Rawhide's Eric Fleming flopped onstage before riding high on TV

How his long and winding road led to TV history.

CBS Television Distribution

Rollin', rollin', rollin', Rawhide!

Clint Eastwood may be the breakout star, but for seven of the show's eight seasons, Eric Fleming drove the cattle home as trailboss Gil Favor on Rawhide. He delivered the monologues that introduced most of the episodes. He's the noble hero, doing right by his fellow man while protecting the herd. 

But who was Eric Fleming before he donned his spurs? Well, to hear him put it, Fleming wore many hats, until a ten-gallon one made him famous.

In a January 1959 interview with The Daily American, Fleming spoke about his life, his upbringing, and how it all led to the wild, wild West in Rawhide.

"My father was a carpenter," said Fleming. "And a good one. I learned his skills and then set out to wander through the 48 states. I became, not in this order, a newsboy, a soda jerk, a merchant seaman, a miner, an ambulance driver, a waiter, a short-order cook, a longshoreman, and an oil field roustabout."

During World War II, Fleming served in the United States Naval Construction Battalions. Also known as the Seabees, the Batllions are the Navy's construction force. They build bases and airfields, conduct underwater construction, and put up roads, bridges, and other support facilities.

"When I was discharged from the Seabees—I served in the Pacific—I took a job as a stagehand, just to get to work. Well, that did it."

Fleming started seriously studying acting. He landed a gig with the road company of a play called "Happy Birthday." Then, his theater credits began stacking up. He was even in the stage version of "No Time For Sergeants," which featured what's frequently cited as Andy Griffith's breakout. 

"A little flop called 'Springboard to Nowhere' was actually a springboard to Hollywood for me. Then came films, such as I Cast No Shadow and The Conquest of Space, and these led to TV. You may have seen me on Studio One or The Phil Silvers Show

The rest is Rawhide

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CaptainDunsel 1 month ago
Here's an exclusive shot of Gil Favor with Lisa Douglas's sister...
tootsieg 1 month ago
Don’t forget Queen of Outer Space. Maybe Sven will show it.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
Cool insight. Rawhide is a GREAT show!

My grandfather was also a longshoreman. Miss him every day.
MichaelPowers 1 month ago
Eric Fleming born Edward Heddy (1925~1966) had a tragic life in many respects. He was born with a club foot. His father was violently abusive to Eric. Eric ran away from home at a very young age and ended up in Chicago, running errands for gangsters and was wounded in a battle between mobs.
Eric's face was shattered by a 200-lb block of steel that slipped from a hoist while he was in the service.
Eric drowned in Peru in 1966 while filming a movie.
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