Nationality: American. Born: Henry DeWitt Carey II in the Bronx, New York, 16 January 1878 (some sources list 1880). Education: Attended New York University. Family: Married 1) Alma Fern (divorced); 2) Olive Fuller Gordon, children: the actor Harry Jr. and Ellen. Career: Pre-1909—worked at various occupations including writing melodramas; 1909—began acting in films for Biograph, working in many early Griffith productions; 1917—emerged as star of Westerns by such directors as John Ford; 1928—left films to seek voice training for the coming of sound; 1931—returned to films with role in Trader Horn. Died: In Brentwood, California, 21 September 1947.
Films as Actor:
Bill Sharkley's Last Game
Riding de Trail
An Unseen Enemy (D. W. Griffith); A Cry for Help (D. W. Griffith); The Musketeers of Pig Alley (D. W. Griffith); In the Aisles of the Wild (D. W. Griffith); Friends (D. W. Griffith); Heredity (D. W. Griffith); The Unwelcome Guest (D. W. Griffith); An Adventure in the Autumn Woods (D. W. Griffith); My Hero (D. W. Griffith); Love in an Apartment Hotel (D. W. Griffith); The Informer (D. W. Griffith); Three Friends (D. W. Griffith); Brothers (D. W. Griffith)
Broken Ways (D. W. Griffith); The Ranchero's Revenge (D. W. Griffith); The Left-Handed Man (D. W. Griffith); The Hero of Little Italy (D. W. Griffith); Olaf—An Atom (D. W. Griffith); The Sheriff's Baby (D. W. Griffith); Two Men of the Desert (D. W. Griffith)
Judith of Bethulia (D. W. Griffith); McVeagh of the South Seas (Brute Island; Brute Force; Wars of the Primal Tribes) (D. W. Griffith); Travellin' On; The Master Cracksman (as Gentleman Joe, the Cracksman)
Beloved Jim; The Fighting Gringo; The Secret Man (Ford); A Marked Man (Ford); Bucking Broadway (Ford); Two Guns; Straight Shooting (The Cattle War; Joan of the Cattle Country) (Ford) (as Cheyenne Harry)
Thieves' Gold (Ford); Wild Women (Ford); Three Mounted Men (Ford); A Woman's Fool (Ford); The Scarlet Drop (Ford); The Phantom Riders (Ford); Hell Bent (Ford)
By Indian Post (Ford); The Rustlers (Ford); Gun Law (Ford); The Gun Packer (The Gun Pusher) (Ford); The Last Outlaw (Ford); The Fighting Brothers (Ford); Blind Husbands (von Stroheim); A Fight for Love (Ford); Bare Fists (Ford); Riders of Vengeance (Ford); The Outcasts of Poker Flat (Ford); The Ace in the Saddle (Ford); A Gun Fightin' Gentleman (Ford); The Rider of the Law (Ford); Marked Men (Ford); Sure Shot Morgan
Hitchin' Posts (Ford); Overland Red; West Is West; Sundown Slim; Human Stuff; Bullet Proof; Blue Streak McCoy
"If Only" Jim (Jaccard); The Freeze Out (Ford); Hearts Up; Desperate Trails (Ford); The Fox (Thornby); The Wallop (Ford)
Man to Man (Paton); The Kick Back (Paul); Good Men and True (Neitz)
Canyon of the Fools (Paul); Crushin' Thru (Paul); Desert Driven (Paul); The Miracle Baby (Paul)
The Night Hawk (Paton); The Man from Texas; Tiger Thompson (Eason); The Lightning Rider (Ingraham); Roaring Rails (Forman); The Flaming Forties (Forman)
Soft Shoes (Ingraham); Beyond the Border (Dunlap); Silent Sanderson (Dunlap); The Texas Trail (Dunlap); Wanderer; The Bad Lands (Henderson); The Prairie Pirate (Mortimer); The Man from Red Gulch (Mortimer)
Driftin' Thru (Dunlap); The Seventh Bandit (Dunlap); The Frontier Trail (Dunlap); Satan Town (Mortimer)
A Little Journey (Leonard); Slide, Kelly, Slide (Sedgwick)
The Trail of '98 (Brown); The Border Patrol (Hogan); Burning Bridges (Hogan)
Trader Horn (Van Dyke) (title role); Bad Company (Garnett) (as McBaine); The Vanishing Legion (Eason—serial); Across the Line; Double Sixes; Horse Hoofs; The Hurricane Rider; Cavalier of the West (McCarthy)
Border Devils (Nigh); Without Honors (Nigh); Law and Order (Guns A' Blazing) (Cahn) (as Ed Brant); Last of the Mohicans (Beebe—serial); The Devil Horse (Brower—serial); The Night Rider (Nigh)
Man of the Forest (Hathaway) (as Jim Gaynor); Sunset Pass (Hathaway) (as John Hesbitt)
The Thundering Herd (In the Days of the Thundering Herd) (Hathaway) (as Clark Sprague)
The Last of the Clintons (Fraser) (as Trigger Carson); Rustlers' Paradise (Fraser) (as Cheyenne Kincaid); Powdersmoke Range (Fox) (as Tucson Smith); Barbary Coast (Hawks) (as Slocum); Wagon Trail (Fraser) (as Sheriff Hartley); Wild Mustang (Fraser) (as Norton)
The Prisoner of Shark Island (Ford) (as Commandant of Fort Jefferson "Shark Island"); Little Miss Nobody (Blystone) (as John Russell); The Last Outlaw (Last of the Outlaws) (Cabanne) (as Dean Payton); Sutter's Gold (Cruze) (as Kit Carson); Valiant Is the Word for Carrie (Ruggles) (as Phil Yonne); The Accusing Finger (Hogan) (as Sen. Nash); The Three Mesquiteers (Saylor); Man behind the Mask (Powell)
