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Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story
September 1, 1920|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||October 6, 2000
Lincoln, New Mexico, U.S.
Cause of death
|Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Los Angeles, California
|Residence||Lincoln, New Mexico|
|Home town||Los Angeles|
|Spouse(s)||Margaret Hill (1947–85;her death)|
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.
Farnsworth was born in Los Angeles, California, to a housewife mother and an engineer father. 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.
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.
In 1985, he appeared in the Canadian miniseries Anne of Green Gables, winning a Gemini Award for his performance as Matthew Cuthbert. Another of his prominent roles was as a suspicious sheriff in the film version of Stephen King's Misery (1990). He also appeared as a baseball coach in The Natural in 1984.
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.
Personal life and death
Farnsworth was married to Margaret "Maggie" Hill for 38 years. She was the mother of his two children, Diamond and Missy. She died in 1985. He moved to Lincoln, New Mexico after Margaret's death, where he owned a 60-acre (240,000 m2) ranch. He was involved in the community and was well-liked.
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.
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.
Farnsworth was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in the early 1990s. By 1999, he had been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. He made the movie The Straight Story while in considerable pain. Farnsworth committed suicide by shooting himself at his ranch. He is interred with his wife Margaret at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) in Los Angeles, California.
|1937||Day at the Races, AA Day at the Races||Jockey (uncredited)|
|1938||Adventures of Marco Polo, TheThe Adventures of Marco Polo||Mongol Warrior (uncredited)|
|1939||Gunga Din||Bit Part (uncredited)|
|1939||Gone with the Wind||Soldier (uncredited)|
|1943||This Is the Army||Soldier (uncredited)|
|1948||Red River||Dunston Rider (uncredited)|
|1948||Paleface, TheThe Paleface||Minor Role (uncredited)|
|1949||Mighty Joe Young||Cowboy (uncredited)|
|1953||Wild One, TheThe Wild One||(uncredited)|
|1955||Violent Men, TheThe Violent Men||Anchor Rider (uncredited)|
|1956||Ten Commandments, TheThe Ten Commandments||Chariot Driver (uncredited)|
|1957||Tin Star, TheThe Tin Star||(uncredited)|
|1957||Hard Man, TheThe Hard Man||Posse Man (uncredited)|
|1960||Spartacus||Salt Mine Slave / Gladiator / Slave General (uncredited)|
|1963||Jolly Genie, TheThe Jolly Genie||Thug||Short film|
|1966||Duel at Diablo||Wagon Driver #1 (uncredited)|
|1966||Texas Across the River||Medicine Man|
|1968||Stalking Moon, TheThe Stalking Moon||(uncredited)|
|1972||Cowboys, TheThe Cowboys||Henry Williams|
|1972||Pocket Money||Man (uncredited)|
|1972||Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, TheThe Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean||Outlaw|
|1973||Soul of Nigger Charley, TheThe Soul of Nigger Charley||Walker|
|1974||Blazing Saddles||Sheriff (uncredited)|
|1975||Apple Dumpling Gang, TheThe Apple Dumpling Gang||Mover (uncredited)|
|1976||Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, TheThe Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox||Stagecoach Driver|
|1976||Outlaw Josey Wales, TheThe Outlaw Josey Wales||Comanchero (uncredited)|
|1977||Another Man, Another Chance||Stagecoach Driver|
|1978||Comes a Horseman||Dodger||National 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)
|1980||Tom Horn||John C. Coble|
|1980||Ruckus||Sheriff Jethro Pough|
|1981||Legend of the Lone Ranger, TheThe Legend of the Lone Ranger||Wild Bill Hickok|
|1982||Grey Fox, TheThe Grey Fox||Bill Miner||Genie 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
|1982||Waltz Across Texas||Frank Walker|
