Actor Harry Carey Jr. dies at 91

Star of Westerns once lived in Durango area

LOS ANGELES – Harry Carey Jr., a character actor and former Durango-area resident, died Thursday, Dec. 27 at age 91.

Carey lived in the Durango area from 1989 to ’93. His career spanned more than 50 years and included such John Ford classics as “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “The Searchers” and “The Long Gray Line.” Later in life, he appeared in the movies “Gremlins” and “Back to the Future Part III.”

Other notable acting gigs include Westerns such as “3 Godfathers” and “Wagon Master,” as well as numerous episodes of television series such as “Gunsmoke,” “Have Gun will Travel” and even the movie “Exorcist III” and the series “Knightrider” and “The Streets of San Francisco.”

Carey was born on his actor-father’s Santa Clarita Valley, Calif., ranch in what became the town of Saugus in northern Los Angeles County.

The town was near the better-known cities of Newhall and Valencia which, along with Canyon Country, merged into one town called Santa Clarita. Newhall is home to a ranch once owned by Western silent film star William S. Hart and became famous, in part, for having its own herd of buffalo.

Saugus also hosted a cowboy gathering, now called the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, at late singing cowboy Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio.

Because of that area’s ruggedness, studio crews filmed many scenes for Western films there, as well as other movies and television series such as “The Twilight Zone.”

Carey worked for famed director John Ford in a number of films. He recounted his adventures with the director in his 1994 memoir, Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company.

Carey said that while he lacked the leading-man stature of longtime friend and co-star John Wayne, Carey’s boyish looks and horse-riding skills earned him roles in many of Ford’s films.

He and fellow character Ben Johnson famously learned to stand simultaneously on two galloping horses – a trick known as roman riding – for the 1950 film “Rio Grande” starring Wayne.

“My journey has been that of a character actor,” he wrote in his memoir. “I’ve worked with the great and the not-so-great. But mostly I’ve worked with men and women who loved their profession, and who, like me, had kids to raise and houses to pay for.”

Carey was the son of silent-film Western star Harry Carey Sr. and actress Olive Carey. He was born May 16, 1921, on his family’s ranch and graduated from Hollywood’s Black-Foxe Military Institute.

During World War II, he served in the Navy in-theater and then was posted stateside and worked with Ford on films for the Navy.

A Bayfield artist created a sculpture of Carey some years ago.

He is survived by his wife, a son, two daughters, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Herald Staff Writer Robert Galin contributed to this report.