Ben Cooper, Western Star of ‘Johnny Guitar’ and ‘Bonanza,’ Dies at 86

Actor won a Golden Boot Award in 2005 for his contributions to the Western genre

Ben Cooper Bonanza
Wikimedia Commons

Ben Cooper, a Western star of films and TV like “Johnny Guitar,” “Bonanza,” “Rawhide” and more, died in his sleep on Monday according to his nephew on the actor’s Facebook fan page. He was 86.

Cooper got his start in radio serials and on stage as a child actor before finding work as a boyish looking lead and supporting player on Westerns in both film and TV. He was best known for his role in the Nicholas Ray Western “Johnny Guitar” from 1954, where he played the bandit Turkey Ralston alongside Ernest Borgnine and Scott Brady.

Cooper’s first screen role came when he was 18 in the “Armstrong Circle Theatre,” and he followed that up with several TV appearances and roles in films from Republic Pictures such as “Thunderbirds,” “The Last Command” and “Duel at Apache Wells.”

He also appeared in episodes of “Tales of Wells Fargo,” “Wagon Train,” “Bonanza,” “Rawhide” and “Perry Mason.” Later in his career he would guest star on “Dallas” and “L.A. Law.”

Originally from Hartford, Connecticut, Cooper retired from acting and moved to Los Angeles and was awarded a Golden Boot Award for his contributions to the Western genre in 2005. In 2017 he was diagnosed with dementia and was moved to Tennessee to be closer to his family, including his two daughters.