one time the world champion rodeo steer roper; an annual rodeo is held in Pawhuska, Oklahoma in his memory.
mother:
Ollie Susan Johnson. Survived him.

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