Sunset Carson; Cowboy Star of 1940s, ‘50s

Sunset Carson, who performed in rodeos as a teen-ager and in low-budget Western films of the 1940s and ‘50s as a young man, died Tuesday at a hospital in Reno after an apparent heart attack.

Carson was taken to Washoe Medical Center after suffering the attack in his hotel room. Authorities said he was 63 but film anthologies and newspaper clippings indicate he was several years older.

Carson, born Michael Harrison, died one day after winning a settlement in a 3-year-old lawsuit over money earned from some of his old pictures.


A rodeo star at 17, Carson appeared in more than 40 Westerns, including “Bandits of the Badlands,” “Oregon Trail” and “Bells of Rosarita.”

In 1978, he created a video series from 78 Western movies. They featured himself and such other cowboy stars as Ken Maynard and Roy Rogers.

He filed suit in 1987 complaining that South Carolina Educational Television Producers Inc. and Ken Heard Releasing Inc. helped in the production and distribution of the “Six-Gun Heroes” series but had not paid him for videocassette sales and promotional materials sold on the show since 1982.

Carson’s Reno attorney, Larry Dunn, said the lawsuit was settled out of court in Carson’s favor Monday. Dunn would not give a money amount.

Carson played bit roles in several films before making his debut in the all-star “Stage Door Canteen” in 1943. The following year he signed with Republic as a cowboy star and at the studio’s urging changed his name to Sunset Carson, the name of the cowboy he portrayed through the 1940s.

His other pictures included “Code of the Prairie,” “The El Paso Kid,” “Alias Billy the Kid” and “Sunset Carson Rides Again.”

He is survived by his wife, Jeanne, a son and a daughter.