Norman Eugene "Clint" Walker (May 30, 1927 – May 21, 2018) was an American actor. He played cowboy Cheyenne Bodie in the ABC/Warner Bros. western series Cheyenne from 1955 to 1963.

Clint Walker
Walker in 1960
Norman Eugene Walker

(1927-05-30)May 30, 1927
DiedMay 21, 2018(2018-05-21) (aged 90)
Other namesJett Norman
Years active1954–1998
Height6 ft 6 in (198 cm)
Verna Garver
(m. 1948; div. 1968)
Giselle Hennesy
(m. 1974; died 1994)
Susan Cavallari
(m. 1997)

Early life edit

Clint Walker was born in Hartford, Illinois.[1] His mother was Czech.[2] He was a twin. Walker left school to work at a factory and on a riverboat, then joined the United States Merchant Marine at the age of 17.[1]

After leaving the Merchant Marine, he did odd jobs in Brownwood, Texas; Long Beach, California; and Las Vegas, Nevada, where he worked as a doorman at the Sands Hotel before reuniting with the Merchant Marine to fight in the Korean War.[1]

Career edit

Early films edit

Walker became a client of Henry Willson, who renamed him "Jett Norman".[3]

Cheyenne edit

Walker as Cheyenne Bodie in 1956

Walker's good looks and imposing physique (he stood 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) tall with a 48 in (120 cm) chest and a 32 in (81 cm) waist)[4] helped him land an audition where he won the lead role in the TV series Cheyenne.

Billed as "Clint Walker", he was cast as Cheyenne Bodie, a roaming cowboy hero in the post-American Civil War era. His casting was announced in June 1955.[5]

Cheyenne originally appeared as part of Warner Bros. Presents rotating with adaptations of Kings Row and Casablanca.[6] Cheyenne turned out to be the breakout hit.

While the series regularly capitalized on Walker's rugged frame with frequent bare-chested scenes, it was also well-written and acted. It proved hugely popular for eight seasons. Walker's pleasant baritone singing voice was also occasionally utilized on the series and led Warner Brothers to produce an album of Walker performing traditional songs and ballads.[7]

Early in the series run, Warners announced they would star Walker in a feature, The Story of Sam Houston.[8] It was not made.

In April 1956 Walker said "I don't think I'd want any other roles ... Westerns keep me outdoors and active."[9]

Warners cast Walker in the lead of a Western feature film, Fort Dobbs (1958), directed by Gordon Douglas. Howard Thompson described the actor as "the biggest, finest-looking Western hero ever to sag a horse, with a pair of shoulders rivaling King Kong's".[10]

Box office returns were modest. Warners tried him in another Douglas-directed Western, Yellowstone Kelly (1959), co-starring Edd Byrnes from another Warners TV show, 77 Sunset Strip. It was a minor success.

A number of Cheyenne episodes were cut into feature films and released theatrically in some markets, and a brief clip of Walker galloping on horseback as Bodie was featured in an episode of Maverick starring Jack Kelly. He also guest starred on an episode of 77 Sunset Strip. Warners tried Walker in a third Western feature directed by Douglas, Gold of the Seven Saints (1961), this time co-starring Roger Moore, who was also under contract to Warners.

Post-Cheyenne edit

Walker on The Lucy Show

Walker had a role in Kraft Suspense Theatre (episode "Portrait of an Unknown Man", alongside Robert Duvall). He had a supporting role in the Rock HudsonDoris Day comedy, Send Me No Flowers (1964).

Frank Sinatra cast him in the leading role in the war drama None but the Brave (1965), the only film Sinatra directed. After doing some guest appearances in The Lucy Show he fought a grizzly bear in Paramount's Western, The Night of the Grizzly (1966). He starred in a family adventure movie shot in India, Maya (1966).

Walker had his biggest feature film hit to date when he played the meek convict Samson Posey in the war drama The Dirty Dozen (1967).

Walker returned to Westerns with More Dead Than Alive (1969). The New York Times described the actor as "a big, fine-looking chap and about as live-looking as any man could be. And there is something winning about his taciturn earnestness as an actor, although real emotion seldom breaks through".[11]

Walker had support roles in two comic Westerns, Sam Whiskey (1969) and The Great Bank Robbery (1969).

