A background actor in The Rifleman helped Chuck Connors build a treehouse
This Hollywood jack-of-all-trades was also good friends with George “Goober Pyle” Lindsay.
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While the name Joe Benson may not be familiar to many classic Western fans, chances are they’ve seen his face. He appeared in more than 40 episodes of The Rifleman, usually in a background role as a townsman or barfly. In the episode “Seven,” he was one of the seven escaped prisoners. In “The Score is Even,” he played Abe Merar. He even shows up in the Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Crippled Cougar” as Deputy Wilson.
After serving in the Merchant Marines during WWII, Benson worked odd jobs while living in southern California. His carpentry skills landed him a job as a set builder in Hollywood, which in turn led to him remodeling the homes of actors he met on the studio lot. One of those actors was Chuck Connors.
Benson helped Connors build an addition onto his house and soon became friends with The Rifleman star. Benson also put his skills to work for Connors’ four sons — building a treehouse for them in the backyard.
Connors returned the favor. He enabled Benson’s career to move from building sets to acting on them.
It was while shooting an episode of The Rifleman (“Requiem at Mission Springs”) that Benson met another actor who would become one of his closest friends. So close, in fact, this actor gave the eulogy at Benson’s funeral. That friend was none other than George Lindsay, who would become famous for playing Goober Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show.
It was one of Lindsay’s very first professional acting jobs and Benson, who had been appearing on The Rifleman for years by that point, offered to go over the scene with the newcomer. A gracious move considering Benson played a prison guard kidnapped by Lindsay and two other escaped convicts!