There have been a lot of western stars but only one was the real thing. Ben Johnson was a real ranch hand and rodeo cowboy. He was the son of a rancher from Oklahoma.
He was also an Oscar winning actor and a PRCA Team Roping Champion. He always enjoyed his roles in westerns because he said, "I always got to play Ben Johnson."
He was first noticed by John Ford because of his genuine skills as a horseman. He had brought a herd of horses to Hollywood from Oklahoma for a Howard Hughes film. While there he did stunt scenes for big western stars like John Wayne and others. He once turned down a role in a western because he refused to use coarse profanity. They edited out the cuss words so he would perform.
He also owned a horse breeding farm. He was married once from 1941 to 1974 to Carol Jones who was the daughter of a horse wrangler. Ben died at 77 in 1996 while visiting his mother in Mesa, Arizona in a retirement community where they both lived.
Ben Johnson's estimated worth at his death was a one hundred million dollars. He wasn't impressed by the Hollywood glamour. He was in over ninety movies that can be counted because early in his career he wasn't credited as being a stuntman or wrangler. He also had an impressive list of television appearances.
Some of my favorite movies starring Ben Johnson are, Nevada, Fort Apache, Red River, She wore a yellow ribbon, Rio Grande, Shane and Chisum.