At 83, Clint Walker still ready for TV, film roles
Clint Walker was Cheyenne Bodie, slow to anger, fast on the draw, 6½ feet and 240 pounds of muscle; the central character in one of the most popular TV Westerns of the late 1950s, at a time when dozens of horse operas were shooting for high ratings.
But Walker walked away — twice — while the “Cheyenne” series was still riding high. Warner Bros. was working him overtime and opportunities to roam the wide open spaces of the big screen were rare.
“When they brought me there, they told me they were going to school me and groom me for features,” Walker said in a recent phone
interview from his home in Grass Valley, Calif. “Then they decided to do ‘Cheyenne’.”
The series debuted on Sept. 20, 1955 on ABC as television’s first hourlong Western and quickly became a hit, ranking right up there with “Gunsmoke” and “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp,” which were both half-hour oaters.
It took a lot of time to make hourlong episodes.
“I seldom ever got away before 9 o’clock at night and sometimes they’d keep me there until 1:30 in the morning,” Walker said. “That’d be the whole cast of course, trying to finish up one of the ‘Cheyennes’ because we did ‘em in six days. And quite often we’d start the new one the next day.”
In 1958, the brooding gunfighter of the small screen walked out on Warner Bros. After lengthy negotiations, Walker and the studio came to terms and he returned to the show, and made his first starring appearance in a feature-length film that same year with “Fort Dobbs.”
It was the first of three Gordon Douglas-directed theatrical Westerns Walker would make for Warner Bros. “Yellowstone Kelly” followed in 1959, and was notable for featuring the leads of other then-popular Warner TV series, including Edward “Kookie” Byrnes (“77 Sunset Strip”), John Russell (“Lawman”) and Ray Danton (“The Alaskans”).
The film is now available on DVD exclusively from Warner Archive Collection (WarnerAchive.com).
“Most of it was shot in Sedona, Ariz., and in and around Flagstaff,” Walker said. “And Sedona, of course, is beautiful, beautiful country.”
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