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Clint Walker, Star of TV Western ‘Cheyenne,’ Dies at 90

Clint Walker, who starred in the television Western “Cheyenne” and had a key supporting role in the WWII film “The Dirty Dozen,” died on Monday in Northern California, according to the New York Times. He was 90.

For seven seasons from 1955-61, he played Cheyenne Bodie, a rambunctious wanderer in the post-Civil War West, on the ABC series “Cheyenne.” (He also guested as the character on “Maverick.”)

The actor’s seriocomic confrontation with star Lee Marvin was one of the highlights of the classic 1967 war picture “The Dirty Dozen.”

After “Cheyenne” ended, Walker made some guest appearances on TV — “77 Sunset Strip,” “Kraft Suspense Theatre” and “The Lucy Show,” in an episode called “Lucy and Clint Walker.”

But the actor became more interested in movies both theatrical and for TV. In 1964, he had a supporting role in the Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedy “Send Me No Flowers.” His acting was not distinguished, but he did participate in a memorable sight gag in which the enormous man popped out of an exceptionally small car.

Impressively, Frank Sinatra, directing the thought-provoking WWII film “None but the Brave” (1965), cast Walker in the lead as a Marine captain who, along with his men (including one played by Sinatra), reaches a detente of mutual benefit with the Japanese troops, led by a lieutenant played by Tatsuya Mihasi, who have come to inhabit the same Pacific island.

He next starred in bear-vs.-man adventure Western “Night of the Grizzy,” but a more interesting choice, perhaps, was “Maya,” in which Walker played a hunter in India whose son, played by Jay North, flees into the jungle after a quarrel with his father, who must seek far and wide for the teen.

Walker in 1967 joined the all-star cast of WWII classic “The Dirty Dozen.” The actor played one of the 12 miscreants rescued/recruited from military prisons for a particularly hazardous mission. Lee Marvin was a big man, but Walker was far bigger, and in their famous scene together, Marvin’s character enjoins Walker’s Samson Posey to take a swing at him; a reluctant Posey, essentially a gentle soul (except when pushed) says, “I don’t want to hurt you, Major.”

Major Reisman, provoking him, responds: “You’re not gonna hurt me, I’m gonna hurt you.”

To use him as an example of how the Dozen need to learn self-defense, Marvin’s Reismam gives Walker’s Posey his knife and starts pushing him, starts to enrage Posey.

So Posey, pushed to the limit, thrusts the knife at Marvin, who grabs it and flips Posey to the ground, subduing him.

In the 1969 Western “More Dead Than Alive,” Walker was first credited, above Vincent Price and Anne Francis. The New York Times paid him a half-baked compliment: “There is something winning about his taciturn earnestness as an actor, although real emotion seldom breaks through.”

The Times was more impressed with his performance in the comedy Western “Sam Whiskey,” the Burt Reynolds-Angie Dickinson vehicle in which Walker was third billed.

He followed that film with a much zanier comedy Western, “The Great Train Robbery,” also with Zero Mostel and Kim Novak, and began a transition to TV movies thereafter, aside from an execrable 1972 feature called “Villa,” starring Telly Savalas as the Mexican bandit.

Walker starred in the 1971 ABC Western movie “Yuma,” among his other TV work. In 1974, he gave series TV another stab, starring as an Alaskan state patrolman in “Kolchak,” but its run was brief.

He made more TV movies with names like “Killdozer” and “Snowbeast.”

Walker starred with Kim Cattrall in 1977’s “Deadly Harvest,” about a famine plaguing the entire world.

The actor reprised the role of Cheyenne Bodie for an episode of “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues” in 1995 and retired after voicing Nick Nitro for the movie “Small Soldiers” in 1998.

Walker was also a singer. He sang a number of tunes on a 1957 episode of “Cheyenne,” issued a Christmas album in 1959, performed on an episode of “The Jack Benny Program” in 1963 and sang in the film “Night of the Grizzly.”

Though often taken for a Southerner, Norman Eugene Walker was born in Hartford, Illinois and left school at the end of WWII to enlist in the Merchant Marine,

His first credited feature role was the Sardinian captain in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” (1956). Walker’s first feature starring roles came in the Westerns “Fort Dobbs,” “Yellowstone Kelly” and “Gold of the Seven Saints” (1958, 1959, 1961, all directed by Gordon Douglas).

The handsome, blue-eyed actor was a beefy 6-foot-6; the terms “mountain of a man” or “man-mountain” were often used to describe him. Walker won a Golden Boot Award in 1997 and a Star on the Walk of Fame decades earlier, in 1960.

He was married three times. He is survived by third wife, Susan Cavallari, and a daughter, Valerie, by his first wife, Verna Garver. His twin sister died in 2000.

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