American character actor, mainly in Westerns in comic or rustic roles. Born Norton Earl Worden in Rolfe, Iowa, during his parents’ visit to a relative’s home there, he was raised on a cattle ranch near Glendive, Montana. Educated at Stanford and the University of Nevada as an engineer, he trained as an Army pilot, but washed out of flight school. Worden toured the country in rodeos as a saddle bronc rider and broke his neck in a horse fall in his 20s, but didn’t know it until his 40s. Chosen along with Tex Ritter from a rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York to appear in the Broadway play “Green Grow the Lilacs”, the play from which the musical “Oklahoma” was later derived, he afterward drove a cab in New York, then worked on dude ranches as a wrangler and as a guide on the Bright Angel trail of the Grand Canyon. Recommended by Billie Burke to several movie producers, Worden became friends with John Wayne, Howard Hawks, and later John Ford, all of whom provided him with much work. He was married to Louise Eaton, who predeceased him. Following his wife’s death, he shared his house with Jim Beaver for several years, thus generously helping the young actor gain a foothold in Hollywood. He died in his sleep at 91, survived by his adopted daughter Dawn Henry.
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