Saturday, November 21, 2015

WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON: Harry Carey and Harry Carey Jr.


Harry Carey
1878 - 1947
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Harry Carey is pictured above in his Academy Award nominated performance (Best Supporting Actor) as the President of the Senate in Frank Capra's classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It is a performance practically free from dialogue, but that is not a problem for the stage actor whose film career dates back to 1910 in the heyday of Biograph Studios and D.W. Griffith. That face eloquently conveys amusement, concern and encouragement for James Stewart's beleaguered rookie senator filibustering his cause on the floor. There is no "mugging"; only pure talent and experience.



Harry Carey - Bright Star of the Early Western Sky

John Ford's dedication to his friend and colleague appears at the opening of 1948s 3 Godfathers. Carey, a semi-pro ball player and aficionado of the American west switched a career trajectory that was to follow his father into the courtroom when he had his first show business success. He wrote a western play entitled Montana and toured as its star. Carey began his screen career at Biograph Studios in the Bronx with D.W. Griffith. Their first collaboration, of 50 total films, was a western short in 1909 called Bill Sharkey's Last Game.

Carey relocated to Hollywood in 1913 where at Universal Studios he worked at a unit run by Francis Ford, making western shorts. Dissatisfied with his directors, Harry Carey took an instant liking to Francis' younger brother Jack who worked as a stunt rider, extra and all-round hand at Universal. The two men, despite their age difference, became friends and Ford learned to become a director working on Carey's "Cheyenne Harry" shorts. Like most of Ford's relationships, the one with Carey was complicated with its love and loyalty as fierce as its jealousies. However, it was a defining one for both.



Harry Carey, John Wayne
The Shepherd of the Hills

Carey's "Cheyenne Harry" character was a regular working stiff cowpoke, not one of the fancy shirted fantasy fellows. He had a very strong following and one of his admirers was the young movie fan who would grow up to be John Wayne with whom Carey worked in four films. The first was 1941s The Shepherd of the Hills, a Technicolor revenge among the hill folk directed by Henry Hathaway. Next up is 1942s The Spoilers, the fourth of five (so far) versions of Rex Beach's novel. Both actors, along with Harry Carey Jr. appear in the 1948 release of Howard Hawks' Red River.

When John Wayne became a producer (Batjac) in 1947, he starred Harry Carey in a most personal project as an old-time marshal called Wistful McClintock in Angel and the Badman. The final shot of Ethan Edwards framed in the doorway in The Searchers features Wayne using a familiar Carey gesture of cupping his hand around the opposite elbow. According to Harry Carey Jr. (Saturday Night at the Movies interview), Duke looked off camera at Harry's widow Olive (Mrs. Jorgensen) before turning to walk out the door.

Harry Carey played the title character Trader Horn in the 1930s first "blockbuster" and endured its arduous location shooting in Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Mexico and the Congo. He made a lot of B westerns in that decade, including resurrecting "Cheyenne Harry" a couple of times. In 1932 he starred in Law and Order a very interesting western based on the Tombstone legends by W.R. Burnett and adapted by young John Huston. More and more throughout the decade Harry Carey was becoming the respected character actor who could moonlight from his B jobs to A pictures including Howard Hawks' Barbary Coast, John Ford's The Prisoner of Shark Island, Wesley Ruggles Valiant is the Word for Carrie, Michael Curtiz's Kid Galahad, Henry Hathaway's Souls at Sea to that Oscar nomination in 1939.

Some of my personal favourites from the 1940s are Beyond Tomorrow, Happy Land, Air Force and So Dear to My Heart.  During the 40s Harry Carey even returned to the stage.  His picture is among the hundreds of performers to be found at Toronto's historic Royal Alexandra Theatre.  He worked there in a tour of Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! as "Nat", the understanding father.



Olive Golden Carey
1896 - 1988

Harry Carey married Olive Golden, the young co-star of his western shorts in 1920. She retired from her career at that time and the couple raised two children, Ella and Harry Carey, Jr. As Olive Carey she later revived her career and is familiar to audiences today as a revered member of the John Ford Stock Company.


