Johnny Crawford: A serious young man
The actor took his craft very seriously, even as a kid.
Child actors are a real mixed bag of skill and longevity. Some make a career in Hollywood, like Ron Howard and Kurt Russell. Others crumble under the inhuman pressures of being a kid in such a weird line of work. Nobody should have to grow up in front of a camera. So those of us that do are a constant source of fascination.
Take, for instance, Johnny Crawford. After being fired from The Mickey Mouse Club, Crawford found success as Mark McCain, the title character's son on The Rifleman. Crawford received an Emmy nomination for the role at just 13 years old. But, to hear him speak on his career, it sounds like it was anything but a day in the park.
"I always felt I was a grown-up and I expected of myself exactly what I expected of grown-ups in the business," he told The Vancouver Sun in 1973. "I took pride in what I did and I was very serious about it."
How seriously did this serious young man take it when he got the boot as a Mouseketeer?
"I got fired because I couldn't learn the dance steps fast enough and that was my first major break because being fired freed me to work."
He tossed away his Mickey Mouse ears and traded the kiddie stuff in for more mature acting roles.
"I was very lucky in the '50s," Crawford said. "TV was new and the first hour shows were a big thing because all the prime time shows until then were half-hours. So there was more work then."
As he got older, Crawford was able to diversify his talents. He had a brief career as a recording artist. He acted, wrote, and was assistant director on training films during his time in the army. Through it all though, the boy who played Mark McCain kept returning to his love of acting.
"Acting is what I enjoy most," he explained. "It requires a total investment of yourself because you're creating an image you can never retract."