The typical apprehensive producer of a TV Western would normally assign stunt doubles to perform feats like leaping over walls, narrowly escaping death via horse and more.
This TV Western apprehension was to keep our heroes from the West safe from injuries that might hold up production.
However, Clint Eastwood was one cowboy who did his own stunts. Eastwood played the role of Rowdy Yates on Rawhide (1959) for a total of eight seasons on CBS. Whenever a Rawhide script called for a stuntman, Eastwood stepped up.
He not only looked the part, but he was physical enough for it too. According to a 1959 interview with The Modesto Bee, Eastwood was considered to be one of the best physically conditioned actors in Hollywood at the time.
In fact, if he lacked dramatic talent, he could earn a living as a stuntman alone.
"After all, this is an action show," Eastwood said. "It's a lot more gratifying when I can perform the action myself instead of having a double do it for me."
Eastwood was a powerful swimmer and runner. He was also an instructor in swimming and sea survival at the Army's Fort Ord in California. He never gave up on conditioning his body once he started acting, and it became one of his most valuable skills in Hollywood.
"A lot of actors are in pretty good shape, but they aren't conditioned to periods of long physical effort," Eastwood said. "They get pretty tired toward the end of an active day, and it shows up in their performances."
He said keeping in good condition allowed the workday to be much easier on him, other cast members and the director. Eastwood said being an actor and being in top physical condition was a hard act to balance.
According to the interview, Eastwood said it took a different set of muscles to ride a horse on Rawhide than it did to swim four miles in a pool. Good thing he stuck to swimming and playing sports rather than bird watching or watching TV.
Despite his heroic efforts to seem tough while doing his own stunts, he was unlike his character Rowdy Yates. According to a 1964 interview with The Shreveport Journal, Eastwood was both shy and quiet while on set of Rawhide.
For someone who played a rough and ready character, Eastwood was neither of those things.
According to the interview, each working day the actor was up at 5:15 in the morning to report to MGM studios. From there he would join Rawhide's cast and crew for an hour's drive to a ranch near Ventura, California, where location scenes were filmed.
He and Rowdy Yates had at least one thing in common: Eastwood said he wanted to own a ranch of his own, away from Hollywood.
"We're not much for the Hollywood social life," Eastwood said. "Nightclubs and show business glamor gets tiring awfully fast."
Although he and Rowdy Yates differed in many ways, he gave the role the dedication it deserved. He made sure he was both physically fit to play the role, and mentally fit to play Yates.
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