This article is about the American actor. For the English 17th-century Quaker, see Richard Farnsworth (Society of Friends). For the American politician from Maine, see Richard Farnsworth (politician).
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.
He appeared as a baseball coach in The Natural in 1984, and won a Gemini Award for his performance as Matthew Cuthbert in the 1985 Canadian miniseries Anne of Green Gables. Another of his prominent roles was as a suspicious sheriff in the film version of Stephen King's Misery (1990), a character that was created exclusively for the movie.
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.
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.
Personal life and death:
Farnsworth was married to Margaret "Maggie" Hill (who died in 1985) for 38 years. They had two children, Diamond and Missy. He moved to Lincoln, New Mexico, where he owned a 60-acre (240,000 m) ranch and 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 diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in the early 1990s. He was eventually diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to walk. On October 6, 2000, Farnsworth committed suicide by shooting himself at his ranch.
Day at the Races, AA Day at the Races
Adventures of Marco Polo, TheThe Adventures of Marco Polo
Mongol Warrior (uncredited)
Bit Part (uncredited)
Gone with the Wind
This Is the Army
Dunston Rider (uncredited)
Paleface, TheThe Paleface
Minor Role (uncredited)
Mighty Joe Young
Wild One, TheThe Wild One
Violent Men, TheThe Violent Men
Anchor Rider (uncredited)
Ten Commandments, TheThe Ten Commandments
Chariot Driver (uncredited)
Tin Star, TheThe Tin Star
Hard Man, TheThe Hard Man
Posse Man (uncredited)
Salt Mine Slave / Gladiator / Slave General (uncredited)
Jolly Genie, TheThe Jolly Genie
Duel at Diablo
Wagon Driver #1 (uncredited)
Texas Across the River
Stalking Moon, TheThe Stalking Moon
Cowboys, TheThe Cowboys
Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, TheThe Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
Soul of Nigger Charley, TheThe Soul of Nigger Charley
Apple Dumpling Gang, TheThe Apple Dumpling Gang
Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, TheThe Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox
Outlaw Josey Wales, TheThe Outlaw Josey Wales
Another Man, Another Chance
Comes a Horseman
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)
John C. Coble
Sheriff Jethro Pough
Legend of the Lone Ranger, TheThe Legend of the Lone Ranger
Wild Bill Hickok
Grey Fox, TheThe Grey Fox
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
Waltz Across Texas
Natural, TheThe Natural
Into the Night
River Pirates, TheThe River Pirates
Two Jakes, TheThe Two Jakes
Highway to Hell
Getaway, TheThe Getaway
Straight Story, TheThe Straight Story
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)
Adventures of Kit Carson, TheThe Adventures of Kit Carson
Episode: "Fury at Red Gulch",
Episode: "The Desperate Sheriff"
Adventures of Kit Carson, TheThe Adventures of Kit Carson
Army Wagon Driver
Episode: "The Gatling Gun"
Soldiers of Fortune
Episode: "The General"
Zane Grey Theater
Episode: "Star Over Texas"
Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok
Episode: "Jingles on the Jailroad"
Ira Youngman (uncredited)
Episode: "Twelve Guns"
Episode: "Lonely Valley"
Rebel, TheThe Rebel
Episode: "Yellow Hair"
Wanted: Dead or Alive
Episode: "The Partners",
Episode: "To the Victor"
Gault Ranch Hand,
Episode: "Street of Hate",
Episode: "Ride into Darkness"
Episode: "The Tumbleweed Wagon"
Big Valley, TheThe Big Valley
Episode: "The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner"
Big Valley, TheThe Big Valley
Episode: "Image of Yesterday"
Episode: "Journey to a Hanging",
Episode: "The Battleground"
High Chaparral, TheThe High Chaparral
Episode: "The Long Shadow"
Episode: "Top Hand"
Episode: "The Saddle Stiff",
Episode: "He Was Only Seven"
Strange New World
Little House on the Prairie
Texas Rangers, TheThe Texas Rangers
Ranger J.W. Stevens
Few Days in Weasel Creek, AA Few Days in Weasel Creek
Cherokee Trail, TheThe Cherokee Trail
Judge Grand Pettitt
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Anne of Green Gables
TV movie, Gemini Award for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor
CBS Summer Playhouse
Episode: "Travelin' Man"
Highway to Heaven
Grandpa Jet Sanders
Episode: "A Dream of Wild Horses"
Red Earth, White Earth
Desperado: The Outlaw Wars
Sheriff Campbell, Bisby Arizona
Boys of Twilight, TheThe Boys of Twilight
Fire Next Time, TheThe Fire Next Time
Best Friends for Life
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license