BEN COOPER (1933 – 2020)

Ben Cooper, Joan Crawford, Frank Marlowe, Sterling Hayden. JOHNNY GUITAR.

Very sorry to hear of the passing of Ben Cooper whom many of us will forever associate with the Nicholas Ray western, JOHNNY GUITAR.

As ’Turkey’, Ben had some dramatic scenes with Joan Crawford, as he has to choose between saving his own life or naming Vienna as part of the bank robbery.


John Carradine, Ben Cooper, Joan Crawford.


Closeup of Ben and Joan.


With Ward Bond in the background, Ben and Joan being readied for a hanging.


In Johnny Guitar.



With his boyish looks, Ben often played the same kind of roles in the 1950s. In The Outcast (1954), for once , he was on the wrong side of the law, with the nickname,’the kid’.

After some films at Republic, Ben’s career was mainly guesting on television shows – including half a dozen episodes of Perry Mason and many other shows. (He actually started in TV  in 1950.)

In a 2009 interview in Lone Pine, Ben proved to be an interesting and funny speaker, full of anecdotes about his career. (The interview is on You Tube.)

Here are some of his comments:

“I was always typecast as ‘the young man’, but I enjoyed playing the bad guy.”

“We made Johnny Guitar in Sedona, Arizona – beautiful country – I had a ball. Working with Joan Crawford was a wonderful experience. She was a great gal and became a very dear friend.

Mommie Dearest was not the Joan Crawford I knew – she had a great sense of humour and was a loyal friend.”

Ben went on to tell  how a year after filming Johnny Guitar, his father was in Hollywood and Joan invited them to dinner – she cooked and served the dinner and his father was thrilled!

“I did three pictures with Sterling Hayden. Johnny Guitar was the first one, then a year later The Last Command about the Alamo, and then a navy picture.

Sterling was a marine during the war in Europe – an underrated actor – very easy to work with.”

I always thought Ben looked a little like Audie Murphy. They were buddies in Arizona Raiders(1965). I wonder if they ever played brothers.

Ben’s acting career started in 1942 on  Broadway when he was nine, in the hit play Life With Father. He ended up being in the play for nearly three years.

He also did around 3,000 radio shows before 1953.



Ben himself was a fast draw!


Audie Murphy.


With Milburn Stone in “Gunsmoke”.

Ben said he learned a lot from Milburn Stone and he sent a letter to Milburn, thanking him. Much later, Milburn’s wife told Ben how grateful Milburn was for that letter.


Ben and his wife of 50 years, Pamela. They had two daughters.



7 responses »

  1. Very sad news. I was ten years old in 1957 when I went to see him outdraw Jim Davis in “Duel at Apache Wells” and that’s 63 years ago now. I always liked him. He was a great actor with a great screen presence whom the camera loved and if the camera loves you, you will become a star and that’s what Ben became. Rest In Peace, Ben.

  2. Ben and Audie look so much alike I wouldn’t believe my husband till I found the cast list of Outcast and it was Ben! I was floored! LOL

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