John Carpenter (III)
The last of the low-budget Western heroes, Johnny Carpenter had been a semi-professional baseball player prior to heading West in search of film jobs in the very early '40s. Beginning as a stunt man under the names of John Forbes and Josh Carpenter, monikers he would occasionally adopt throughout his screen career, Carpenter rode in a host of routine series Westerns and such Grade-A films as National Velvet (1944). In 1950, he was discovered by independent producer Jack Schwartz, who saw star potential in the handsome, dark-haired stunt man whom some considered a dead ringer for Montgomery Clift. B-Westerns, unfortunately, were about to be made redundant by even cheaper television fare and Carpenter never enjoyed much of a following away from the grind-houses. By the mid-'50s, he had added guest roles on such TV Westerns as Wild Bill Hickock and Judge Roy Bean to his list of credits and had even written, produced, and starred in a handful of feature Westerns of his own, one of which, The Lawless Rider (1954), was directed by ace stunt man Yakima Canutt. Lacking the polish of television Westerns, none of his films made much money and he subsequently returned to stunt work. From the 1940s and until he was evicted in 1994 to make room for a housing project, Carpenter ran the "Heaven on Earth" ranch for handicapped children in Glendale, CA. B-Western historian Boyd Magers summed up Johnny Carpenter's contribution to a quickly vanishing genre: "The last of the shoestring independent producer/stars, he didn't make top-drawer B-Westerns, but through all the budget pinching and corner cutting, his love of Western films shows through on the screen in much the same way his friend Ed Wood's did in low-echelon horror films."