Clint Walker, the hulking star of TV’s Cheyenne who also appeared in such classic films as The Ten Commandment and The Dirty Dozen, died Monday. He was 90. Walker’s daughter Valerie told TMZ that the family believes he died from a heart problem.
Walker was best known for playing Cheyenne Bodie, the strapping, brooding, mean title drifter in the 1955-63 ABC Western Cheyenne. Roaming from town to town and job to job in the post-Civil War West. The series did a slow build, breaking into the year-end Primetime Top 25 at No. 12 in its third season, where it peaked amid the crush of Western fare.
Around then, a contract beef with producer Warner Bros led Walker to quit the show. The studio replaced him with an unknown actor — Ty Hardin, who would go on to star in Bronco — but Walker returned in early 1959 and finished out the series’ seven-season run.
“I think they had all the leading men available in Hollywood to test for Cheyenne two days in a row, and they had me test with them,” Walked said in a 2012 sit-down for The Interviews: An Oral History of Television. “The first day I was very, very nervous. I could see all these people that I’d seen in pictures over the years, and I thought, ‘I don’t stand a chance.’ The second day I thought, ‘I’m not going to get the job anyway, so why don’t I just relax and enjoy it.’ Which I did. Then the next thing I heard about four days later was Jack Warner reviewed all the stuff, pointed to me and said, ‘That is Cheyenne.'”
Born on May 30, 1927, in Hartford, IL, Walker did stints in the Merchant Marines and in Texas oil fields before moving to Long Beach, CA, and then to Las Vegas, working as a sheriff’s deputy at the Sands Hotel. According to the bio on his website, many celebrities the 6-foot-6 Walker met told him to try his luck in Hollywood. He did.
Soon after arriving in L.A., he was introduced to Cecil B. DeMille, who cast him in the 1956 blockbuster The Ten Commandments. That led to Walker’s casting in Cheyenne, and he would go on to make several films during the series’ 108-episode run. In the mid-1960s, he appeared in such features as the World War II drama None but the Brave — the only film Frank Sinatra directed — Maya and The Night of the Grizzly.
They were followed by probably his second-best-known role — as Samson Posey, one of the condemned soldiers who are picked for a suicide mission into Nazi Germany in Robert Aldrich’s star-packed 1967 classic The Dirty Dozen. His film career continued with parts in such pics as The Great Train Robbery and More Dead Than Alive before he segued to telefilms in the early 1970s.
Walker would get his second starring role in a TV series with Kodiak, playing Alaska State Patrolman Cal “Kodiak” McKay. Filmed on location in the 49th state, the drama aired one season on ABC in 1974.
Walker continued to work in films and TV, more sporadically, into the 1990s. His final credit was a voice role in the 1998 action-figures movie Small Soldiers.