Clint Walker (born Norman Eugene Walker on May 30, 1927) is an American actor best known for his starring role as “Cheyenne Bodie” in the ABC/Warner Brothers western series Cheyenne from 1955 to 1963.
Early Life and Background
Clint Walker was born in Hartford, Illinois and had a very difficult childhood. Some key events in his early life include:
- His mother and father divorced when he was only 6 months old. He was raised by his mother and stepfather on a farm without electricity or plumbing.
- He dropped out of school at the age of 16 due to bullying for his height. At the time he was already 6’3”.
- After serving in World War II as a merchant marine, he held various jobs including working as a bouncer, nightclub employee, and a forest firefighter.
Breaking into Acting
Walker’s acting debut came by chance after meeting film star John Wayne. Some highlights:
- At the time he was working at a sporting goods store where movie star John Wayne spotted the 6’ 6” Walker.
- Impressed by Walker’s height, Wayne helped him get a role in the 1954 western The Yellow Tomahawk. Initially credited under the name “Jett Norman”, this launched Walker’s acting career.
- Critical praise for his role led to starring as Cheyenne Bodie in Cheyenne starting in 1955. The series ran for seven years and made Walker a household name.
Cheyenne TV Series
- As the lead character on Cheyenne, Walker became extremely popular playing gentle giant cowboy Cheyenne Bodie
- While he had played mostly villains early in his career, the role of Cheyenne turned him into a hero lead actor
- Walker was nominated for an Emmy in 1957 for the role
- Over 100 episodes aired from 1955 to 1963 when the series ended
Table 1. Clint Walker Cheyenne TV Series Overview
|Final Episode Date
|Cheyenne Bodie (lead)
|Big breakout starring role for Walker
Movie Career Heights
In addition to Cheyenne, Walker starred in a number of popular films mainly in the 1960-70s period:
The Dirty Dozen
- One of Walker’s most prominent roles was playing Samson Posey in the 1967 blockbuster WWII film The Dirty Dozen
- The military epic was one of the most successful films of the 1960s grossing over $45 million
- Walker’s role was specifically written into the script by screenwriter Lukas Heller to take advantage of Walker’s size and strength
Other Notable Films
- Fort Dobbs (1958) – Walker played role of Gar/Dave in this well reviewed western
- Yellowstone Kelly (1959) – Lead role as Luther “Yellowstone” Kelly in this western adventure film
- Gold of the Seven Saints (1961) – Starred alongside Roger Moore in this light-hearted western
- None But the Brave (1965) – Frank Sinatra’s war film where Walker plays battalion commander
Table 2. Clint Walker Feature Film Highlights
|Well reviewed western
|Lead role as Luther “Yellowstone” Kelly
|Gold of the Seven Saints
|Western with Roger Moore
|None But the Brave
|War film starring Frank Sinatra
|The Dirty Dozen
|Blockbuster hit WWII movie
Later Career and Life
While Walker had his greatest fame in the 1950s and 60s, he continued acting in subsequent decades:
- Walker mostly played supporting roles after Cheyenne ended, no longer capturing lead parts
- He often was cast playing to his strength of a very large tough guy similar to his Samson Posey role in The Dirty Dozen
- Notable later roles included 1976 disaster film The Night the Bridge Fell Down and the 1978 Burt Lancaster western The Swarm
- In addition to acting, Walker involved himself in various business ventures later in life
- He started a successful computer company called Quickplay Systems in 1994
- Walker also toured often with western festivals, culture conventions, and fairs to profit off his Cheyenne fame with fans
Death in 2018
- On May 21, 2018 Walker died of congestive heart failure in Grass Valley, California one week before his 91st birthday
- Many Hollywood celebrities lamented the loss of this icon of early television and film westerns
- Clint Walker left behind 7 children from various marriages and relationships during his life
Overall while no longer a household name with generations since his hit shows and movies, Clint Walker made an indelible mark in the western and war genres during their peak popularity. His imposing physique and understated gentle persona created an iconic character as Cheyenne Bodie to be long remembered by fans of Golden Age Hollywood entertainment.
In summary, Clint Walker left an indelible stamp on the early days of television and film westerns through his iconic role as gentle giant cowboy Cheyenne Bodie. While only acting for around 20 years at the height of his fame, Walker’s towering height paired with his quiet, understated persona created a unique character that resonated with audiences.
As one of the first television cowboys starring in his own series, Cheyenne paved the way for shows that followed starring the likes of James Arness, Steve McQueen, and others.
Outside of acting, Walker overcame a difficult childhood of poverty to serve his country and work any job he could before getting his Hollywood break. After rising to become a huge star who could command leading film roles, he transitioned gracefully into supporting parts and business ventures in later decades.
While newer generations may not remember Clint Walker like those who eagerly tuned into Cheyenne each week, his contributions at a pivotal time for westerns in entertainment ensured his gun-slinging character will live on in reruns and memories. Through over 100 episodes and several memorable big screen film appearances, movie lovers young and old can still appreciate and discover the gentle, towering on-screen presence of cowboy Clint Walker.
Frequently Asked Questions about Clint Walker
These are some common questions people have about the life and career of classic TV and film actor Clint Walker:
Why was Clint Walker so tall and what was his height?
Clint Walker stood at an enormous 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 meters) tall. His parents were of average height, so it appears he inherited a genetic propensity towards extraordinary size from grandparents or prior ancestors.
How many times was Clint Walker married?
Walker married three times in his life. His first wife was Verna Garver who was the mother of his first daughter Valerie. His second marriage to Giselle Hennessy lasted from 1974 until his wife’s death in 1994. His final and longest marriage began in 1997 to nightclub singer Susan Cavallari who survived him upon his death in 2018.
What happened to Clint Walker’s co-star in Cheyenne?
While Clint Walker played Cheyenne Bodie, the series also featured a co-star named Slim Andrews played by L Q Jones. After his role on Cheyenne, Jones went on to have a very prolific career as a character actor in numerous TV series and films, often cast as villains or rough outlaws. He is still acting today, most recently in a 2019 western movie called Bill Tilghman and the Outlaws.
How much money did Clint Walker make during his acting career? What was his net worth?
The bulk of Walker’s acting work occurred during the prime of his career in the 1950s and 60s. While salaries were smaller then compared to today, it is estimated Clint Walker still earned between $3 to 4 million in current inflation adjusted dollars through his entertainment work.
Most calculate Walker’s peak net worth in the $10 to $12 million range around the 1960s shortly after his hit role in The Dirty Dozen before later investments and business ventures.
What did Clint Walker do after he stopped acting so much?
After his appearances in films and television waned in the late 1970s, Walker focused some energy on business opportunities outside acting.
Most notably in 1994, he founded a successful company called Quickplay Systems that designed and installed home theater and large screen video systems for customers. Continuing to leverage his cowboy fame and reputation, he also traveled often to make paid appearances at western culture fan conventions and events.