Ben Cooper, an film icon who starred in dozens of Westerns and starred as the bandit Turkey Ralston in Johnny Guitar, has died. He was 86.
Cooper’s death was confirmed by his nephew Pete Searls to The Hollywood Reporter. Cooper died in Memphis, Tennessee after a long battle with an undisclosed illness.
A native of Hartford, Connecticut, his career first started on Broadway at the age of 9 when he starred in Life with Father in 1942, where he went on to play two of the central family’s sons after growing enough to star as an older brother.
He went on to star in dozens of Western-inspired roles from when he was 18, starting with a stint on the TV series Armstrong Circle Theater. Cooper then signed with Republic Pictures, where he became a staple.
He starred in pictures like 1952’s Thunderbirds, 1954’s Johnny Guitar, 1955’s The Last Command and 1956’s Duel at Apache Wells, among others.
In a previous interview for the Museum of Western Film History, unearthed by THR, Cooper talked about getting cast in the movies and how much the roles mirrored his own life and skills.
“They let me play cowboy, and they paid me [for it],” Cooper recalled. “I’d ridden horses, I got my own horse when I was 12. I used to jump him bareback. I didn’t know they had stuntmen; I’d watch a movie and then practice on my horse until I could do [the stunt.]”
According to THR, Cooper said he also practiced his fast draw for 90 minutes a day for four years.
Cooper also had almost 20 credits in tv shows from 1959 to 1974, including Tables of Wells Fargo, The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Gunsmoke and Death Valley Days. His last came in an episode of Kung Fu, aptly titled “Goodnight.”