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Actor Who Played Son in 'The Rifleman' Dies at 75

Actor Who Played Son in 'The Rifleman' Dies at 75
Actor Johnny Crawford attends the Museum of Television and Radio Cocktail Party on Sept. 9, 2004 at The Museum of Television and Radio, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 30 April 2021 10:34 AM

Actor Johnny Crawford, best known for his role as the title character's son on the popular TV Western  series "The Rifleman," has died at age 75. 

The news was confirmed in a post on the Johnny Crawford Legacy website.

"It is with great sadness and heaviness of heart that the Johnny Crawford Legacy team announce the passing of Johnny Crawford," the post read. "He passed away peacefully this evening, April 29, 2021, with Charlotte, his wife, by his side."

Crawford kick-started his career as one of the 24 Mouseketeers in the first season of ABC’s "The Mickey Mouse Club" but producers decided to let him go in October 1955, according to The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show. He would reportedly change scripted lines or actions, which often led to dozens of retakes. 

Crawford appeared in several other TV shows including "The Lone Ranger," "Cavalcade of America" and "The Count of Monte Cristo."

But his most memorable role was as Mark McCain, son of Civil War veteran Lucas McCain (played by Chuck Connor, who died in 1992 at age 71), in "The Rifleman." He appeared in the series from 1958 to 1963 and his performance earned him an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor (continuing character) in a dramatic series category in 1959, at age 13, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

In a 2018 interview, Crawford attributed the show's success to its father-son dynamic.

"The strongest thing about it has always been that father-son relationship. That, and the fact that there was always a lesson at the end of every episode," he told Cowboys and Indians magazine. "Really, it’s such a wholesome show — a healthy show.  And Chuck was so perfect. You know, I still miss him. He was unique — I’ll never meet anybody else like him again. He tried to be a good influence for me, even off-camera. And he treated me like an adult when we were working. He made it much easier than it might have been. He was a lot of fun."

Crawford was later cast in "Rawhide," "Hawaii Five-O" and "The Big Valley," and made various other film and TV appearances throughout his career. He also launched a successful musical career in his teens, with his hit song "Cindy’s Birthday" making it to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962. 

Crawford's last screen credit was in "The Marshall." That same year it emerged that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He later contracted COVID-19 and then pneumonia. 

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Actor Johnny Crawford, best known for his role as the title character's son on the popular TV Western series "The Rifleman," has died at age 75...
the rifleman, johnny crawford, dies, chuck connor
Friday, 30 April 2021 10:34 AM
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