CelebrityHollywood

November 12, 2021

Clint Walker Was ‘Out of Body’ When He Was Pronounced Dead in 1973 - Inside His Experience

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American actor and singer Clint Walker had a near-death experience in the 70's after his heart was punctured by a ski pole. Find out what happened to him and how he survived the death scare. 

Clint Walker was a famous actor and singer who played cowboy Cheyenne Bodie in the ABC/Warner Bros. western series "Cheyenne" from 1955 to 1963. 

He starred in many hit movies and became popular. However, his life would have been cut short after an accident left his heart pierced by a ski pole. Although he was pronounced dead, Clint survived the incident and recovered quickly.

Actor Clint Walker on the set of a movie "Yellowstone Kelly" | Photo: Getty Images

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CLINT'S EARLY LIFE

Clint was born Norman Eugene Walker in Hartford, Illinois, on May 30, 1927. He was the son of Gladys Huldah and Paul Arnold Walker and had a twin sister named Lucy, who died in 2000. 

Clint dropped out of school to work at a factory and on a riverboat. At 17, he joined the US Merchant Marine in the final months of the Second World War. 

After leaving the Merchant Marine, Clint worked odd jobs in Brownwood, Texas, Long Beach, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Clint's odd jobs included being a doorman, a sheet metal worker, and a nightclub bouncer. 

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Actor Clint Walker visiting London, on his way to India to film 'Maya the Magnificent' on January 22nd 1965. | Photo: Getty Images

CLINT'S CAREER

While Clint was working as a doorman at Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, he met actor Van Johnson, who suggested that he should explore acting. 

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His Hollywood venture did not take off smoothly, even though he landed a small and uncredited role in a Bowery Boys film titled "Jungle Gents" in 1954. 

After that, he was given a chance to meet with legendary film director Cecil B. DeMille, who was making plans for his epic movie "The Ten Commandments." 

Actor Clint Walker holding a gun on a movie set circa 1962. | Photo: Getty Images

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While on his way to DeMille's studio, Clint met a stranded older woman and helped her change her tire. When he arrived at the meeting, DeMille told him sternly that he was late. 

There and then, Clint thought his career had come to an end before it even got the chance of taking off. However, he explained to the director that he helped someone on his way to the studio. 

Surprisingly, DeMille told him he knew about his act of kindness because the woman he helped was his secretary. Clint appeared in "The Ten Commandments" as the captain of the Sardinian guards. 

Actor Clint Walker poses on set of the movie "Sam Whiskey" in 1969. | Photo: Getty Images

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With the help of a friend in the movie industry, Clint got some bit-part roles that brought him to the attention of Warner Bros., which was developing a Western-style TV series. 

Clint was good-looking and had an imposing physique as he stood six feet and six inches tall. In addition, he had a 48-inch chest and a 32-inch waist. 

Clint's impressive physique helped him land the lead role in Warner Bros.'s hit TV series, "Cheyenne." However, getting the role did not come easy for him as he fought off stiff competition. 

American actor Clint Walker wearing a marshall's badge and a cowboy hat, circa 1960. | Photo: Getty Images

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According to Clint, Warner Bros. had all of Hollywood's leading men available to test for the role two days in a row and had to test him with them. 

On the first day, he was very nervous as he could see all the people he had seen in pictures over the years. Hence, he felt he did not stand a chance against such big names. 

Studio portrait of US actor Clint Walker wearing a purple shirt and green tie circa 1960. | Photo: Getty Images

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However, on the second day, he thought that since he would not get the job anyway, he should relax and enjoy it. That was precisely what he did. Four days later, after a review of everything, he was named the lead character, Cheyenne Bodie.

When the shooting of Cheyenne's first season began, Clinton confessed to the crew that he did not have much experience on horseback. 

They responded by telling him he would either be a good rider or a dead one. Clinton recalled wondering a few times which one it was going to be. 

Portrait of US actor Clint Walker on May 6 1969. | Photo: Getty Images

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After "Cheyenne" became a big hit, Clinton starred in the title role of "Yellowstone Kelly," a film that was sandwiched between the Westerns "Fort Dobbs" and "Gold of the Seven Saints." 

He also received second billing to Frank Sinatra in "None But the Brave," which the latter directed. Clinton played Big Jim Cole in the adventure film "The Night of the Grizzly," which he described as the favorite film he did. 

He starred alongside Lee Marvin in "The Dirty Dozen," a movie fondly remembered for a scene where Marvin's character goaded Clinton's character into showing his temper before disarming him despite their gulf in size. 

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Studio portrait of US actor Clint Walker circa 1960. | Photo: Getty Images

Clinton also appeared in much frothier entertainment, such as the light comedy "Send Me No Flowers," which also starred Rock Hudson, Doris Day, and Tony Randall. 

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Clinton and some of his "Dirty Dozen" co-stars lent their voices to the 1998 animated film "Small Soldiers," which turned out to be his last film. 

In 2004, Clinton was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

Actor Clint Walker attends retro TV action-adventure-thon at The Paley Center for media on September 22, 2012. | Photo: Getty Images

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CLINT'S RISE FROM THE DEAD

Clint survived a death scare during his lifetime after a ski pole went through his heart while he was trying to get off a ski lift. There are conflicting dates for when the accident occured. 

The New York Times reported it happened in 1973, while some other reports say it happened in 1971. After the accident, Clint was rushed to the hospital, where two doctors pronounced him dead. 

However, a third doctor, who happened to be a heart specialist, was visiting a friend at the hospital and took a shortcut through the basement where Clint's supposed dead body had been put. 

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Actor Clint Walker attends the Golden Boot Awards at the Sheraton Universal Hotel on August 7, 2004. | Photo: Getty Images

When the doctor saw Clint lying there, he checked him out and believed he was still alive. The next morning, Clint woke up in intensive care, and the doctor told him he was a medical mystery. 

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The doctor explained that he was meant to be a mental vegetable even though he survived because his body had been starved of oxygen. However, that was not the case. Two months after, Clint made a full recovery and was working again. 

Clint Walker in a Publicity Portrait for the TV Movie, "Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women", CBS-TV, circa 1979. | Photo: Getty Images

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During an interview with the Archive of American Television, Clint recounted his near-death experience and narrated what he felt while lying down in the basement. He said

"When I was lying in the basement, I was in that spirit-body and felt comfortable. I was more alive, alert, aware and suddenly knew things I never knew before."

Clint Walker in a publicity portrait for movie "Yellowstone Kelly" circa 1959. | Photo: Getty Images

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Clint said he was not particularly concerned about going back. However, he thought there was something he came to earth to do but had not done yet. Hence, he felt he should go back and have another crack at it. 

Hence, he asked God to allow him to go back and have another crack at it. Clint said the doctor told him he did not know what it was, but he just did not feel he was dead. Clint attributed the doctor's miraculous intervention to God answering his request. 

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CLINT'S MARRIAGES AND KIDS

Clint was married thrice in his lifetime. His first marriage was to Verna Garver in 1948. He and Garver shared a daughter named Valerie, born in 1950. However, they divorced in 1968.

In 1974, the legendary actor married Giselle Hennessy. Their marriage ended after Hennessy's death in 1994. Clint's third marriage was to Susan Cavallari in 1997. They remained married until his death in 2018.

Clint died at a hospital of congestive heart failure in Grass Valley, California, on May 21, 2018. His daughter, Valerie, confirmed his death. He was 90 years old and was survived by Valerie and Cavallari. 

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