Sunset Carson was born on November 12, 1920 as Winifred Maurice
Harrison, at Gracemont, Oklahoma, to Maurice Greely Harrison and
Azalee Belle McAdams. His family moved to Plainview Texas when he
was a child. In his youth he became an accomplished rodeo rider and
for a time he worked in a western show owned by cowboy actor Tom
In 1940 he traveled to South America, where he competed in rodeos
for two years. After his return to the U.S., he played small parts
in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen, and the big budget 1944 film
Janie, both having him billed as "Michael Harrison". When he caught
the attention of Republic Pictures executive Lou Grey, he was signed
to a contract and given his own series of B-westerns beginning in
When Carson, whose screen name was Michael Harrison, signed with
Republic Pictures, studio head Herbert J. Yates thought that his
name was too long to fit on theater marquees and would have to be
changed. As he looked out his window he saw a used-car lot across
the street called "Sunset Motors", and named his new cowboy star
"Sunset". The new last name, "Carson", was in honor of legendary
frontiersman Kit Carson.
Within two years, Carson was on the top-10 list of money makers for
western stars. He was given a horse named "Cactus", and starred in a
string of semi-successful western genre films. In 1944 he starred in
Bordertown Trail, Code of the Prairie, and Firebrands of Arizona
opposite Smiley Burnette. In 1945 (the peak of his career), his
first film was Sheriff of Cimarron, followed by Santa Fe Saddlemates,
Bells of Rosarita, Oregon Trail, Bandits of the Badlands, Rough
Riders of Cheyenne, and The Cherokee Flash.
In 1946, Carson began the year strong, starring in Days of Buffalo
Bill and Alias Billy the Kid. He followed those with The El Paso
Kid, Red River Renegades, and Rio Grande Raiders. However, by the
end of 1946, Carson and Republic Pictures were having disputes. He
claimed the disputes were over his contract. Republic Pictures would
later claim that he was fired by Republic creator and executive
officer Herbert Yates after attending a studio function while
intoxicated and in the company of an underage girl. By year’s end,
he and Republic had parted company. He would never again achieve any
large degree of acting success.
In 1948 he starred for Astor Pictures in Fighting Mustang, Deadline,
and Sunset Carson Rides Again. Then in 1949 he starred in Rio
Grande, and in 1950 he starred as the lead character, for the last
time, in Battling Marshal. By the following year, his career was all
but over as a leading actor of the day. For the next several years
he obtained small bit parts.
Years later, in 1972, he played the lead in a B-movie called The
Marshal of Windy Hollow, a film that co-starred a host of old time
actors, including Ken Maynard, Tex Ritter, and Bill Cody, Jr. He
then had a bit part in the movie Seabo in 1978, and another bit part
in the 1985 sci-fi movie Alien Outlaw which was his last film role.
He toured for five years with "Tommy Scott's Country Music Circus".
In the early 1980s, Carson hosted ″Six-Gun Heroes″, a South Carolina
Educational TV show produced by Jim Welch presenting classic B
Westerns which still airs on many PBS affiliates across the US. In
1985, Carson appeared in an episode of the television series Simon &
Carson married five times in his lifetime. He married Patricia
Hussey in 1938, which ended in divorce. He then married Betty Price,
Dorothy Shockley, and Margaret Nesbitt, all ending in divorce. His
last marriage was to Jean Jackson Davis in 1989.
He retired to Reno, Nevada where he died on May 1, 1990.
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Texas Cowboy History