|1984||Natural, TheThe Natural||Red Blow|
|1985||Into the Night||Jack Caper|
|1988||River Pirates, TheThe River Pirates||Percy|
|1990||Two Jakes, TheThe Two Jakes||Earl Rawley|
|1991||Highway to Hell||Sam|
|1994||Getaway, TheThe Getaway||Slim|
|1999||Straight Story, TheThe Straight Story||Alvin Straight||Ft. 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)
|1951||Adventures of Kit Carson, TheThe Adventures of Kit Carson||Henchman (uncredited)||Episode: "Fury at Red Gulch"
Episode: "The Desperate Sheriff"
|1954||Adventures of Kit Carson, TheThe Adventures of Kit Carson||Army Wagon Driver||Episode: "The Gatling Gun"|
|1955||Soldiers of Fortune||Gaucho (uncredited)||Episode: "The General"|
|1956||Zane Grey Theater||Trooper||Episode: "Star Over Texas"|
|1958||Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok||Butler||Episode: "Jingles on the Jailroad"|
|1958||Cimarron City||Ira Youngman (uncredited)||Episode: "Twelve Guns"|
|1959||State Trooper||Caleb Smith||Episode: "Lonely Valley"|
|1959||Rebel, TheThe Rebel||Trooper||Episode: "Yellow Hair"|
|1960||Wanted: Dead or Alive||Rance
|Episode: "The Partners"
Episode: "To the Victor"
|1960||Laramie||Gault Ranch Hand
|Episode: "Street of Hate"
Episode: "Ride into Darkness"
|1961||Laramie||Hank||Episode: "The Tumbleweed Wagon"|
|1965||Big Valley, TheThe Big Valley||Bolin||Episode: "The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner"|
|1966||Big Valley, TheThe Big Valley||Businessman||Episode: "Image of Yesterday"|
|1967||Cimarron Strip||Dusty Rhodes
|Episode: "Journey to a Hanging"
Episode: "The Battleground"
|1970||High Chaparral, TheThe High Chaparral||Lloyd||Episode: "The Long Shadow"|
|1971||Bonanza||Sourdough||Episode: "Top Hand"|
|Episode: "The Saddle Stiff"
Episode: "He Was Only Seven"
|1974||Honky Tonk||Driver||TV movie|
|1975||Strange New World||Elder||TV movie|
|1977||Roots||Slave Catcher||TV miniseries|
|1977||Little House on the Prairie||Wall||Episode: "Quarantine"|
|1981||Texas Rangers, TheThe Texas Rangers||Ranger J.W. Stevens||TV movie|
|1981||Few Days in Weasel Creek, AA Few Days in Weasel Creek||Jason Stayvey||TV movie|
|1981||Cherokee Trail, TheThe Cherokee Trail||Ridge Fenton||TV movie|
|1983||Travis McGee||Van Harder||TV movie|
|1983||Ghost Dancing||Russ Ward||TV movie|
|1985||Wild Horses||Chuck Reese||TV movie|
|1985||Chase||Judge Grand Pettitt||TV movie
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
|1985||Anne of Green Gables||Matthew Cuthbert||TV movie
Gemini Award for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor
|1987||CBS Summer Playhouse||Carl||Episode: "Travelin' Man"|
|1987||Highway to Heaven||Grandpa Jet Sanders||Episode: "A Dream of Wild Horses"|
|1989||Red Earth, White Earth||Helmer||TV movie|
|1989||Desperado: The Outlaw Wars||Sheriff Campbell, Bisby Arizona||TV movie|
|1992||Boys of Twilight, TheThe Boys of Twilight||Cody McPherson||TV series|
|1993||Fire Next Time, TheThe Fire Next Time||Frank Morgan||TV movie|
|1998||Best Friends for Life||Will Harper||TV movie|
- "Richard Farnsworth". The Times. October 9, 2000. Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- "Richard Farnsworth, Stunt Man And 2-Time Oscar Nominee, 80". The New York Times. October 8, 2000. Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- "Actor Richard Farnsworth dies". BBC News. October 7, 2000. Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- Richard Farnsworth at the Internet Movie Database
- Richard Farnsworth at AllMovie
- Richard Farnsworth at Find a Grave
- Richard Farnsworth at NNDB
- Richard Farnsworth: The Man Who Talked Straight at Moviecrazed.com
- The Cowboy Kind Farnsworth wrote the foreword to this book by Darrell Arnold. Published posthumously in 2001.
- 1999 Disney Press Kit For The Straight Story with publicity photos
- 1998 Des Moines Register Article
- The Straight Story on Lynch Net Complete Film notes, interviews, photographs, audio and trailers 1999
- Obituary Cowboy's Way by Jeff Jensen, 2000