The only time Harry Carey, Jr. half-got me was when he played young Dan Latimer in Howard Hawks‘ Red River (’48). He’s on his horse, gently calming the herd…”whoa, dogies, whoa”…when Tom Dunson (John Wayne) and Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift) come up to chat. Latimer tells Dunson that when they reach Missouri and everyone gets paid he plans to buy his wife a pair of red shoes.
An hour later the cattle go on a stampede and Latimer is trampled to death. They find what might be his body but can only presume it’s him because he was wearing a checkered shirt. Dunson tells Garth to give full pay to Latimer’s wife, “just like he finished the drive…and, uh, … anything else you can think of.” Garth replies, “Like a pair of red shoes?”
And that was it. Carey never had a better part or brought it home in as an actor quite as fully. He wasn’t a great performer, just a good-enough one. But getting stomped into mulch by hundreds and hundreds of cattle hooves, godawful as that experience had to be, gave him dignity, or gave it, rather, to poor Dan Latimer.
Carey’a becoming a regular in the John Ford hambone stock company from the late ’40s through the mid ’60s sealed his fate. All he could do was play amiable or spirited second bananas on horseback.
Harey Carey, Jr. was a very well-liked fellow. On this point agreement was wide and far. Much of his likability (among boomers, at least) came from his playing the kindly ranch counselor Bill Burnett in the Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Club serial The Adventures of Spin and Marty. He made three other films with Hawks — Monkey Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Rio Bravo. He lived a long and fruitful life, and died today at age 91. God rest his soul.