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Clint Walker dies; starred in early TV Western, movies

Clint Walker starred in "Cheyenne," which began its

Clint Walker starred in "Cheyenne," which began its TV run on ABC in 1955. Credit: Photoshot

LOS ANGELES — Clint Walker, the towering actor who handed down justice as the title character in the early TV Western “Cheyenne,” has died, his daughter said.

Walker died Monday of congestive heart failure at a hospital in his longtime home of Grass Valley, California at age 90, his daughter, Valerie Walker, said.

Clint Walker, whose film credits included “The Ten Commandments” and “The Dirty Dozen,” wandered the West after the Civil War as the solitary adventurer Cheyenne Bodie in “Cheyenne,” which ran for seven seasons on ABC starting in 1955.

Born Norman Eugene Walker in Hartford, Illinois, he changed his name to the more cowboyish Clint.

He worked on Great Lakes cargo ships, Mississippi riverboats and in Texas oil fields before becoming an armed security guard at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

There, many Hollywood stars, including actor Van Johnson, saw the 6-foot-6, ruggedly handsome Walker and encouraged him to give the movies a try.

He soon found himself under consideration for his first role in “The Ten Commandments,” starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. He had a meeting with the film’s legendary director, Cecil B. DeMille, but was late after stopping to help a woman change a tire.

“He just exuded power,” Walker said of DeMille in a 2012 interview for the archive of the television academy. “He looked me up and down and said, ‘You’re late, young man.’ ” “I thought ‘Oh no, my career is over before it even started.’ ”

Walker explained why he was late and said DeMille responded, “Yes, I know all about it, that was my secretary.”

Walker was cast as the captain of the pharaoh’s guard in the movie that came out in 1956.

It was “Cheyenne” that made him a star, although a restless one. He abandoned the role in 1958 in a contract dispute, and Ty Hardin was brought in briefly to replace him. He soon returned under better terms and remained through the show’s seven-season run.

Walker’s most memorable big-screen appearance came in 1967’s “The Dirty Dozen,” whose all-star cast included Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson.

He appeared in many other movies. including the Westerns “Fort Dobbs” and “Yellowstone Kelly,” and in the Doris Day and Rock Hudson film “Send Me No Flowers” in 1964.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 30 years, Susan Cavallari Walker.

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