Racing Lady (Fox) (as Tom Martin); Born Reckless (St. Clair) (as Dad Martin); Kid Galahad (Curtiz) (as Silver Jackson); Souls at Sea (Hathaway) (as Captain of the William Brown); Ghost Town (Fraser) (as Cheyenne Harry); Border Cafe(Landers) (as Tex); Annapolis Salute (Salute to Romance) (Cabanne) (as Chief Martin); Aces Wild (Fraser); Danger Patrol (Landers) (as "Easy" Street)
You and Me (Fritz Lang) (as Mr. Morris); Sky Giant (Landers) (as Col. Stockton); The Law West of Tombstone (Tryon) (as Bill Barker); Gateway (Werker) (as Commissioner Nelson); Port of Missing Girls (Karl Brown) (as Capt. Storm); King of Alcatraz (Florey) (as Capt. Glennan); Code of the Streets (Harold Young) (as Lt. Lewis)
Burn 'em Up O'Connor (Sedgwick) (as P. G. Delano); Inside Information (Lamont) (as Capt. Bill Dugan); Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Capra) (as President of the Senate); Street of Missing Men (Salkow) (as Putnam); My Son Is Guilty (Barton) (as Tim Kerry)
Outside the 3-Mile Limit (Mutiny on the Seas) (Collins) (as Capt. Bailey); Beyond Tomorrow (A. Edward Sutherland) (as George Melton); They Knew What They Wanted (Kanin) (as doctor)
Among the Living (Heisler) (as Dr. Ben Saunders); The Shepherd of the Hills (Hathaway) (as Daniel Howitt); Parachute Battalion (Goodwins) (as Bill Richards); Sundown (Hathaway) (as Dewey)
The Spoilers (Enright) (as Al Dextry)
Air Force (Hawks) (as Sgt. Robby White); Happy Land (Pichel) (as Gramp)
The Great Moment (Preston Sturges) (as Prof. Warren); China's Little Devils (Bell)
Duel in the Sun (King Vidor and others) (as Lem Smoot)
Angel and the Badman (Grant) (as Wistful McClintock); The Sea of Grass (Kazan) (as Doc Reid)
Red River (Hawks) (as Mr. Millville)
So Dear to My Heart (Schuster) (as judge at county fair)
By CAREY: articles—
Interviews with M. Cheatham, in Motion Picture Classic (Brooklyn), February 1921 and November 1921.
On CAREY: books—
Fenin, George, and William K. Everson, The Western, from Silents to Cinerama, New York, 1962.
On CAREY: article—
Obituary in New York Times, 22 September 1947.
Katchmer, G. Remembering the Great Silents," Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), no. 256, Octboer 1996.
* * *
When John Ford dedicated Three Godfathers "to the memory of Harry Carey—bright Star of the early Western sky" he acknowledged more than the death of an old friend and colleague. Carey, like Ford himself, was an Easterner who fell in love with the West, adopted its ethos, and came to feel himself, as did William S. Hart, a custodian of its ethics and principles.
With Ford and others, Carey for many years lived a communal Western-style existence on a small ranch near Newhall, California, counterfeiting a life that, as the son of a New York judge, he had never known. Distrusting Griffith's sentimental view of the frontier, and the antics of such stars as Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson whose comedy/action Westerns reflected their rodeo and traveling show backgrounds, Carey and Ford, in 26 silents together, often co-written and co-directed, combined myth and truth to construct a legendary West more consistent with their own intellect and morality.
Carey's lined, impassive face with its turned-down mouth epitomized the Russell/Remington vision of frontier life—violent, grinding, dirty. As Henry Nash Smith wrote in Virgin Land, the hero of this West, "even after his reformation, could not easily be distinguished from the criminals opposing him." Most Americans soon unquestioningly accepted the West of Carey's Cheyenne Harry films as literal truth.
Carey survived the move to sound better than many of his colleagues. Playing the white scout Hawkeye in a serial version of Last of the Mohicans, he introduced his stern face and growling voice to new audiences. He was excellent in the underrated Earp/Holliday film Law and Order, and transferred his frontier rectitude to Africa for Trader Horn. Few character actors could have rallied the force to face down Lionel Barrymore so effectively in Duel in the Sun. When Hitchcock, with characteristic malice, suggested him for the Nazi spy in Saboteur, Carey's wife advised him indignantly that he now occupied the position in the American pantheon vacated by Will Rogers. Her claim was exaggerated, but not without its justification.