1970s edit

Walker was one of many names in The Phynx (1970) and returned to TV with the leads in some television pilots that appeared as made for television movies on the ABC Movie of the Week, Yuma (1971), Hardcase (1972), and The Bounty Man (1972). In May 1971, he was seriously injured in a skiing accident on Mammoth Mountain when one of his ski poles went through his chest but he recovered.[12]

Walker supported Telly Savalas in the biopic Pancho Villa (1972) and starred in a short-lived series in 1974 called Kodiak, playing an Alaskan patrolman. He starred in the made-for-television cult film Killdozer! The same year as well as Scream of the Wolf (1974).

Walker starred in Baker's Hawk (1976) and had supporting roles in Snowbeast (1977), and The White Buffalo (1977). He starred in the Canadian Deadly Harvest (1977) and had a small role in Centennial and Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women (1979).

Literary pursuits edit

Walker met western author Kirby Jonas through James Drury, a mutual friend. Jonas and Walker subsequently spent two years collaborating on a storyline by Walker involving gold and the Yaqui. The partnership led to the publication of the 2003 Western novel Yaqui Gold (ISBN 978-1-891423-08-6).[4]

Clint Walker Star on Texas Trail of Fame

Honors edit

Walker being pinned with a Sheriff's Badge at Frontier Fiesta at the University of Houston (circa 1950s)

Walker has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1505 Vine Street, near its intersection with Sunset Boulevard (approximate coordinates: 34°05′53″N 118°19′36″W / 34.098084°N 118.326643°W / 34.098084; -118.326643).

In 2004, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[13]

He received the Golden Boot Award in 1997.

In 2017 he was presented an inlaid bronze star medallion on the Texas Trail of Fame in the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District.[14]

Personal life and death edit

Walker had three marriages, each of which lasted approximately twenty years. Walker married Verna Garver in 1948. The marriage produced one daughter, Valerie (born 1950) before ending in divorce in 1968. Valerie became one of the first female airline pilots.[15][16] Walker was a pesce pollotarian, stating, "we don't eat beef, but we eat chicken and salmon."[17]

Walker supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election.[18]

In May 1971, Walker narrowly escaped death in a skiing accident at Mammoth Mountain, California. While following the contours of the twisting, irregular terrain Walker began tumbling out of control before coming to an abrupt, violent stop in which he was pierced through the heart with a ski pole. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. However, a doctor detected faint signs of life and rushed Walker to surgery, where his damaged heart was repaired. Within two months, Walker was working again.[19][20]

Walker died of congestive heart failure in Grass Valley, California, on May 21, 2018, nine days before his 91st birthday.[21]

Filmography edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Walker's biography Archived June 4, 2019, at the Wayback Machine from his official website
  2. ^ "Norman E Walker". FamilySearch.
  3. ^ Aaker, Everett Television Western Players of the Fifties: A Biographical Encyclopedia of All Regular Cast Members in Western Series, 1949–1959. McFarland, 1997. p. 507 [ISBN missing]
  4. ^ a b Cowboy actor inspires local Western writer Archived June 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, a December 2003 review transcribed from an Idaho State Journal article
  5. ^ "Widmark to Star in Novelist Role". New York Times. June 8, 1955. ProQuest 113443992.
  6. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (July 10, 1955). "Hollywood Notes". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Media Room – National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum". Archived from the original on May 18, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2009.
  8. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (November 15, 1955). "Jennifer Gets Lead in Hemingway Novel". The Cincinnati Enquirer. p. 14.
  9. ^ "Clint walker, tall, brawny Illinoisan, hero of Cheyenne". Chicago Daily Tribune. April 14, 1956. ProQuest 179737098.
  10. ^ "Western and 'Lafayette Escadrille' Open", The New York Times, April 19, 1958.
  11. ^ Howard Thompson, "'Dead' Western", The New York Times, May 1, 1969
  12. ^ "Actor clint walker gains after surgery". Los Angeles Times. May 27, 1971. ProQuest 156735297.
  13. ^ "Great Western Performers". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Archived from the original on September 12, 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  14. ^ Texas Trail of Fame Inductees
  15. ^ "Chicago Tribune – Historical Newspapers". July 18, 2023.
  16. ^ "Valerie Cottle (WG #175) in the cockpit for Western Airlines :: Whirly-Girls".
  17. ^ Ingle, Jaime (September 2010). "Belleville had its share of fame: Nice guy Clint Walker became Hollywood hunk".
  18. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (2013). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1107650282.
  19. ^ Ski Magazine, October 19, 1971, p. 26
  20. ^ St. Petersburg Times, May 26, 1971, p. 17
  21. ^ Schwartz, John (May 22, 2018). "Clint Walker, Western Star Tall in the Saddle, Is Dead at 90". The New York Times.

External links edit