The Three Phases of Olive Carey

A genuine pleasure to be writing about our second lady western star of the day (following Joanne Dru): Olive Carey (Olive Fuller Golden, 1896-1988).

Olive was the daughter of vaudeville great George Fuller Golden, a star in his day whose most lasting legacy was founding the vaudeville performers union, the White Rats. Golden died broke in 1912, necessitating a scramble for work on the part of his family. Olive immediately found employment in the movies. Her first film was The Vintage of Fate (1912), produced by the Selig Polyscope Company. She appeared in around three dozen pictures, mostly melodramas and adventures, during the silent phase of her career, which lasted through the end of 1916.

In 1920, she married western star Harry Carey, whom he’s met while working with in pictures like Love’s Lariat (1916) and which would gradually lead to subsequent legs of her career. The second phase, rather brief, had her playing supporting parts in a handful of films starring her husband: Trader Horn (1931), the serial The Vanishing Legion (1931), and Border Devils (1932). She was also in the Nelson Eddy/ Jeanette MacDonald musical Naughty Marietta (1935).

Harry Carey died in 1947, and this led to the final and most productive phase in Olive’s career. Starting in 1951, she began acting in film and television, reinvented as a feisty old dame. Her best known work is from this era, for John Ford put her in The Searchers (1956) and Two Rode Together (1961), John Wayne put her in The Alamo (1960), and she is also in the classic westerns Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957), and Run of the Arrow (1957), plus tv shows like Red Ryder, Tales of Wells Fargo, Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Cimarron City, Laramie, Have Gun Will Travel and others.

The westerns would be enough to have distinguished her, but she did a lot more. She was a regular on two TV series, Mr. Adams and Eve (1957-58) with Howard Duff and Ida Lupino, and Lock Up (1960-61) with MacDonald Carey. And she was in numerous other films ranging from my favorite Howard Hawks comedy Money Business (1952), to, rather gloriously, her last film, William Beaudine’s Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966). Despite the start-and-stop nature of her career, she had 82 film and television credits. The well-known actor Harry Carey Jr was her son.

For more on silent film please check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube,