Clint Walker was born Norman Eugene Walker in Hartford, southwestern Illinois, to Gladys Huldah (Schwanda), a Czech immigrant, and Paul Arnold Walker, who was from Arkansas. Walker almost single-handedly started the western craze on TV in the 1950s as Cheyenne Bodie in Cheyenne (1955). Growing up in the Depression era meant taking work wherever you could get it, and Walker found himself working at such jobs as Mississippi River boatman, carnival roustabout and golf caddy. He quit high school at 16 and at age 17 joined the Merchant Marine. After the war he worked his way cross country, including working in the oil fields in Brownwood, Texas, and wound up in California, where he worked as an undercover agent for a private detective agency on the Long Beach waterfront. After a while he took a job as a security officer at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. It was there that he met quite a few Hollywood people who told him that his size, physique and good looks would serve him well in Hollywood and that he should go to Los Angeles and give it a try. He met actor Henry Wilcoxon, who introduced him to director Cecil B. DeMille, and Walker found himself playing the part of a Captain of the Guard in The Ten Commandments (1956). Someone from Warner Bros. saw the film, found out that Walker was under contract to producer Hal B. Wallis, bought up Walker’s contract and gave him the lead in “Cheyenne”. The series was a huge hit and spawned countless other western series, from Warners and other studios. However, Walker was dissatisfied with the way Warners was handling his career — they would let other contract players make films, for example, but he wasn’t allowed to — and that triggered a dispute which ended up with him taking a walk from the show. He and Warners eventually settled their disagreements. When the show ended Walker began to get supporting parts in features, his biggest and most successful one being The Dirty Dozen (1967). He starred in the well-received The Night of the Grizzly (1966) and the not-so-well received None But the Brave (1965), a WWII film that was Frank Sinatra’s one and only stab at directing. He also played the lead in Baker’s Hawk (1976), and turned in a good performance as a villain in the TV movie Scream of the Wolf (1974). Lately he and several of his colleagues from “The Dirty Dozen” provided the voices for the animated film Small Soldiers (1998).
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