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Johnny Crawford (1946–2021), “The Rifleman” star and original Mouseketeer

by Linnea Crowther

Johnny Crawford was an actor best known for his role as young Mark McCain on “The Rifleman.”

Acting and musical career

Crawford got his start in Hollywood as one of the original Mouseketeers on “The Mickey Mouse Club” for its first season in 1955, when he was just nine years old. After that season, producers cut the number of Mouseketeers in half, and Crawford didn’t return. He landed a starring role on “The Rifleman” in 1958, playing the son of title character Lucas McCain. Crawford was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance when he was 13. While he starred on “The Rifleman,” Crawford also began a musical career, recording pop hits including “Cindy’s Birthday” and “Rumors.” He went on to make appearances on TV shows including “The Donna Reed Show,” “Mister Ed,” and “The Big Valley,” as well as in the movies “Indian Paint” and “The Naked Ape.” He was a U.S. Army veteran during the 1960s. Later in life, Crawford was the bandleader of the Johnny Crawford Orchestra.

Crawford on his “Mickey Mouse Club” interview

“I went on the audition and I did a tapdance routine with my brother, and we also did a fencing routine. Then they asked if we had anything else we could do. My grandmother told me to tell them that I imitated ’50s singer Johnny Ray. I stepped forward and did my imitation of him singing ‘Cry’ and that was what got me into the Mouseketeers.” —from a 1982 interview for TV Collector

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Tributes to Johnny Crawford

Full obituary: The Chicago Tribune

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