Richard Farnsworth

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Richard Farnsworth
Straightstory.jpg
Farnsworth in The Straight Story, his final role.
Born(1920-09-01)September 1, 1920
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 6, 2000(2000-10-06) (aged 80)
Lincoln, New Mexico, U.S.
Cause of death
Suicide
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Los Angeles, California 34°08′42″N 118°19′12″E / 34.145°N 118.320°E / 34.145; 118.320
ResidenceLincoln, New Mexico
OccupationActor
Years active1937–99
Known for
Home townLos Angeles
Spouse(s)Margaret Hill (1947–85; her death)
Children
  • Diamond Farnsworth (b. 1949)
  • Missy Farnsworth
 
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This article is about the American actor. For the English 17th-century Quaker, see Richard Farnsworth (Society of Friends). For the American politician from Maine, see Richard Farnsworth (politician).
Richard Farnsworth
Straightstory.jpg
Farnsworth in The Straight Story, his final role.
Born(1920-09-01)September 1, 1920
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 6, 2000(2000-10-06) (aged 80)
Lincoln, New Mexico, U.S.
Cause of death
Suicide
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Los Angeles, California 34°08′42″N 118°19′12″E / 34.145°N 118.320°E / 34.145; 118.320
ResidenceLincoln, New Mexico
OccupationActor
Years active1937–99
Known for
Home townLos Angeles
Spouse(s)Margaret Hill (1947–85; her death)
Children
  • Diamond Farnsworth (b. 1949)
  • Missy Farnsworth

Richard W. Farnsworth (September 1, 1920 – October 6, 2000) was an American actor and stuntman. His film career began in 1937; however, he achieved his greatest success for his performances in The Grey Fox (1982) and The Straight Story (1999), for which he received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Early life[edit]

Farnsworth was born in Los Angeles, California, to a housewife mother and an engineer father.[1] He was raised during the Great Depression. He lived with his aunt, mother, and two sisters in downtown Los Angeles after his father died when he was seven years old.

Career[edit]

He was working as a stable hand at a polo field in Los Angeles for six dollars a week when he was offered a chance to make seven dollars a day plus a box lunch as a stuntman. In 1937, when he was sixteen, he started by riding horses in films such as The Adventures of Marco Polo with Gary Cooper. He performed several horse-riding stunts in such films as the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races (1937) and Gunga Din (1939).

What differentiated Farnsworth from other western actors was his gradual transition into acting from stunt work. He made uncredited appearances in numerous films, including Gone with the Wind (1939), Red River (1948), The Wild One (1953), and The Ten Commandments (1956). He was on the set of Spartacus (1960) for eleven months. He laughed when he said he did not look like a gladiator but drove a chariot. However, it was not until 1963 that he finally received his first acting credit.

Farnsworth's acting career was largely in western films, although he did appear in the 1977 television miniseries Roots and the short-lived but critically acclaimed 1992 summer replacement The Boys of Twilight. He also appeared in television commercials. Farnsworth became well known in the Pacific Northwest for portraying the groundskeeper who saw the mythical "Artesians" in the 1980s Olympia Beer ad campaign. In 1979, Farnsworth was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Comes a Horseman. However, his breakthrough came when he played stagecoach robber Bill Miner in the 1982 Canadian film The Grey Fox, for which he won a Genie Award.

He appeared as a baseball coach in The Natural in 1984, and won a Gemini Award for his performance as Matthew Cuthbert in the 1985 Canadian miniseries Anne of Green Gables. Another of his prominent roles was as a suspicious sheriff in the film version of Stephen King's Misery (1990), a character that was created exclusively for the movie.

In 1999, Farnsworth was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for The Straight Story. When director David Lynch offered him the role, Farnsworth had no idea who he was. Farnsworth did not like violence or swearing, and Lynch assured him that there would be none of that in the movie. The lead role was a rarity for a man his age.