Harry Carey Jr.
1921 - 2012
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

Harry Jr. grew up on his parents California ranch, fashioned from the imagination of his western buff dad, and the skills he learned as a youngster would be put to good use in his career as a character actor during Hollywood's golden era of westerns. Acting, however, was not "Dobe's" first choice as a life course. The nickname, "Dobe" is from adobe, for the lad's pale red coloring. The goal in his heart was music - opera. The world is filled with failed Carusos and Galli-Curcis. We could form quite a club!

Fate and history put the kibosh on a lot of plans and Dobe was no exception, joining the Navy in 1941. He was a medical corpsman in the Pacific until being transferred to the OSS. Specifically, and against his wishes, Dobe was placed in the photographic unit run by John Ford. The details of this experience, and of Dobe's movie career are related in his 1994 memoir Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company. Dobe tells his story with candor and warmth. It is a must-read for fans of the actor and the films of John Ford.



Harry Carey Jr., John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz
3 Godfathers

Dobe's first film role of note is as Dan Latimer, the stuttering cowboy in Howard Hawks' Red River. It is an excellent showcase for the young actor. Harry Carey Sr. also appears in Red River, but sadly their two characters never interact. John Ford's 3 Godfathers, dedicated to Harry Sr., gave Dobe a great co-starring role alongside John Wayne and Pedro Armendariz. In a trial by fire, Dobe was Ford's whipping boy on that picture and found a friend and protector in John Wayne who had been on the receiving end of the "Ford treatment" on Stagecoach. The two became lifelong friends, and frequent co-workers, with Dobe idolizing Duke the way Duke had idolized Harry's dad.

Dobe's best work and roles at this time are as part of Ford's stock company. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is another fine showcase with Dobe playing a West Pointer with a chip on his shoulder. One of his most popular roles is as "Sandy", the naive recruit in Rio Grande. Sandy's fondness for his newly acquired reply of "yo" is so enjoyed by fans that Dobe used it as part of his e-mail address which he used to reach out to those fans in his later years. Dobe and Ben Johnson share the same character names, and possibly characters, in Rio Grande and Wagon Master. Along with Ward Bond in Wagon Master, these character actors are the stars of this gem from Ford.

In The Searchers Dobe plays the tragic Brad Jorgensen with his mother Olive playing Mrs. Jorgensen. In Two Rode Together he and Ken Curtis are over-the-top nasties. In The Long Gray Line Dobe plays a young Dwight Eisenhower.



David Stollery, Harry Carey Jr.
"Way out here on the Triple R"

Television would play a large part in Dobe's career with hundreds of appearances, particularly on popular westerns such as Have Gun - Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Laramie, and The Virginian.  There were opportunities to check him out in contemporary fare as well - Perry Mason, Mannix, Run for Your Life, Lassie, Dallas. Many of us have our fondest memories of Dobe from Disney and The Adventures of Spin and Marty serial (and sequels) from The Mickey Mouse Club where he played camp counsellor Bill Burnett.

"We had faces then" said Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Movies depend on faces; faces that become familiar to audiences in a way that requires no thought, just the recognition factor. Thus, John Ford had his stock company and directors learned that audiences, sometimes subconsciously, demand to see those faces. Dobe Carey had one of those faces that it was a pleasure to see in Joe Dante's Gremlins, Lindsay Anderson's gentle The Whales of August, Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future III, set in the old west, and in George Cosmatos' epic Tombstone.

  

Dobe and Marilyn
Married 1944 - 2012

Dobe Carey's wife/widow Marilyn is the daughter of another character actor great, Paul Fix (To Kill a Mockingbird, TVs The Rifleman). The Careys raised a family of four and became proud grandparents. Dobe Carey lived to become an elder statesmen in his profession and to know the deep affection of film fans. Harry Carey Jr. has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is an inductee of the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and the winner of the Golden Boot award.  Yo!


As welcome as the holidays is the What a Character! blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken and Freckled and Paula's Cinema Club, this year running on November 21 - 22 - 23.  Thank you, Aurora, Kellee and Paula.
















24 comments:

  1. I always knew neither of these Harry Careys were the same guy as the baseball broadcaster, but I still used to conflate them in my mind. Hopefully not anymore!

    Interesting that Ford's recurring actors were thought of like a stock company. One hardly ever sees that sort of thing in movies these days, but then, under the old studio system, it was probably easier to keep all those actors together.

