Richard Farnsworth

This article is about the American actor. For the English 17th-century Quaker, see Richard Farnsworth (Quaker). For the American politician from Maine, see Richard Farnsworth (politician).
Richard Farnsworth

Farnsworth in The Straight Story, his final role
Born (1920-09-01)September 1, 1920
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died October 6, 2000(2000-10-06) (aged 80)
Lincoln, New Mexico, U.S.
Cause of death Suicide
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Los Angeles, California
34°08′42″N 118°19′12″E / 34.145°N 118.320°E / 34.145; 118.320
Residence Lincoln, New Mexico
Occupation Stuntman, actor
Years active 1937–99
Known for
Home town Los Angeles, California
Spouse(s) Margaret Hill (1947–85; her death)

Richard W. Farnsworth (September 1, 1920 – October 6, 2000) was an American actor and stuntman. He is best known for his performances in The Grey Fox (1982), for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination, and The Straight Story (1999), for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. His sudden death followed a long struggle with prostate cancer.

Personal life

Farnsworth was born on September 1, 1920 in Los Angeles, California, to a housewife mother and an engineer father.[1] He was raised during the Great Depression. When he was seven, Farnsworth's father died. He then lived with his aunt, mother, and two sisters in Downtown Los Angeles.

Farnsworth enjoyed a long marriage and had two children. After becoming a widower, he lived on a ranch in Lincoln, New Mexico.

On October 6, 2000, after a long battle with metastatic prostate cancer, Farnsworth committed suicide by shooting himself at his ranch.[2] He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles in the Columbarium of Purity (N-63294) beside his wife, Margaret née Hill (1919–1985).[3][4]



In 1937, age 16, Farnsworth was working as a stable hand at a polo field in Los Angeles for six dollars a week when he was offered employment with better pay as a stuntman. He rode horses in films such as The Adventures of Marco Polo featuring Gary Cooper and performed horse-riding stunts in films including A Day at the Races (1937) and Gunga Din (1939). Farnsworth was employed on the set of Spartacus (1960) for eleven months where he drove a chariot.


From stunt work, Farnsworth gradually moved into acting in Western movies. 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).

Farnsworth received his first acting credit in 1963 and went on to act in western films and also television shows. He had a role in Roots (1977). In 1992, he co-starred with Wilford Brimley in The Boys of Twilight. His breakthrough came when he played stagecoach robber Bill Miner in the 1982 Canadian film The Grey Fox. He appeared as a baseball coach in The Natural (1984). Another prominent role was the suspicious sheriff in the film version of Stephen King's Misery (1990).

Farnsworth became well known in the Pacific Northwest as the groundskeeper who saw the mythical "Artesians" in the 1980s Olympia Beer advertising campaign.

Awards and nominations

Comes a Horseman (1979)
The Grey Fox (1982)
Anne of Green Gables (1985)
Chase (1985)
The Straight Story (1999)

Note: Farnsworth was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1997. In addition, Farnsworth received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star for his contributions in the motion pictures on 1560 Vine Street on August 17, 1992.[5][6]


Year Title Role Notes
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
Gone with the Wind Soldier uncredited
1943 This Is the Army Soldier uncredited
1948 Red River Dunston Rider uncredited
Paleface, TheThe Paleface Minor Role uncredited
1949 Mighty Joe Young Cowboy uncredited
1953 Arena Cowboy uncredited
Arrowhead Cavalryman uncredited
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
The 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
Texas Across the River Medicine Man
1968 Stalking Moon, TheThe Stalking Moon uncredited
1970 Monte Walsh Cowboy
1972 Cowboys, TheThe Cowboys Henry Williams
Pocket Money Man uncredited
Ulzana's Raid Trooper
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
Papillon Manhunter uncredited
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
Outlaw Josey Wales, TheThe Outlaw Josey Wales Comanchero uncredited
1977 Another Man, Another Chance Stagecoach Driver
1978 Comes a Horseman Dodger see awards list
1980 Tom Horn John C. Coble
Ruckus Sheriff Jethro Pough
Resurrection Esco
1981 Legend of the Lone Ranger, TheThe Legend of the Lone Ranger Wild Bill Hickok
1982 Grey Fox, TheThe Grey Fox Bill Miner see awards list
Waltz Across Texas Frank Walker
1983 Independence Day Evan
1984 Natural, TheThe Natural Red Blow
Rhinestone Noah
1985 Into the Night Jack Caper
Sylvester Foster
Space Rage Colonel
1988 River Pirates, TheThe River Pirates Percy
1990 Two Jakes, TheThe Two Jakes Earl Rawley
Misery Buster
Havana Professor
1991 Highway to Hell Sam
1994 Getaway, TheThe Getaway Slim
Lassie Len Collins
1999 Straight Story, TheThe Straight Story Alvin Straight


Year Title Role Notes
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"
Cimarron City Ira Youngman Episode: "Twelve Guns", uncredited
1959 State Trooper Caleb Smith Episode: "Lonely Valley"
Rebel, TheThe Rebel Trooper Episode: "Yellow Hair"
1960 Wanted: Dead or Alive Rance
Episode: "The Partners"
Episode: "To the Victor"
Laramie Gault Ranch Hand
Manley (uncredited)
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"
1972 Bonanza Tate
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
Little House on the Prairie Wall Episode: "Quarantine"
1981 Texas Rangers, TheThe Texas Rangers Ranger J.W. Stevens TV Movie
Few Days in Weasel Creek, AA Few Days in Weasel Creek Jason Stayvey TV Movie
Cherokee Trail, TheThe Cherokee Trail Ridge Fenton TV Movie
1983 Travis McGee Van Harder TV Movie
Ghost Dancing Russ Ward TV Movie
1985 Wild Horses Chuck Reese TV Movie
Chase Judge Grand Pettitt TV Movie; see awards list
Anne of Green Gables Matthew Cuthbert TV Movie; see awards list
1987 CBS Summer Playhouse Carl Episode: "Travelin' Man"
Highway to Heaven Grandpa Jet Sanders Episode: "A Dream of Wild Horses"
1989 Red Earth, White Earth Helmer TV Movie
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

See also


  1. An L.M Montgomery Resource Page. "Richard Farnsworth". Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  2. Silverman, Stephen M. (July 16, 1998). "Richard Farnsworth: Suicide". People.
  3. "Richard Farnsworth (1920–2000) – Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2015-12-25.
  4. "Margaret Hill Farnsworth (1919–1985) – Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2015-12-25.
  5. "Richard Farnsworth | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved 2016-08-23.
  6. "Richard Farnsworth". Retrieved 2016-08-23.
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