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Norman Eugene "Clint" Walker (May 30, 1927 – May 21, 2018) was an American actor and singer. He was perhaps best known for his starring role as cowboy Cheyenne Bodie in the ABC/Warner Bros. western series Cheyenne from (1955–1963).

Clint Walker
Clint Walker Cheyenne 1960.jpg
Walker in 1960
Born Norman Eugene Walker
(1927-05-30)May 30, 1927
Hartford, Illinois, U.S.
Died May 21, 2018(2018-05-21) (aged 90)
Grass Valley, California, U.S.
Other names Jett Norman
Occupation Actor, singer
Years active 1954–1998
Height 6 ft 6 in (198 cm)
Spouse(s)
  • Verna Garver
    (m. 1948; div. 1968)
  • Giselle Hennesy
    (m. 1974; d. 1994)
  • Susan Cavallari
    (m. 1997; wid. 2018)
Children 1
Website clintwalker.com

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Walker was born in Hartford, Illinois, the son of Gladys Huldah (née Schwanda) and Paul Arnold Walker.[1][2] His mother was Czech.[3] He had a twin sister named Lucy (1927–2000).[4]

Walker left school to work at a factory and on a riverboat, then joined the United States Merchant Marine at the age of 17 in the last months of World War II.[1] After leaving the Merchant Marine, he worked doing odd jobs in Brownwood, Texas, Long Beach, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, where he worked as a doorman at the Sands Hotel.[1] Walker was also employed as a sheet metal worker and a nightclub bouncer.

CareerEdit

Early FilmsEdit

Walker became a client of Henry Willson, who renamed him "Jett Norman"[5] and cast him to appear in a Bowery Boys film (Jungle Gents) as a Tarzan-type character. In Los Angeles, he was hired by Cecil B. DeMille to appear in The Ten Commandments.

A friend in the film industry helped get him a few bit parts that brought him to the attention of Warner Bros., which was developing a western style television series.

CheyenneEdit

 
Walker as Cheyenne Bodie in 1956

Walker's good looks and imposing physique (he stood 6 feet, 6 inches tall with a 48-inch chest and a 32-inch waist)[6] 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.[7]

Cheyenne originally appeared as part of Warner Bros. Presents rotating with adaptations of Kings Row and Casablanca.[8] 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 doing traditional songs and ballads.[9]

Early on in the series run, Warners announced they would star Walker in a feature, The Story of Sam Houston.[10] It was not made.

In April 1956 Walker said "I don't think I'd want any other roles" than Westerns. "Westerns keep me outdoors and active."[11]

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".[12]

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 Walker guest starred as Bodie in an episode of Maverick. (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.

Cheyenne ended in 1963.

Post-CheyenneEdit

 
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 Hudson-Doris 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 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".[13]

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

1970sEdit

Walker was one of many names in The Phynx (1970) and returned to TV with the leads in some TV movies, Yuma (1971), Hardcase (1972), and The Bounty Man (1972).

In May 1971 he was seriously injured in a skiing accident on Mammoth Mountain but he recovered.[14]

Walker supported Telly Savalas in the biopic Pancho Villa (1972) and starred 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 support parts 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).

1980s and 1990sEdit

In the 1980s Walker had roles in Hysterical (1983), The Love Boat, The Serpent Warriors (1985) (a lead), and The All American Cowboy (1985).

He was later in The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. In 1998, he voiced Nick Nitro in the film Small Soldiers.

Literary pursuitsEdit

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).[6]

HonorsEdit

 
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.[15]

He received the Golden Boot Award in 1997.

Personal life and deathEdit

Walker had three marriages, each of which lasted approximately twenty years. Walker married Verna Garver in 1948. The marriage produced one daughter Valerie in 1950 before divorce in 1968. Valerie became one of the first female airline pilots.[16][17] In 1974 Walker married Giselle Hennessy, who died in 1994. Walker then married Susan Cavallari in 1997. Eventually he took up residence in Grass Valley, California.

In May 1971, Walker narrowly escaped death in a skiing accident at Mammoth Mountain, California. In a fall from a ski lift, Walker 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.[18][19] Walker was a staunch conservative Republican.

Walker died of congestive heart failure in Grass Valley, California, on May 21, 2018, nine days before his 91st birthday.[20]

FilmographyEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Walker's biography from his official website
  2. ^ "Neoma Lucy Walker Westbrook (1927-2000) — Find A..." www.findagrave.com. 
  3. ^ "Norman E Walker". 
  4. ^ At age 73, Walker's twin sister, Neoma L. "Lucy" Westbrook, died on November 11, 2000 at her residence in Hartford, Illinois.
  5. ^ p.507 Aaker, Everett Television Western Players of the Fifties: A Biographical Encyclopedia of All Regular Cast Members in Western Series, 1949-1959' McFarland, 1997
  6. ^ a b Cowboy actor inspires local Western writer Archived 2007-06-12 at the Wayback Machine., a December 2003 review transcribed from an Idaho State Journal article
  7. ^ Special to The New,York Times. (1955, Jun 08). WIDMARK TO STAR IN NOVELIST ROLE. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/113443992?accountid=13902
  8. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (July 10, 1955). "Hollywood Notes" . The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "Media Room — National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum". 
  10. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (November 15, 1955). "Jennifer Gets Lead in Hemingway Novel". The Cincinnati Enquirer. p. 14. 
  11. ^ Clint walker, tall, brawny illinoisan, hero of cheyenne. (1956, Apr 14). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/179737098?accountid=13902
  12. ^ "Western and 'Lafayette Escadrille' Open", The New York Times, April 19, 1958
  13. ^ Howard Thompson, "'Dead' Western", The New York Times, May 1, 1969
  14. ^ Actor clint walker gains after surgery. (1971, May 27). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/156735297?accountid=13902
  15. ^ "Great Western Performers". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved May 22, 2018. 
  16. ^ "Chicago Tribune — Historical Newspapers". 
  17. ^ "Valerie Cottle (WG #175) in the cockpit for Western Airlines :: Whirly-Girls". twudigital.contentdm.oclc.org. 
  18. ^ Ski Magazine, October 19, 1971, p. 26
  19. ^ St. Petersburg Times, May 26, 1971, p. 17
  20. ^ Schwartz, John (May 22, 2018). "Clint Walker, Western Star Tall in the Saddle, Is Dead at 90". The New York Times. 

External linksEdit