Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hank Worden

Here is an actor, or should I say a Bit Actor, who has added a lot to the enjoyment of many over a career that spans 1935 to 1991. Hank Worden (1901 - 1992) has 212 titles listed on IMDb. Have you heard of him?

I recently was channel surfing and bumped in The Searchers (1956) already in progress. John Wayne had just arrived at the cabin and the Rev. Captain Clayton, played by Ward Bond (1903 - 1960), was signing up recruits for the coming Indian battle. Among his group was a fellow who appeared to be just a bit 'touched.' It was Hank, playing Mose Harper. Now do you remember him?

Hank was a real cowboy, raised on a ranch in Montana. He worked in the rodeo with Tex Ritter (1905 - 1974) and handled all sorts of odd jobs before his acting began. He was everything from a taxi driver to a trail hand, with some acting on the side.

In the early part of his career he played in many B westerns, including a dozen with Tex. He was basically an extra, playing henchman, barfly, deputy, or ranch hand.

1939 would be his most important year. Stagecoach would bring Hank a job as a cavalryman in the movie, but it would also be the start of a friendship with John Wayne and director John Ford.

Hank worked with Gene Autry in several 1940 films, but up until the early 1940s, his roles were almost all uncredited. Of course, in the era before actor's rights, most of the smaller parts did not receive screen credit.

All of his work wasn't in westerns. As the 1940s progressed, he got parts in So Proudly We Hail (1943), Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood (1945), The Bullfighters (1945 with Laurel and Hardy) and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947). But that was just work.

During the same period, he shows up in A Lady Takes a Chance (1943), Angel and the Badman (1947), 3 Godfathers (1948), Fort Apache (1948), Red River (1948) and The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) all with John Wayne.

After The Searchers in 1956, look for Hank in a much more important role as the town simpleton in The Quiet Gun (1957) starring Forrest Tucker (1919 - 1986) and Lee Van Cleef (1925 - 1989). This is the kind of film to watch for in Encore Westerns.

The 1950s also brought television and all those wonderful TV western series'. Hank took advantage of them, appearing first in "The Lone Ranger" and then in many other shows. He was seen an a few Walt Disney productions on TV and also in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).

Worden plays the parson in The Alamo (1960) again with The Duke, the doc in One-Eyed Jacks (1961) with Marlon Brando, and an undertaker in The Music Man (1962). He does more work with Wayne in McLintock! (1963), True Grit (1969), Rio Lobo and Chisum in 1970, Big Jake (1971), and Cahill U.S. Marshal (1972). In all, he made 17 films with Wayne and eight with John Ford.

John Wayne only made four more films after Cahill. Hank had appeared in a couple episodes of "Rawhide" so he must have hooked up with Clint Eastwood (b. 1930) that way. Worden was in Every Which Way but Loose (1978) and Bronco Billy (1980) with Eastwood.

For a change of pace, try Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978). Hank was one of the Old band members. Some of Hank's final movies are not worth talking about. Please Don't Eat the Babies (1983) and Space Rage (1985) lead the list of Worden films to avoid.

Hank finishes his acting on television in "Cop Rock" and "Twin Peaks" in 1990 - 1991. He had won no awards during his long career, but remember him for his westerns. I am sure he would have wanted it that way.