Brad Johnson (television actor)
|Born||Elmer Bradley Johnson
July 23, 1924
Near Marysville, Yuba County
|Died||April 4, 1981
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
Real estate developer
|Years active||1950–1967 (acting)|
|Spouse(s)||Adele Cook Johnson (married 1950-1981, his death)|
Sander K. Johnson
Elmer Bradley "Brad" Johnson (July 23, 1924 – April 4, 1981), was an American film and television actor, best remembered for his role as the deputy Lofty Craig on the 1950s Western series, Annie Oakley. After his last television appearance, in a 1967 episode of CBS's Gunsmoke, Johnson spent the remainder of his life as a real estate developer in Los Angeles, California.
Of Swedish extraction, Johnson was born on his paternal grandparents' 100-acre peach farm between Marysville in Yuba County and Yuba City in Sutter County in northern California. His father, Carl Elmer Johnson (1901-1924), died shortly before his son's birth and is interred at the nearby Yuba City Cemetery. His mother, the former Eula Ball Bradley, a native of Michigan, reared Brad through her work as a teacher. When Brad was thirteen, he received his eighth-grade certificate from his mother-teacher's one-room school.
Johnson was thereafter reared for several years in Auburn and attended Placer High School there. He relocated to Sacramento in his senior year. There he worked as a receiving clerk while taking acting classes. During World War II, Johnson served as a pilot with the United States Army Air Corps. He flew B25s in the South Pacific. At the end of the war, he was stationed in Japan, where he worked at a military radio station as announcer, disc jockey, and writer.
On returning from the Army, he enrolled and later graduated from the University of Southern California, where the drama department was headed by William De Mille, brother of screen producer Cecil B. De Mille. He worked at the university radio station. He became an announcer and stage manager with KTLA.
In the summer of 1950, Johnson was the resident lead appearing with Anthony Franciosa in summer stock. He performed in several plays at the Playhouse in the Sky at Lake Tahoe, near Reno, Nevada. Johnson and his wife, the former Adele Cook, co-starred in Born Yesterday and received excellent reviews.
One of Johnson's first screen roles came at the age of twenty-seven, when he appeared in 1951 as one of six unnamed students in Ronald W. Reagan's Bedtime for Bonzo. In 1952, he had an uncredited role as a reporter in Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth with Charlton Heston. He drove to Florida to procure this role, armed with a rarely written letter of recommendation from Professor De Mille.
About the time that Johnson appeared on Annie Oakley, he guest-starred in other series of the 1950s, mostly westerns: The Cisco Kid, The Range Rider, Cowboy G-Men, Stories of the Century, Circus Boy, Rescue 8, State Trooper, and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, in which he appeared as John Quinn in the episode "The Iron Horse" (1955) and as Tom Buckner in "Rin Tin Tin and the Second Chance" (1956).
Johnson appeared in all eighty-one episodes of Annie Oakley, a Gene Autry Flying A Production, as the principled and courageous law enforcement officer to the more unconventional and free-spirited Annie Oakley, a fictitious portrayal of the famed markswoman from Ohio. In the story line, Annie, played by Gail Davis, and her younger brother, Tagg Oakley (portrayed by Jimmy Hawkins), live in fictitious Diablo, Arizona. Their uncle, Luke MacTavish, is officially the sheriff, but he is usually away, with Johnson's Lofty Craig, riding his horse Forest, hence minding the office and jail.
Johnson played the role of Ed Masterson (brother of Bat Masterson) in the 1957 episode "The Nice Ones Always Die First" of the ABC half-hour western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, with Hugh O'Brian in the starring role. In 1958, he appeared in another Wyatt Earp episode "The Underdog" as the painter Hurley Abbott, cast opposite Peggy Stewart as his romantic interest, Etta Jackson. Johnson was cast as Joe Shields in the episode "Wild Cargo" of Dale Robertson's Tales of Wells Fargo. He played a character "Hardin" in the episode "Trouble at Tres Cruces" of CBS's Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater. In 1959, Johnson played cowboy "Whip Johnson", possibly one of his better remembered appearances, in the CBS situation comedy Dennis the Menace, starring Jay North, in the episode "Dennis and the Cowboy".
Between 1952 and 1960, Johnson appeared five times on the syndicated anthology series Death Valley Days, including the roles of legendary sheriff Bill Tilghman in the episode “The Wedding Dress” and of Sheriff Tom Fuller in "Stagecoach Spy". In 1960, he portrayed Sheriff Dan Blaisdell in "Home Is the Brave" on Clint Walker's ABC series Cheyenne. Other Johnson western roles were as Jim Reardon in "A Bullet for the Teacher" (1960) on ABC’s Maverick, as Will Eckhardt in “The Cathy Eckhardt Story” opposite Susan Oliver on NBC’s Wagon Train, and as Duke Huston in “Vigilantes of Montana” on NBC's Overland Trail with William Bendix and Doug McClure.
Johnson also appeared in three Warner Brothers detective series on ABC: Bourbon Street Beat, Surfside 6, and 77 Sunset Strip. In 1964, he appeared as Jim McDowell in "Doesn't Anybody Know Who I Am?" of NBC's Kraft Suspense Theatre. His last acting role was his only appearance on James Arness’s Gunsmoke, as Laskin in the 1967 episode "Cattle Barons".
Johnson also made many public appearances in the late 1950s and early 1960s at county and state fairs, rodeos, and western expositions. He developed a popular fast-gun act. He also appeared at the California Gold Rush commemoration in Auburn, California, in the late 1950s.
Brad and Adele Johnson were married for thirty-one years until his death in 1981. Adele used the stage name "Amanda Webb". Their two children are Sander K. Johnson, who played in Mattel toy gun commercials of the 1950s, and Julie Johnson Storozynski. He died at the age of fifty-six in a hospital in Burbank, California. At the time of his death, Johnson had just completed developing a shopping center. Adele Johnson later remarried and continues to live in southern California.
Johnson was cremated.
Johnson's granddaughter, Julie's daughter, Azura Skye, who was born just months after his death, is an actress, having appeared in many productions, including in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and with Sandra Bullock in the film 28 Days.
- Gus Thomson, "Media Life: Brad Johnson is Auburn's best-known actor you've never heard of", Auburn Journal, Auburn, California, July 22, 2010
- Johnson's death certificate 0190-017444, April 4, 1981
- Yuba City Cemetery records, Yuba City, California
- "Brad Johnson: "Lofty Craig" of Annie Oakley, Louisiana State Fair souvenir program, October 1957
- "Bedtime for Bonzo". moviefone.com. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
- "Brad Johnson". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
- Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, 1946-Present, New York: Ballantine Books, p. 47