Hank Worden

Hank Worden (born Norton Earl Worden July 23, 1901 December 6, 1992) was an American cowboy-turned-character actor who appeared in many Westerns, including many John Ford films such as The Searchers and the TV series The Lone Ranger.

Hank Worden
Worden and John Wayne in McLintock! (1963)
Norton Earl Worden

(1901-07-23)July 23, 1901
Rolfe, Iowa, U.S.
DiedDecember 6, 1992(1992-12-06) (aged 91)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Years active19351991
Spouse(s)Emma Louise Eaton (1940–1977) (her death)


Worden was raised on a cattle ranch near Glendive, Montana and was educated at Stanford University and the University of Nevada as an engineer. He enlisted in the U.S. Army hoping to become an Army pilot, but failed to pass flight school. An expert horseman, he toured the country in rodeos as a saddle bronc rider. During one ride, his horse landed atop him and broke his neck, but aside from a temporarily sore neck, Worden did not know of the break until x-rayed twenty years later. While appearing in a rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York, he and fellow cowboy Tex Ritter were chosen to appear in the Broadway play Green Grow the Lilacs, the play from which the musical Oklahoma! was later derived. Following the run of the play, Worden drove a cab in New York, and then worked on dude ranches as a wrangler and as a guide on the Bright Angel trail of the Grand Canyon.

A chance encounter with actress Billie Burke at a dude ranch led her to recommend him to several film producers. Worden made his film debut as an extra in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman (though a few later films were released prior to The Plainsman). By this time, Tex Ritter had become a star, and Worden played sidekick roles in a number of Ritter's Westerns. In several of his early appearances, Worden was billed as "Heber Snow", until he reverted to his real name. A small part in Howard Hawks's Come and Get It led to a number of later appearances for that director, who also recommended him to director John Ford. He appeared in episode 121 of the TV Series the Lone Ranger.

Worden eventually became a member of the John Ford Stock Company, and was directed by Ford twelve times in films and television. The connection with Ford led to an association with actor John Wayne, and Worden appeared in 17 of Wayne's films. Foremost among his collaborations with Wayne and Ford in The Searchers, the 1956 classic Western in which Worden portrayed his most memorable role, that of "Mose Harper," the Shakespearean fool who only longed for "a roof over [his] head and a rocking chair by the fire."

Worden's best performances were given for demanding directors. He had a striking appearance: tall, thin, bald, his voice and mannerisms unforgettable to anyone who saw him. He worked steadily in television as well as films, long outliving Hawks, Ford and Wayne, and achieving some late notice as a senile hotel waiter in David Lynch's Twin Peaks TV series.

In 1992, Worden hosted and co-produced, with director Clyde Lucas, an independent special shown on the Nostalgia Channel and some PBS stations entitled Thank Ya, Thank Ya Kindly. The special looked back on Worden's career and featured guests Clint Eastwood, Paul Hogan, Harry Carey Jr., Ben Johnson, Frankie Avalon, Burt Kennedy and stuntman Dean Smith.

Widowed by his wife of 37 years (the former Emma Louise Eaton) in 1977, he later shared his house for several years with actor Jim Beaver. In good health through his 91st year, he died peacefully during a nap at his home in Los Angeles on December 6, 1992.[1] He was survived by his daughter, Dawn Henry, whom he and his wife had adopted as an adult.

Selected filmography

John Wayne films

Other appearances


  • The Lone Ranger - episode - The Tenderfeet (1949) as Rusty Bates
  • The Lone Ranger - episode - Woman from Omaha (1953) as Whip
  • The Lone Ranger - episode - The Ghost of Coyote Canyon (1953) as Ed
  • The Lone Ranger - episode - Stage to Tishomingo (1954) as Ike Beatty, Stage driver
  • The Lone Ranger - episode - The Bait: Gold! (1955) as Jud, Stagecoach Driver
  • The Lone Ranger - episode - The Banker's Son (1957) as Bruckner
  • Rawhide - episode - Incident of the Devil and His Due (1960) as Joe Wendell
  • Wagon Train - episode - The Colter Craven Story (1960) as Hank (uncredited)
  • Wagon Train - episode - The Nellie Jefferson Story (1961) as Trader
  • Bonanza - episode - The Stranger (1960) as Station Attendant
  • Bonanza - episode - The Bride (1961) as Ned Birch (Old Miner)
  • Bonanza - episode - Tommy (1966) as Dave (uncredited)
  • Hondo and the Apaches - TV movie (1967) as One of Gallagher's Mine Workers (uncredited)
  • Hondo - episode - Hondo and the Eagle Claw (1967) as Miner (uncredited)
  • Hondo - episode - Hondo and the War Cry (1967) as Miner (uncredited)
  • McCloud - episode - A Little Plot at Tranquil Valley (1972) as Elderly Patient (uncredited)
  • Gunsmoke - episode - The Tarnished Bridge (1974) as Claude
  • The Yellow Rose - episode - A Question of Love (1983) as Old Man
  • Knight Rider - episode - Fright Knight (1985) as Slim
  • Twin Peaks (1990-1991) as Waiter


  1. "Hank Worden, Actor In 100 Films, Was 91". The New York Times. December 12, 1992. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
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