Farnsworth has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street. In 1997, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Farnsworth was the spokesman for the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium, an annual event in Ruidoso, New Mexico. He made a video with cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell called Buckaroo Bard. He also helped with the 'Last Great Cattle Drive of This Millennium' in 1999. Shortly before his death, he was presented with an award from the Governor of New Mexico for Excellence and Achievement in the Arts.[citation needed]

Personal life and death[edit]

Farnsworth was married to Margaret "Maggie" Hill (who died in 1985) for 38 years. They had two children, Diamond and Missy. He moved to Lincoln, New Mexico, where he owned a 60-acre (240,000 m2) ranch and was involved in the community and was well-liked.[citation needed]

Toward the end of his life, he met Jewely Van Valin, a stewardess 35 years his junior. Farnsworth and Van Valin started riding horses together, and later became engaged.[citation needed] Farnsworth was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in the early 1990s. He was eventually diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to walk. On October 6, 2000 Farnsworth committed suicide by shooting himself at his ranch.[2]

Filmography[edit]

Film
YearTitleRoleNotes
1937Day at the Races, AA Day at the RacesJockey (uncredited)
1938Adventures of Marco Polo, TheThe Adventures of Marco PoloMongol Warrior (uncredited)
1939Gunga DinBit Part (uncredited)
1939Gone with the WindSoldier (uncredited)
1943This Is the ArmySoldier (uncredited)
1948Red RiverDunston Rider (uncredited)
1948Paleface, TheThe PalefaceMinor Role (uncredited)
1949Mighty Joe YoungCowboy (uncredited)
1953ArenaCowboy (uncredited)
1953ArrowheadCavalryman (uncredited)
1953Wild One, TheThe Wild One(uncredited)
1955Violent Men, TheThe Violent MenAnchor Rider (uncredited)
1956Ten Commandments, TheThe Ten CommandmentsChariot Driver (uncredited)
1957Tin Star, TheThe Tin Star(uncredited)
1957Hard Man, TheThe Hard ManPosse Man (uncredited)
1960SpartacusSalt Mine Slave / Gladiator / Slave General (uncredited)
1963Jolly Genie, TheThe Jolly GenieThugShort film
1966Duel at DiabloWagon Driver #1 (uncredited)
1966Texas Across the RiverMedicine Man
1968Stalking Moon, TheThe Stalking Moon(uncredited)
1970Monte WalshCowboy
1972Cowboys, TheThe CowboysHenry Williams
1972Pocket MoneyMan (uncredited)
1972Ulzana's RaidTrooper
1972Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, TheThe Life and Times of Judge Roy BeanOutlaw
1973Soul of Nigger Charley, TheThe Soul of Nigger CharleyWalker
1973PapillonManhunter (uncredited)
1974Blazing SaddlesSheriff (uncredited)
1975Apple Dumpling Gang, TheThe Apple Dumpling GangMover (uncredited)
1976Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, TheThe Duchess and the Dirtwater FoxStagecoach Driver
1976Outlaw Josey Wales, TheThe Outlaw Josey WalesComanchero (uncredited)
1977Another Man, Another ChanceStagecoach Driver
1977RootsSlave Catcher
1978Comes a HorsemanDodgerNational Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor (tied with Robert Morley in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?)
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor (2nd place)
1980Tom HornJohn C. Coble
1980RuckusSheriff Jethro Pough
1980ResurrectionEsco
1981Legend of the Lone Ranger, TheThe Legend of the Lone RangerWild Bill Hickok
1982Grey Fox, TheThe Grey FoxBill MinerGenie Award for Best Performance by a Foreign Actor
London Film Critics Circle Award for Actor of the Year (tied with James Mason in The Shooting Party)
