Chuck Courtney was an American actor and stuntman who appeared in many western films and television shows, such as The Lone Ranger, Rio Lobo, and The Cowboys. He was also a friend and protégé of John Wayne, who helped him get his first acting role. He died on January 19, 2000, at the age of 69, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A Passion for Acting and Stunts
Courtney was born on July 23, 1930, in Los Angeles, California. His mother, Elizabeth Courtney, was a costume designer at Columbia Pictures. He developed an interest in acting and stunts at an early age, and performed in school plays and local theater.
He began his professional career in 1950, when he was cast as Dan Reid Jr., the nephew of the Lone Ranger, in the popular television series. He played the role for 14 episodes, and became a fan favorite. He also worked as a stunt double for Clayton Moore, who played the Lone Ranger. He continued to appear in western films and shows, such as Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and The Virginian.
A Friendship with John Wayne
Courtney met John Wayne in 1959, when he was hired as a stuntman for the film The Alamo. Wayne was impressed by Courtney’s talent and personality, and offered him a small role in the film. He also became his mentor and friend, and invited him to join his production company, Batjac. Courtney appeared in several films produced by Wayne, such as The Comancheros, The Green Berets, and Big Jake. He also worked as Wayne’s stand-in and stunt coordinator.
Courtney considered Wayne as his second father, and admired him greatly. He said that Wayne taught him a lot about acting, stunts, and life. He also said that Wayne was a generous and loyal person, who helped him and many others in the industry.
A Mysterious Death that Shocked the Industry
Courtney died on January 19, 2000, at his home in North Hollywood, California. He was found by his wife, Joyce, who had gone out to run some errands. She said that he had been depressed and suicidal for some time, and that he had suffered a series of strokes that affected his speech and memory. She said that he had left a note, saying that he loved her and that he was sorry. She called 911, but it was too late.
The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office confirmed that Courtney died from a gunshot wound to the head, and ruled his death as a suicide. They said that there was no evidence of foul play or drugs, and that he had used his own revolver.
Courtney’s death was a shock and a sorrow to the film and television industry, and to his fans and friends. He was mourned and remembered by his colleagues and co-stars, who praised him for his skill, professionalism, and kindness. He was also honored by the Western Performers Hall of Fame, which inducted him posthumously in 2001. He left behind a legacy of entertainment and adventure, that still delights and impresses the public.