The Vancouver Sun from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on August 3, 1973 · 84
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The Vancouver Sun from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada · 84

Publication:
Location:
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Issue Date:
Friday, August 3, 1973
Page:
84
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X JOHNNY CRAWFORD an adult star today PORT HARDY Johnny Crawford has a problem. His old television series, The Rifleman, has just started playing in Germany and it's apparent from his fan mail asking for photographs that they still think of him as "that little kid" and even when he was a little kid he resented being treated like one. ' Now, though; grown up, he doesn't know whether to send out pictures of him between 12 and 17 his age when he was playing Chuck Connors' son on the western show or pictures as he is now at the mature age of 27. . , . There's hardly any physical similarity between the httle Johnny Crawford and the young man just launching into a career as an adult actor and ambitious filmmaker, although he's going to go through life always being Johnny rather than John and not only because it gives him a built-in identity. Crawford recalled how much he hated personal appearance tours for The Rifleman, being patted on the head, his cheek pinched by women, especially telling him "how cute you are" and asking him to say "pa." He looked small for his age on the series, probably because Pa Connors was 5M inches over six feet, but even when he began work as The Rifleman's son, he was a veteran of showbusiness. His grandfather was Robert Crawford, a music publisher and Al Jolson's road manager. His father is Robert Crawford, a film editor for the past 20 years. AT THE MOVIES And Johnny Crawford has a brother, Bobby, who used to be an actor too and now, at 29, has built a promising reputation as a film-maker, working a lot with George Roy Hill. 6 So Johnny is a professional in a family of professionals, and he has always insisted on being his professional best in everything he's done, almost from the first time he worked as a movie extra at the age of three. "I always felt I was a grown-up and I expected of myself exactly what I expected of grown-ups in the business. I took pride in what I did and I was very serious about it," he said. He mentioned he recently read an article on child stars, most of whom didn't make it as grown-ups "and man, it really depressed me." The difference with him is that he was never pushed into acting. He did the pestering, finally persuading his father to get him a job. And he pestered his mother to take dancing lessons 'and to learn music. In 1955 Johnny Crawford was a Mousketeer on the popular Walt Disney TV series. "I got fired because I couldn't learn the dance steps LES WEDMAN visits Port Hardy and finds fast enough and that was my first major break because being fired freed me to work." He shed his Mickey Mouse ears and stepped into a Playhouse 90 drama, Little Boy Lost, with Dennis OKeefe, after which he had difficulty getting away from playing little French and Latin refugees. "I was very lucky in the '50s," Crawford said. "TV was new and the first hour shows were a big thing because all the prime time shows until then were half-hours. So there was more work then." He did 60 dramas in two years, including live Matinee Theatres and so got a solid education in acting before The Rifleman that lasted five years. All that time his agent was his Sunday School teacher, a lady who specialized in children, and he stayed with her until he got out of the army and had to get away from the image of a child actor. In the army he acted, wrote, and was assistant director on training films. Once out, though, he found work harder to get, especially if you insisted on really choosing roles. A friend at the University of Southern California ran JOHNNY CRAWFORD on location. out of money making a film, The Resurrection of Broncho, Billy, and Crawford put up $1,000 to complete the documentary in which he also acted. It won the Oscar as best short of the year and has made more money for Universal Pictures than any other of its shorts. "That was the best investment I ever made," Crawford said, because producer Zev Bufman saw the picture and hired him to star in The Naked Ape, a feature being premiered in Hollywood Aug. 17. The movie, he considers, is his break-through as an adult actor. ' Now he's in British Columbia co-starring with Hollywood actor Christopher George in The Inbreaker, a violent drama with love interest, that director George McCowan is making for Bob Elliott Films Ltd. When Crawford isn't in front of the camera he's up in ' -""If ;f: JL ZJ : ' -V. ". a JOHNNY CRAWFORD as Rifleman's son his hotel room in Port Hardy working on a 16 mm documentary he's plotting on his favorite folksinger, Ram-blm Jack Elliott. And when you hear guitar picking and singing seeping under' the door, it isn't always Elliott on tape but Crawford singing too, playing a borrowed guitar. Among all his talents he's also a recording artist. "Acting is what I enjoy most," he explained. "It requires a total investment of yourself because you're ereating an image you can never retract. - "But I love the art of making films. I get a kick out of seeing a film take shape. . "I can't understand actors who aren't interested in film-making. Of course there is so much to acting you dont always have time to become interested. But it helps your acting if you know film-making as it relates to actors.' , Crawford knows his actors and his movies backwards and forwards and if ever there is a silent movie buff it s him. "The '30s and '40s in movies actually didn't catch up to me until the '60s," he said, explaining that he collects silent films and because of his interest in them, talkies didn't interest him too much then. He reels off silent comedians and remembers the excitement on The Rifleman set when silent actors were used as extras or in bit parts and he had a chance to talk with them and his annoyance when he didn't. When he caught up with talking- pictures, Donald O Connor became his idol and he still gets ecstatic remembering that star's singing and dancing routine in Smgin' in the Rain. . "I love Hollywood," Crawford said, "its history and nostalgia. I've lived with it all mylife." He doesn't know if he's missed much in life. "I was always happy, glad to be doing what I was doing and hopeful of doing more." He gets no more residuals from The Rifleman they run out after six reruns. But the other week he got a residual cheque for a Wagontrain episode he did with Ward Bond back in 1957. "I'm confident I won't starve," he continued. "I'm ambitious, but insecure in the business I'm in I'll do well enough although occasionally I get romantic ideas of other ways of life and abandoning the business." - He quoted Jimmy Cagney's answer when he was asked why he quit movies. "One day I drove through the studio gates and the thrill was gone," said Cagney. . The thrill is still there for Johnny Crawford who with so many actors out of work, considers himself fortunate to be working. "Just the thrill of getting up in the morning and going to work being part of the newest form that man has ucdieu. i jusi reauy aig it.

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