Zon Murray

Like most character actors who have come and gone, Zon Murray had an unfamiliar name that was equally matched by his recognizable face.

Big, rugged, and intimidating-looking by nature, Zon Murray was somewhat typecast as the heavy. But Zon made the most of it; he worked steadily, doing what the studios thought he would do best. In turn, he became one of the best bad cowboys in the business. Maybe I’m a little partial because Zon Murray was my great uncle, but his resume speaks for itself.

During his 20-year career (an accident on TV’s The Virginian forced him into early retirement) consisting mostly of Westerns, Zon agitated scores of heroes, from Gene Autry, William Boyd, and Lash LaRue, to Charlton Heston, Audie Murphy, and Henry Fonda. Zon even gave Abbott and Costello some irritation in one of their Comedy-Westerns, The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap.

My uncle was born Emery Zon Murray in 1910. “Zon” was a unique middle mane, and became even more unique as the actor’s first. I don’t know whose decision it was to drop the “Emery,” but like “Marion” for John Wayne, the mane probably wouldn’t have suited a tough-and-tumble screen cowboy.

None of the Murrays grew up with money. They migrated to California from Missouri in the 1930s, in search of a better life. As a young man in the ’30s, Zon labored as a carpenter, specializing in building swimming pools. Little did he know that he would be working as a …………………………………