This short tribute was written for the programme for the Harry Carey, Jr. Memorial, held Saturday, January 12th, in Santa Barbara, California.
Harry Carey, Jr.—Dobe to his friends and family—was the son of one of the very first great Western stars, and now he has become the last of the cowboys from the Golden Age. Introduced to pictures by John Ford, who had been championed as a director by father Harry Carey before they did about 25 pictures together, the son soon became an attractive and charming Western star himself in such Ford classics as Three Godfathers, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Wagon Master, Rio Grande, and The Searchers. He also made a remarkable impression in Howard Hawks’ first Western classic, Red River. And he has written with grace, humor and perception of his days on the Ford pictures in a loving memoir appropriately titled Company of Heroes. He is now the last of that valiant company to “go West,” as Jack Ford used to put it.
I was privileged to know Dobe (nicknamed short for adobe because of his red hair) for nearly half a century, since we met on the set of Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn in Monument Valley in 1963. I was even more privileged to have Dobe in the cast of two pictures I directed, Nickelodeon in 1976, and Mask in 1985; he was terrific in each of these, and a joy to have around, a solid professional, but also a brilliantly deadpan, hilarious raconteur of the days of the giants in pictures. We also shot an amusing interview with Dobe in 2006 for my documentary, Directed by John Ford, and three years later we got together again and recorded a commentary track for the DVD release of Wagon Master; it was a wonderful time, seeing and hearing Dobe reacting to the movie—among his biggest roles too–as he watched it, and often very funny.
Yet that’s always what he was like, funny and human, and gentle too. There just wasn’t a mean bone in his body. We spoke on the phone a few times, but the Wagon Master recording, I’m sorry to say, was the last time I saw Dobe. He was always encouraging, and eternally upbeat, with a boyish innocence to the end. He was one of a kind, and will always be missed as a loyal friend and collaborator.
Adios, Dobe, though I know your spirit will never die.