Oscar Actors: Farnworth, Richard–Background, Career, Awards

December 15, 2020
Richard Farnworth Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: Middle; father engineer





Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut:

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role:

Other Noms:

Other Awards:

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: character actor

Last Film:

Career Output:

Film Career Span:





Richard William Farnsworth (September 1, 1920 – October 6, 2000) was an American actor and stuntman. He is best known for his performances in Comes a Horseman (1978), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for the Best Supporting Actor, The Grey Fox (1982), for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Anne of Green Gables (1985), Misery (1990), and The Straight Story (1999), for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Farnsworth was born on September 1, 1920, in Los Angeles, California, to a housewife mother and an engineer father. 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 had a long marriage and had two children. After becoming a widower, he lived on a ranch in Lincoln, New Mexico.

Stunt work
In 1937, age 16, Farnsworth was working as a stable hand at a polo field in Los Angeles for $6 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 11 months in which 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). In 1960, Farnsworth (credited as Dick Farnsworth) appeared as a Gault ranch hand in the TV Western Laramie in the episode titled “Street of Hate”.

Farnsworth received his first acting credit in 1963 and went on to act in Western films and 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). In 1985, he was the brother to Marilla and father figure to Anne in Anne of Green Gables. Other prominent roles include wealthy and ruthless oil man in The Two Jakes (1990) and 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.

On October 6, 2000, suffering from terminal cancer that left him partially paralyzed and in great pain, 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).

Awards and nominations
Comes a Horseman (1979)

National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor (won)
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor (won, tied with Robert Morley in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?)
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (nominated)
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor (runner-up)
The Grey Fox (1982)

Genie Award for Best Performance by a Foreign Actor (won)
London Film Critics’ Circle Award for Actor of the Year (won, tied with James Mason in The Shooting Party)
Taormina Film Fest: Golden Mask (won)
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama (nominated)
Anne of Green Gables (1985)

Gemini Award for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor (nominated)
Chase (1985)

Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (nominated)
The Straight Story (1999)

Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival Award for Best Actor (won)
Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead (won)
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor (won)
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 (runner-up)
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 (runner-up)
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.[3][4]

Year Title Role Notes
1937 A Day at the Races Jockey Uncredited
1938 The 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
The Paleface Minor Role Uncredited
1949 Mighty Joe Young Cowboy Uncredited
1950 The Flame and the Arrow Outlaw Uncredited
1953 Arena Cowboy Uncredited
Arrowhead Cavalryman Uncredited
The Wild One Uncredited
1954 The Violent Men Anchor Rider Uncredited
1955 A Lawless Street Townsman Uncredited
1956 The Ten Commandments Chariot Driver Uncredited
1957 The Tin Star Uncredited
The Hard Man Posse Man Uncredited
1960 Spartacus Salt Mine Slave / Gladiator / Slave General Uncredited
1963 The Jolly Genie Thug Short film
1966 Duel at Diablo Wagon Driver #1 Uncredited
Texas Across the River Medicine Man
1968 The Stalking Moon Uncredited
1970 Monte Walsh Cowboy
1971 Skin Game Man in Saloon fight Uncredited
1972 The Cowboys Henry Williams
Pocket Money Man Uncredited
Ulzana’s Raid Trooper
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean Outlaw
1973 The Soul of Nigger Charley Walker
Papillon Manhunter #1 Uncredited
1974 Blazing Saddles Sheriff Uncredited
1975 The Apple Dumpling Gang Mover Uncredited
1976 The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox Stagecoach Driver
The 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 The Legend of the Lone Ranger Wild Bill Hickok
1982 The Grey Fox Bill Miner See awards list
Waltz Across Texas Frank Walker
1983 Independence Day Evan
1984 The Natural Red Blow
Rhinestone Noah Farris
1985 Into the Night Jack Caper
Sylvester Foster
Space Rage Colonel
1988 The River Pirates Percy
1990 The Two Jakes Earl Rawley
Misery Buster
Havana Professor
1991 Highway to Hell Sam
1994 The Getaway Slim
Lassie Len Collins
1999 The Straight Story Alvin Straight See awards list; (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1951 The Adventures of Kit Carson Henchman (uncredited) Episode: “Fury at Red Gulch”
Episode: “The Desperate Sheriff”
1954 The 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”
The Rebel Trooper Episode: “Yellow Hair”
1960 Wanted: Dead or Alive Rance
Hal 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 The Big Valley Bolin Episode: “The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner”
1966 The Big Valley Businessman Episode: “Image of Yesterday”
1967 Cimarron Strip Dusty Rhodes
Benefiel Episode: “Journey to a Hanging”
Episode: “The Battleground”
1970 The High Chaparral Lloyd Episode: “The Long Shadow”
1971 Bonanza Sourdough Episode: “Top Hand”
1972 Bonanza Tate
Troy Episode: “The Saddle Stiff”
Episode: “He Was Only Seven”
1974 Honky Tonk Driver TV movie
1975 Strange New World Elder TV movie
1977 Roots Trumbull TV miniseries
Little House on the Prairie Wall Episode: “Quarantine”
1981 The Texas Rangers Ranger J.W. Stevens TV movie
A Few Days in Weasel Creek Jason Stayvey TV movie
The 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 The Boys of Twilight Sheriff Cody McPherson TV series
1993 The Fire Next Time Frank Morgan TV movie
1998 Best Friends for Life Will Harper TV movie