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Harry Carey (actor)

Harry Carey
Harry Carey in 1919
Born Henry DeWitt Carey II
(1878-01-16)January 16, 1878
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Died September 21, 1947(1947-09-21) (aged 69)
Brentwood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1909–1947
Spouse(s) Olive Carey (1920–1947; his death) 2 children
Fern Foster (actress)

Harry Carey (January 16, 1878 – September 21, 1947) was an American actor and one of silent film's earliest superstars. He was the father of Harry Carey Jr., who was also a prominent actor.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Death 4
  • Honors and homages 5
  • Filmography 6
  • Radio appearances 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life and career

Human Stuff (1920).

Carey was born Henry DeWitt Carey II in the Bronx, New York, a son of Henry DeWitt Carey,[1] a prominent lawyer and judge of the New York Supreme Court, and his wife Ella J. (Ludlum). He grew up on City Island, Bronx.[2]

Carey was a cowboy, railway superintendent, author, lawyer and playwright. He attended Hamilton Military Academy, then studied law at New York University. When a boating accident led to pneumonia, he wrote a play while recuperating and toured the country performing in it for three years. His play was very successful, but Carey lost it all when his next play was a failure. In 1911, his friend Henry B. Walthall introduced him to director D.W. Griffith, with whom Carey would make many films.


Harry Carey and cowboys (1916)

Carey is best remembered as one of the first stars of the Western film genre. One of his most popular roles was as the good-hearted outlaw Cheyenne Harry. The Cheyenne Harry franchise spanned two decades, from A Knight of the Range (1916) to Aces Wild (1936).[3] Carey starred in director John Ford's first feature film, Straight Shooting (1918).

Carey's rugged frame and craggy features were well suited to westerns and outdoor adventures. When sound films arrived, Carey displayed an assured, gritty baritone voice that suited his rough-hewn screen personality. He was the logical choice for the title role in MGM's outdoor jungle epic Trader Horn. By this time Carey, already in his fifties, was too mature for most leading roles, and the only starring roles that he was offered were in low-budget westerns and serials. He soon settled into a comfortable career as a solid, memorable character actor; he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the President of the Senate in the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Among his other notable later roles were that of M/Sgt. Robert White, crew chief of the bomber "Mary Ann" in the 1943 Howard Hawks film Air Force and Mr. Melville, the cattle buyer, in Hawks's Red River. Carey made his Broadway stage debut in 1940, in Heavenly Express with John Garfield.

Personal life

He married at least twice and perhaps a third time (census records for 1910 indicate he had a wife named Clare E. Carey, and some references state that he was also married to actress Fern Foster). His last marriage was to actress Olive Fuller Golden in 1920; they were together until his death. They purchased a large ranch in Saugus, California, north of Los Angeles, which, in 2005, was turned into Tesoro Adobe Historic Park.[4]

Their son, Harry Carey, Jr., would become a character actor, most famous for his roles in westerns. Father and son both appear (albeit in different scenes) in the 1948 film, Red River, and mother and son are both featured in 1956's The Searchers.


Harry Carey died in 1947 from a combination of lung cancer, emphysema and coronary thrombosis, at the age of 69. He was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in the family mausoleum in the Bronx, New York.

Honors and homages

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Harry Carey has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1521 Vine Street.

In the 1948 John Ford film, 3 Godfathers, Carey is remembered at the beginning of the film and dubbed "Bright Star of the early western sky..."

As an homage to him, John Wayne held his right elbow with his left hand in the closing shot of The Searchers, imitating a stance Carey himself often used in his films. According to Wayne, both he and Carey's widow Olive (who costarred in the film) wept when the scene was finished.[5]

In 1976, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In 1987, his name was emblazoned along the Walk of the Western Stars on Main Street in Old Town Newhall in Santa Clarita, California. (His son, Harry Carey Jr. was also honored in 2005).


Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1943 Lux Radio Theatre Air Force[6]


  1. ^ rootsweb
  2. ^ Berger, Meyer. "ABOUT NEW YORK", The New York Times, May 7, 1940. Accessed October 15, 2009. "Harry Carey's description of City Island when he was a boy in the Eighties made a hoarse and mildly profane pastorale."
  3. ^ Gallagher, Tag (1986); John Ford: The Man and His Films; University of California Press, USA. See pp.502ff.
  4. ^ Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation: Tesoro Adobe Historic Park. For more photographs, see "Places, Earth: Tesoro Adobe Historic Park".
  5. ^ http://articles/Hollywood_(documentary)#Episode_list John Wayne describes this in Episode 9 ('Out West') of Kevin Brownlow's documentary series 'Hollywood' (1980)
  6. ^ "Radio's Golden Age". Nostalgia Digest 40 (1): 40–41. Winter 2014. 

External links

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