Walker in Cheyenne, 1957
|Born||Norman Eugene Walker
May 30, 1927
Hartford, Illinois, United States
|Spouse(s)||Susan Cavallari (1997–present)
Giselle Hennessy (1974–1994) (her death)
Verna Garver (1948–1968) (divorced) 1 child
Life and career
Walker was born in Hartford, Illinois; he is a twin, and is of one-quarter Cherokee descent. He left school to work at a factory and on a river boat, then joined the United States Merchant Marine at the age of seventeen in the last months of World War II. After leaving the Merchant Marine, he labored at odd jobs in Brownwood, Texas, Long Beach, California, and Las Vegas, where he worked as a doorman at the Sands Hotel. He also was employed as a sheet-metal worker and a nightclub bouncer.
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.
Walker's good looks and imposing physique (he stood 6 feet, 6 inches [198 cm] tall with a 48-inch chest and a 32-inch waist) helped him to 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 cowboy hero in the post-American Civil War era. While the series regularly capitalized on Walker's rugged frame with frequent bare-chested scenes, it was well-written and acted. It proved hugely popular for eight seasons on the ABC television network. 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.
Walker then played roles in several big-screen films, including a trio of westerns for Gordon Douglas: Fort Dobbs in 1958, Yellowstone Kelly in 1959, and Gold of the Seven Saints in 1961, the comedy Send Me No Flowers in 1964, the actual leading role despite being billed under Frank Sinatra in the wartime drama None But the Brave in 1965, The Night of the Grizzly in 1966, and as the meek convict Samson Posey, in the war drama The Dirty Dozen in 1967. In 1969, New York Times film critic Howard Thompson, in reviewing Walker's performance in the movie More Dead Than Alive, 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". In 1958, Thompson described the actor, then starring in Fort Dobbs, as "the biggest, finest-looking Western hero ever to sag a horse, with a pair of shoulders rivaling King Kong's".
During the 1970s he returned to television, starring in a number of made-for-TV western films as well as a short-lived series in 1974 called Kodiak. He starred in the made-for-television cult film Killdozer! the same year. In 1998, he voiced Nick Nitro in the film Small Soldiers. In December 2009, several internet movie websites had indicated that Sylvester Stallone had or was about to make an approach to Walker to come out of retirement to play the father of John Rambo in Stallone's forthcoming film Rambo V.
Walker met western author Kirby Jonas through James Drury, a mutual friend. Jonas and Walker subsequently spent two years collaborating on a story idea suggested by Walker involving gold and the Yaqui, a partnership that led to the publication of the 2003 Western novel Yaqui Gold (ISBN 978-1-891423-08-6).
Walker has been married to:
- Verna Garver, married 1948, divorced 1968; they had one daughter, Valerie (born 1950)
- Giselle Hennessy, married 1974, died 1994
- Susan Cavallari, married 1997
Walker's twin sister, Neoma L. "Lucy" Westbrook (born May 30, 1927), died November 11, 2000 at her residence in Hartford, Illinois, aged 73. Walker currently lives in Grass Valley, California.
- 1954: Jungle Gents – Tarzan
- 1955–62: Cheyenne (TV)
- 1956: The Ten Commandments
- 1958: Fort Dobbs
- 1959: Yellowstone Kelly
- 1961: Gold of the Seven Saints
- 1964: Send Me No Flowers
- 1965: None But the Brave
- 1965/66: The Lucy Show; 2 episodes
- 1966: The Night of the Grizzly
- 1966: Maya
- 1967: The Dirty Dozen
- 1969: More Dead Than Alive
- 1969: Sam Whiskey
- 1969: The Great Bank Robbery
- 1971: Yuma (TV)
- 1972: Hardcase (TV)
- 1972: Pancho Villa
- 1972: The Bounty Man (TV)
- 1974: Scream of the Wolf (TV)
- 1974: Killdozer! (TV)
- 1974: Kodiak; 13 episodes
- 1976: "Baker's Hawk"
- 1977: The White Buffalo
- 1977: Deadly Harvest
- 1977: Centennial (TV mini-series)
- 1977: Snowbeast (TV)
- 1983: Hysterical
- 1983: Love Boat – Episode, "Friend of the Family/Affair on Demand/Just Another Pretty Face"
- 1985: The Serpent Warriors
- 1985: All American Cowboy (TV)
- 1991: The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (TV movie) – as Cheyenne Bodie
- 1993: Tropical Heat (TV) – Episode "The Last of the Magnificent"
- 1994: Maverick (cameo appearance)
- 1995: Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (TV) – as Cheyenne Bodie, episode "Gunfighters"
- 1998: Small Soldiers – as Nick Nitro (voice)
- Walker's biography from his official website
- 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
- Cowboy actor inspires local Western writer, a December 2003 review transcribed from an Idaho State Journal article
- Actor Clint Walker to be Inducted into National Cowboy Museum's Hall of Great Western Performers
- Howard Thompson, "'Dead' Western", The New York Times, May 1, 1969
- "Western and 'Lafayette Escadrille' Open", The New York Times, April 19, 1958
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Clint Walker|
- Clint Walker at the Internet Movie Database
- Official website
- "Clint Walker: Top Gun of Warner's TV" by Herb Fagen (1999 interview) @ Classic Images magazine, issue # 212, p. 12
- "Belleville had its share of fame: Nice guy Clint Walker became Hollywood hunk" by Jaime Ingle - News-Democrat (Wednesday, June 18, 2008)
- "Cowboy actor inspires local Western writer" - From the Idaho State Journal - December 2003
- "Actor Clint Walker to be Inducted into National Cowboy Museum's Hall of Great Western Performers" - March 3, 2004 - National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum