Date of Birth : Jun 13th 1918
Academy Award-winning American motion picture actor who was mainly cast in Westerns. He was also a rodeo cowboy, stuntman, and rancher, his career began with the controversial Howard Hughes film The Outlaw. (Hughes cast Jane Russell in the lead and had numerous camera shots of her ample cleavage, getting the attention of the Hollywood censors. The film was shot in 1940-41 but took years to get to selected theaters.) Before filming began, Hughes bought some horses at the Oklahoma ranch that Johnson’s father managed, and hired Johnson to get the horses to northern Arizona (for The Outlaw’s location shooting), and then to take them on to Hollywood.
Johnson liked to say later that he got to Hollywood in a carload of horses. With his experience wrangling for Hughes during The Outlaw’s location shooting, once in Hollywood he did stunt work for the 1939 movie The Fighting Gringo, and throughout the 1940s he found work wrangling horses and doing stunt work involving horses.
His work as a stunt man caught the eye of director John Ford. Ford hired Johnson for stunt work in the 1948 movie Fort Apache, and as the riding double for Henry Fonda. During shooting, the horses pulling a wagon with three men in it stampeded. As he told Joseph McBride in the book Searching for John Ford, Johnson, who “happened to be settin’ on a horse”, stopped the runaway wagon, and saved the men. When Ford promised that he would be rewarded, Johnson hoped it would be with another doubling job; instead he received a seven-year contract from Ford.