Johnny Crawford played Chuck Connors' son on The Rifleman, but was he happy?

What was his experience growing up in Hollywood?

Child stardom is a subject that continues to fascinate and baffle us all. There's so much that could go wrong, so when someone lives to tell the story, we're left with many questions. That's why child star memoirs are perpetual best-sellers; each generation wants to know what it was really like for the kids they saw growing up in movies and on TV. 

One of the most prominently featured kids in TV Westerns during the late '50s and early '60s was Johnny Crawford. Between the ages of 12 and 17, Crawford played Mark McCain, son of Lucas McCain, the title character in The Rifleman. Together with his onscreen father, Mark McCain spent five seasons standing up for what was right in the fictional town of North Fork, situated within what was then the New Mexico Territory.

In 1973, ten years after The Rifleman aired its final episode, Crawford spoke with journalist Les Wedman of The Vancouver Sun about the highs and lows of being the son of The Rifleman. 

Perhaps surprisingly, Crawford had very few negative things to say about his experience. However, he recalled how much he hated making personal appearance tours for The Rifleman. For the most part, the meet-and-greets resulted in Crawford having his head patted and his cheeks pinched by older women, or so he remembered it. He was frequently told how cute he was and asked to say "paw" for his adoring fans. None of this, of course, would've been fun for any teenage boy. 

But, that was about it as far as disappointments. Apparently, unlike many of his peers who were thrust into television production, Crawford truly relished the time he spent on set.

"I love Hollywood," Crawford said, "its history and nostalgia. I've lived with it all my life."

While many other kid stars felt like they were robbed of a normal childhood, Crawford said he wouldn't have traded any of it away. He was exactly where he wanted to be.

"I was always happy, glad to be doing what I was doing, and hopeful of doing more. Just the thrill of getting up in the morning and going to work — being part of the newest form that man has created. I just really dig it."

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8 Comments

JERRY6 1 month ago
he was very good in the Rifleman , good for him having a good life . Just sad he died of altimeters in his 70's
ncadams27 1 month ago
He hated personal appearance tours and being told how cute he was. Well, I never had that problem!
Runeshaper 1 month ago
I'm glad that Crawford enjoyed his childhood. He was GREAT on The Rifleman!
Kaydee 1 month ago
I enjoyed watching Johnny Crawford on The Rifleman up until he got older in the 4th and 5th seasons. I noticed how within his scripts and storylines, he was still treated like a little boy instead of a young man .As a young teen still yelling for "paw" when he was scared of something. For me as a fan of the show it was annoying to watch. I actually thought of a storyline for a "Dream" sequence episode where Mark was a grown man and taught himself how to use a rifle (Because Lucas was always reluctant to teach him) And Mark was a respected rancher like "paw" then some lawless cowboys came to town causing trouble and Mark took matters in his own hands after Micah's passing and old man Lucas trying to convince Mark to stay out of it. Lucas didn't want Mark to become a killer but Mark defied his father and assisted an aging new Marshall to run the cowboys out of town so Mark and the Marshall ran them out of town with no casualties and then Lucas woke up from his dream Ha! RIP Johnny Crawford 1946-2021
harlow1313 Kaydee 1 month ago
I feel similarly about Theodore Cleaver, though I am a fan of the show. The writers had trouble letting him grow up. They seemed to do okay with Wally, and even Eddie.
GTStang08 Kaydee 1 month ago
Sounds like a thought idea I read from someone else on another site. Same exact idea. Isn't that peculiar?
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