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Sunset Carson (1920–1990) , (Alias Billy the Kid 1946) Autographed 4x6" Photo

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An American cowboy star of "B" westerns who had a brief career in the 1940s, Sunset Carson was born with the decidedly unheroic name of Winifred Maurice Harrison (although he was generally known to his family as Michael or Mick) in Gracemore, Oklahoma. He moved to Plainview, Texas, as a boy and became a successful rodeo rider. Supposedly spotted at a rodeo by Tom Mix, Carson--like Mix, never one to let the truth get in the way of a good story--was given a job in Mix's touring circus/Wild West Show. He also claimed to have appeared in a few bit parts in movies before traveling to South America in 1940 and winning the Champion All-Around Cowboy awards in Buenos Aires (!) two years in a row.

 

Returning to the US, he got small parts in such films as Stage Door Canteen (1943) and Janie (1944) before being spotted by Republic executive Louis Gray. His size, looks and horsemanship got him a Republic contract as the star of a series of "B" westerns, along with a name change to Sunset Carson. Within two years Carson was #10 on the list of top money-making western stars, but Republic parted ways with him in 1946. According to stuntman Yakima Canutt, Carson attended a studio function drunk and accompanied by an underage girl, and studio head Herbert J. Yates fired him. Carson claimed to have left over business disputes. In any case, he never again achieved the level of success he had had at Republic. After a string of very low-budget westerns for other companies, Carson retired from films in 1985 after making the sci-fi western Alien Outlaw (1985). Sunset Carson toured with Tommy Scott's Country Music Circus and Wild West Show. He replaced Tim McCoy after his death and stayed with them for five seasons. Thereafter he lived in retirement, making film appearances and attending western film conventions.

 

Sunset Carson died in Reno, Nevada, in 1990.

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