Clint Walker

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Clint Walker
Clint Walker Cheyenne 1957.JPG
Walker in 1957
Born Norman Eugene Walker
(1927-05-30) May 30, 1927 (age 89)
Hartford, Illinois, United States
Residence Grass Valley, California, United States
Other names Jett Norman
Occupation Actor, singer
Years active 1954–1998
Spouse(s)
  • Verna Garver (m. 1948; div. 1968)
  • Giselle Hennesy (m. 1974; d. 1994)
  • Susan Cavallari (m. 1997)
Children 1
Website clintwalker.com

Norman Eugene "Clint" Walker (born May 30, 1927) is a retired American actor and singer. He is perhaps best known for his role as cowboy Cheyenne Bodie in the ABC/Warner Brothers western series Cheyenne.

Early life[edit]

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 river boat, 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 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.

Career[edit]

Walker as Cheyenne Bodie in 1956

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 Brothers, which was developing a western style television series.

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

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. 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.[7]

Walker on The Lucy Show

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".[8] 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".[9]

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.

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, a partnership that led to the publication of the 2003 Western novel Yaqui Gold (ISBN 978-1-891423-08-6).[6]

Honors[edit]

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.

Personal life[edit]

Walker married Verna Garver in 1948; they divorced 1968 and had one daughter, Valerie (born 1950), who became one of the first female airline pilots. [10][11][12] Walker married Giselle Hennesy in 1974; she died in 1994. Walker then married Susan Cavallari in 1997. He currently lives 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 again working.[13][14]

Filmography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ a b c Walker's biography from his official website
  2. ^ Neoma Lucy Walker Westbrook
  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, a December 2003 review transcribed from an Idaho State Journal article
  7. ^ Actor Clint Walker to be Inducted into National Cowboy Museum's Hall of Great Western Performers
  8. ^ Howard Thompson, "'Dead' Western", The New York Times, May 1, 1969
  9. ^ "Western and 'Lafayette Escadrille' Open", The New York Times, April 19, 1958
  10. ^ http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1979/02/04/page/36/article/female-airline-pilots-flying-high
  11. ^ http://cf.alpa.org/internet/alp/2000/jangood.htm
  12. ^ http://twudigital.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16283coll1/id/468/rec/2
  13. ^ Ski Magazine, October 19, 1971, p. 26
  14. ^ St. Petersburg Times, May 26, 1971, p. 17

External links[edit]