Taormina Film Fest: Golden Mask
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1982Waltz Across TexasFrank Walker
1983Independence DayEvan
1984Natural, TheThe NaturalRed Blow
1984RhinestoneNoah
1985Into the NightJack Caper
1985SylvesterFoster
1985Space RageColonel
1988River Pirates, TheThe River PiratesPercy
1990Two Jakes, TheThe Two JakesEarl Rawley
1990MiseryBuster
1990HavanaProfessor
1991Highway to HellSam
1994Getaway, TheThe GetawaySlim
1994LassieLen Collins
1999Straight Story, TheThe Straight StoryAlvin StraightFt. Lauderdale International Film Festival: Best Actor
Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated - Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor (2nd place)
Nominated - Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated - Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor (2nd place)
Television
YearTitleRoleNotes
1951Adventures of Kit Carson, TheThe Adventures of Kit CarsonHenchman (uncredited)Episode: "Fury at Red Gulch"
Episode: "The Desperate Sheriff"
1954Adventures of Kit Carson, TheThe Adventures of Kit CarsonArmy Wagon DriverEpisode: "The Gatling Gun"
1955Soldiers of FortuneGaucho (uncredited)Episode: "The General"
1956Zane Grey TheaterTrooperEpisode: "Star Over Texas"
1958Adventures of Wild Bill HickokButlerEpisode: "Jingles on the Jailroad"
1958Cimarron CityIra Youngman (uncredited)Episode: "Twelve Guns"
1959State TrooperCaleb SmithEpisode: "Lonely Valley"
1959Rebel, TheThe RebelTrooperEpisode: "Yellow Hair"
1960Wanted: Dead or AliveRance
Hal
Episode: "The Partners"
Episode: "To the Victor"
1960LaramieGault Ranch Hand
Manley (uncredited)
Episode: "Street of Hate"
Episode: "Ride into Darkness"
1961LaramieHankEpisode: "The Tumbleweed Wagon"
1965Big Valley, TheThe Big ValleyBolinEpisode: "The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner"
1966Big Valley, TheThe Big ValleyBusinessmanEpisode: "Image of Yesterday"
1967Cimarron StripDusty Rhodes
Benefiel
Episode: "Journey to a Hanging"
Episode: "The Battleground"
1970High Chaparral, TheThe High ChaparralLloydEpisode: "The Long Shadow"
1971BonanzaSourdoughEpisode: "Top Hand"
1972BonanzaTate
Troy
Episode: "The Saddle Stiff"
Episode: "He Was Only Seven"
1974Honky TonkDriverTV movie
1975Strange New WorldElderTV movie
1977RootsSlave CatcherTV miniseries
1977Little House on the PrairieWallEpisode: "Quarantine"
1981Texas Rangers, TheThe Texas RangersRanger J.W. StevensTV movie
1981Few Days in Weasel Creek, AA Few Days in Weasel CreekJason StayveyTV movie
1981Cherokee Trail, TheThe Cherokee TrailRidge FentonTV movie
1983Travis McGeeVan HarderTV movie
1983Ghost DancingRuss WardTV movie
1985Wild HorsesChuck ReeseTV movie
1985ChaseJudge Grand PettittTV movie
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1985Anne of Green GablesMatthew CuthbertTV movie
Gemini Award for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor
1987CBS Summer PlayhouseCarlEpisode: "Travelin' Man"
1987Highway to HeavenGrandpa Jet SandersEpisode: "A Dream of Wild Horses"
1989Red Earth, White EarthHelmerTV movie
1989Desperado: The Outlaw WarsSheriff Campbell, Bisby ArizonaTV movie
1992Boys of Twilight, TheThe Boys of TwilightCody McPhersonTV series
1993Fire Next Time, TheThe Fire Next TimeFrank MorganTV movie
1998Best Friends for LifeWill HarperTV movie

References[edit]

  1. ^ An L.M Montgomery Resource Page. "Richard Farnsworth". Tickledorange.com. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  2. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. (July 16, 1998). "Richard Farnsworth: Suicide". People. 

External links[edit]