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    1. Despite the often difficult time Ford would give his actors, they not only appreciated the work as work, but they knew they were involved in something fine.

      PS: Garry does an extraordinarily good baseball Caray impersonation. It is most annoying!

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    2. British writer/director Edgar Wright has his own stock company, from his days on TV to his currant features. Plus, he's one of our TCM pals!

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  2. Hi! I loved this post, the connection to John Ford and John Wayne, and my utter ignorance that Dobe was on "Spin and Marty." Informative as always.

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    1. Thank you. Time for a "Spin and Mart" marathon. I find those old shows comforting at times.

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  3. Splendid post on a winning father-son combination. Thanks for the wealth of info, and I'm so glad you led off with Sr.'s role in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON - one of my favorite Harry Carey screen appearances. I had forgotten about Jr's role in SPIN AND MARTY, and it was fun to be reminded. "Way up there on the Triple R-R-R, yippee-ayy, yippee-o..."

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    1. Their combined careers cover so much entertainment history from 19th century theatre through to 21st century technology. Pretty amazing.

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  4. There are so many chill-inducing parts of this post that I don't know where to begin. Your fondness for these actors, the characters they played and the films in which they appeared comes across affectingly. It feels to the reader that they're old friends. Kudos for this terrific retrospective on two legendary actors. Just love it. Nothing more to say.

    Aurora

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    1. Thank you so very much. It was a true pleasure writing this piece for the blogathon.

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  5. They were both outstanding character actors, though I've seen a lot more of Harry Carey, Jr.'s films. Believe it nor not, when I was young, I though that Harry Carey was also the baseball announcer who gained fame with the Cardinals and later the Cubs!

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    1. Ha! Are you going to have Harry Caray's inimitable redition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" stuck in your head all day? Better watch "Air Force" double quick.

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  6. Funnily enough, I think I'm more familiar with Carey Senior - indeed the fact that he even had a son had escaped my attention. But I guess that's what this blogathon is for! Loved your enthusiasm for both actors, I look forward to watching more of their films!

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    1. "But I guess that's what this blogathon is for!" Indeed. I imagine that in the coming weeks you will probably run into Carey Jr. everywhere. Our movie universe seems to work out that way.



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    2. Great choice. I've just seen Carey Senior in The Spoilers and really enjoyed his part in that - also love the other films he made with John Wayne, especially their interplay in Angel and the Badman. I'm another one who hadn't taken in the face that he had a son and don't remember the younger Carey, but I will look out for him too in future.

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    3. Thanks. Judy, somewhere on your New Year's list you must make time for Harry Carey Jr. It can be like a treasure hunt through the movies.

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  7. Thanks for sharing all your research with us, on both Sr. and Jr. A talented pair, the both of them.

    I recently saw Mr Smith Goes to Washington on the big screen, and gained a whole new appreciation for Harry Carey Sr. His part is small, but his influence large. Capra was right to case him in that role.

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    1. We grew up watching so many of these films on television and feel that we know them, but I am constantly reminded of what a difference the big screen experience has on our perceptions. Harry Carey on the big screen!

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  8. What an informative post! I had heard of both these actors before but most likely couldn't point them out onscreen; I definitely never knew that was Harry Carey in the Senate in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. Very interesting to hear about their family and also that John Wayne connection - pretty cool. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. TCM is giving us a chance to enjoy Carey Jr.'s first Ford picture "3 Godfathers" this year on Christmas morning. I'm sure some enterprising channel will feature Carey in another Christmas favourite, "Beyond Tomorrow". 'Tis the season.

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  9. Wonderful article! I knew a bit more about the father, and it was great to read also about "Dobe", the son. I suggested my film studies group to watch The 3 Godfathers, I hope they accept my suggestion! It'll be great to show other people the brilliance of Wayne-Carey-Armendáriz... and Ford, of course.
    Kisses!
    Le

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    1. I hope your group goes along with your "3 Godfathers" suggestion. The Wayne-Carey-Armendariz combo are so memorable.

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    2. Wow, CW! Beautifully comprehensive and fascinating post about father and son. Both are the kind of character actors I always love to see, and I am always drawn to movies with them. 3 Godfathers is one of my favorite westerns, so moving. Thanks for a great read!

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    3. Thank you so much, Becky. Yes, these are the fellows that have made us love to watch movies.

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