Clint Walker, a tall, strapping actor who played the title character in the early TV western “Cheyenne,” died May 21 at a hospital in Grass Valley, Calif. He was 90.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said a daughter, Valerie Walker.
Square-jawed and standing 6-foot-6, Mr. Walker was a security officer in a Las Vegas casino when an agent saw him and suggested he try Hollywood. One of his first screen appearances was as a Sardinian guard in Cecil B. DeMille’s biblical epic “The Ten Commandments” (1956).
During filming, Warner Bros. bought his contract and offered him the leading role in “Cheyenne,” which ran for seven seasons on ABC starting in 1955. He played Cheyenne Bodie, who traveled the West searching for adventure and meting out justice.
The expensively produced show was a sensation, but the contract with Warner Bros. began to grind on Mr. Walker after a few years. He walked off the set in 1958 after the company refused to bend on a variety of humiliating provisions, including the requirement that he return half of his earnings for personal appearances.
Amid the dispute, he was replaced by Ty Hardin, whose Bronco Layne character soon had its own spinoff. The studio finally came to slightly better terms with Mr. Walker in 1959, and he continued in the role with open scorn for several more years. “I am like a caged animal,” he told reporters of his still-restrictive contact that prevented him from accepting better roles at other studios.
One of his early starring roles in film was “Fort Dobbs” (1958), opposite Virginia Mayo. New York Times film critic Howard Thompson called him “about the biggest, finest-looking western hero ever to sag a horse, with a pair of shoulders rivaling King Kong’s,” although he went on to describe Mr. Walker’s acting as an exercise in “taciturn earnestness.”
He had a supporting role in the Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedy “Send Me No Flowers” (1964) and a leading part opposite Frank Sinatra in the tepidly received war film “None But the Brave” (1965), also directed by Sinatra. He starred in the western “The Night of the Grizzly” (1966) and was part of the ensemble cast of the hit war film “The Dirty Dozen” (1967).
Mr. Walker remained a stalwart of TV and film for the next three decades, most recently lending his voice to the animated feature “Small Soldiers” (1998) as one of the commandos.
Norman Eugene Walker was born in Hartford, Ill., on May 30, 1927. He left school at 16 to work in a variety of jobs, and he spent a period in the merchant marine.
His first marriage, to Verna Garver, ended in divorce. His second wife, Giselle Hennessy, died in 1994. Survivors include his third wife, Susan Cavallari; a daughter from his first marriage; a half sister; and a grandson.