Dorothy M. Johnson
|Dorothy M. Johnson|
December 19, 1905|
McGregor, Iowa, United States
|Died||November 11, 1984
Montana, United States
|Notable works||The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
A Man Called Horse
While she was a student at Whitefish High School she began to write professionally, working as a newspaper stringer for The Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. She studied English in college before a brief marriage which ended with a divorce.
Her writing career began to take off by the 1930s when she sold her first magazine article to The Saturday Evening Post for the sum of $400. In 1935, her story "Beulah Bunny" was published and began a series of four stories. Her writing was temporarily sidetracked by World War II as she went to work for the Air Warden Service. After the war, she produced some of her best-known Western stories. Three of these would later be made into notable films, namely The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1949), A Man Called Horse (1950) and The Hanging Tree (1957).
Between 1956-60, Johnson taught creative writing at the University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, which she also graduated from. Prior to and during her tenure she wrote numerous articles and fictional stories for many different magazines. These were often based on interviews with Western old-timers, Native Americans and characters she met during her tenure as secretary and researcher for The Montana Historical Society. She was also secretary/manager of the Montana Press Association in the 1950s.
In 1957, the Western Writers of America gave her its highest award, the Spur Award, for her short story, Lost Sister, a short story in "The Hanging Tree" collection, that deals with the reintegration into white settler society of Cynthia Ann Parker, who had been kidnapped by Comanche as a child. In 1959, she was made honorary member of the Blackfoot Tribe. In 1976, 'the Writers' again awarded her the Levi Strauss Golden Saddleman Award, for bringing dignity and honor to the history and legends of the West. In 2005, a 30-minute documentary film was made of her life by Sue Hart of Montana State University, Billings The four-year effort was written and co-produced by Hart, along with producer Gene Bodeur, director Bill Bilverstone and film director Lansing Dreamer. Margot Kidder lent her voice to the effort. It was titled Gravel in her Gut and Spit in her Eye, and shown on PBS in November 2005. Inductee in 2013 to the Montana Cowboy Hall Of Fame and Western Heritage Center for the "Legacy Award" for her "notable contributions to the history and culture of Montana". www.montanacowboyfame.org
Johnson always prided herself on her self-sufficiency after a failed marriage early in life. She stated that her epitaph should read "Paid In Full." Her grave in the cemetery in Whitefish, Montana reads simply "PAID". She died on November 11, 1984, aged 78.
- A Man Called Horse
- The Hanging Tree
- Farewell to Troy (1964)
- Witch Princess (1967)
Short Story Collections
- Beulah Bunny Tells All (U.S. edition, 1942); Miss Bunny Intervenes (UK edition, 1948)
- Indian Country (A Man Called Horse) (1953)
- The Hanging Tree (1957)
- Flame on the Frontier: Short Stories of Pioneer Woman (1967)
- The Day the Sun Came Out (Too Soon a Woman)
- Alter, Judy. Dorothy Johnson. BSU Western Writers Series, #44. Boise State University, 1980.
- Kich, Martin. Western American Novelists. Volume 1: Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Dan Cushman, H.L. Davis, Vardis Fisher, A.B. Guthrie, Jr., William Humphrey and Dorothy M. Johnson. New York; London: Garland, 1995.
- Smith, Steve. The Years and the Wind and the Rain: A Biography of Dorothy M. Johnson. Steve Smith. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1984.
- "Dorothy M. Johnson, Author Of 'Liberty Valance,' Is Dead". The New York Times. 1984-12-13. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
- Greene, Bob (22 September 2013). "The woman who wrote Liberty Valance". CNN. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
- Tribune Staff. "125 Montana Newsmakers: Dorothy Johnson". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
- Biographical article written by Tialin Shaw, a Billings Senior High School, ca. 2000-2004
- Guide to the Dorothy M. Johnson Papers at the University of Montana
- Gravel In Her Gut and Spit In Her Eye Documentary produced by Montana PBS
- Dorothy M. Johnson at the Internet Movie Database