The actor’s website confirmed the news yesterday. “It is with great sadness and heaviness of heart that the Johnny Crawford Legacy team announce the passing of Johnny Crawford,” a statement posted to the website reads. “He passed away peacefully this evening, April 29, 2021 with Charlotte, his wife, by his side.”
Crawford had been battling Alzheimer’s at the time of his death, and a GoFundMe campaign was created in 2019 to help with his treatment. The Donna Reed Show‘s Paul Petersen organized the fundraiser for his “lifelong friend” in February of that year. Crawford’s website shared that he was living in “a memory care residence” before he contracted COVID-19 and subsequently pneumonia.
While his most famous role was playing Mark McCain, the son of a Civil War widow on The Rifleman, Crawford got his first big break as one of the original Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club, starring in the first season of the show from 1955-1956. Crawford admitted that by the time he was nine, he was “a has-been,” but his Disney role lead to bigger opportunities.
“Being able to go in and say that I had just finished working for a year as a Mouseketeer was to my benefit, because there weren’t many 9-year-olds who had experience in film,” he said in a 1982 interview. “It gave me a certain confidence that I hadn’t had before, and I started getting a few small parts.”
Shortly after The Mickey Mouse Club, he landed The Rifleman role, which earned him an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor when he was just 13 years old. The Rifleman was canceled in 1963, but Crawford went on to appear in NBC’s Branded, John Wayne’s film El Dorado, and shows like Hawaii Five-O, Little House on the Prairie and Murder, She Wrote. His career also expanded into music, and Crawford cracked the Billboard 100 with his No. 8 song “Cindy’s Birthday” in 1962.
Crawford is survived by his wife and his brother.
Originally published at https://decider.com/2021/04/30/johnny-crawford-rifleman-actor-dies/ on .