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|Also Known As:||Died:|
|Born:||May 28, 1944||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Shelbyville, Tennessee, USA||Profession:||Cast ... actor director|
Actress Sondra Locke achieved critical acclaim with her debut performance in "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" (1968), although it was as Clint Eastwood's leading lady in films such as "Every Which Way But Loose" (1978) and "Sudden Impact" (1983) that she would be far better remembered. After her breakout success in "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," anticipated roles in major films failed to materialize, however, and Locke was initially seen in smaller projects like the exploitation drama "Cover Me Babe" (1970) and the cult-classic "Willard" (1971). Beyond the little seen shocker "A Reflection of Fear" (1973), Locke made guest star appearances on several television series throughout the first half of the decade. With her supporting role in Eastwood's seminal Western "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976), the actress gained more exposure than ever before alongside the revered film's star, with who she became romantically involved during production. The couple continued working together, and Locke benefitted from exposure in more Eastwood features that included "The Gauntlet" (1977) and "Bronco Billy" (1980). Her film fortunes changed once again after the very bitter, very public and highly litigious breakup with Eastwood in 1989, which found Locke suing the actor-director as well as Warner Bros. for palimony and a fraudulent deal to direct films, respectively. Despite the acrimony that followed the collapse of her famous relationship, Locke will be long remembered for her prominent roles in some of Eastwood's most beloved works.
Sondra Locke was born on May 28, 1947 in Shelbyville, TN to parents Pauline, a factory worker, and Raymond Smith, a military man. The couple parted ways before Sondra's birth, however, and Pauline soon married a local construction worker named Alfred Locke, who would raise Sondra as his own. She attended Shelbyville Central High and participated in the drama club prior to graduating in 1962 as class valedictorian. Locke briefly attended Middle Tennessee State University and performed in several stage productions at the school, during which time she met openly-gay future sculptor Gordon Anderson, who she would later marry in an unconventional expression of their lasting friendship. After moving to New York City to further pursue her acting ambitions, she took part in a nationwide talent search held by Warner Bros. for a role in the upcoming feature film "The Heart is A Lonely Hunter" (1968), based on the best-selling novel by Carson McCullers. In an effort to convince the producers that she was 15 years old, the 20-year-old Locke reportedly bound her breasts to hide her adult figure. In her impressive film debut, Locke portrayed Mick Kelly, a lonely, unhappy teenager who befriends a deaf mute (Alan Arkin) in a small Southern town. The performance earned her both Oscar and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, in addition to another Golden Globe nod for Most Promising Female Newcomer.
Despite the strong notices garnered by her first screen appearance, few substantial roles came Locke's way in the years that immediately followed. Appearances throughout the first half of the 1970s consisted of supporting roles in smaller films like the rodent thriller "Willard" (1971), and guest spots in episodes of television series such as "Kung Fu" (ABC, 1972-75) and "Barnaby Jones" (CBS, 1973-1980). Both personally and professionally, everything changed for Locke when she was cast alongside megastar Clint Eastwood in the Western tale of revenge "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976). In the widely acclaimed film, Locke played a young pioneer woman who, along with her elderly grandmother, is rescued by Wales (Eastwood), a man out to avenge the murder of his wife and young child. During the course of filming, Locke and Eastwood began a relationship that would generate her most notable film work, and later, an exceptionally ugly and well-publicized split with the powerful actor-director. In a departure from her usual waifish characters, she followed with a turn as a foul-mouthed prostitute being transported to testify against the mob by down-and-out cop Eastwood in the bullet-ridden actioner "The Gauntlet" (1977). Although critics were neither kind to the film or Locke's performance, the rugged movie star had apparently found his muse, and their collaboration, on screen and off, was just beginning.
Eastwood himself tried a change of pace when he starred as a bare-knuckled brawler in the off-beat comedy "Every Which Way But Loose" (1978), which featured Locke once again as his love interest. While the film received scathing critical reviews, it was a huge hit at the box office, going on to become one of its star's most successful efforts. Sticking with his winning formula and his leading lady, Eastwood brought Locke on for two more unconventional comedies, the Western parody "Bronco Billy" (1980) and the inevitable sequel "Any Which Way You Can" (1980). On television, she took on a rare non-Eastwood related project when she starred as the famed female crooner in the biopic "Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story" (CBS, 1982). Locke next played a mentally unstable femme fatale opposite Eastwood's Dirty Harry in "Sudden Impact" (1983), the fourth and most successful of the hard-boiled franchise. Long desirous of helming a film herself, Locke made her directorial debut with "Ratboy" (1986), a bizarre fable co-financed by Eastwood, in which she also starred. The film proved to be a critical and financial disaster, and within a few short years Locke's relationship with her longtime leading man began to deteriorate as well. By the time her next directorial effort - "Impulse" (1990), a thriller starring Theresa Russell - had been released, Locke and Eastwood had already separated acrimoniously. After being shut out of the Los Angeles home she assumed Eastwood had purchased for her, Locke filed a palimony suit against the film icon.
In 1990, Locke underwent a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. That same year, she dropped her lawsuit against Eastwood and accepted a deal with Warner Bros. - longtime home to Eastwood's production company, Malpaso - to direct films. Although Locke did manage to direct the made-for-TV thriller "Death in Small Doses" (ABC, 1995), it was not a result of the agreement with Warner Bros. After having dozens of proposed feature film projects rejected, Locke went back to court in 1996, this time suing Warner Bros. for fraud, claiming that her "pay or play" deal with the studio was entirely bogus and at least partially financed by Eastwood. The following year, Locke published a tell-all book The Good, the Bad, & the Very Ugly in which she claimed that during their relationship, a manipulative Eastwood coerced her into having two abortions and a tubal ligation, even as he fathered two children with a mistress. She returned to the director's chair once more with the independent drama "Trading Favors" (1998), starring Rosanna Arquette. In 1999 Eastwood settled with Locke for a reported $7 million dollars. Then, after more than a decade without an acting credit, Locke appeared again onscreen in the made-for-cable thriller "The Prophet's Game" (Cinemax, 2000) and the direct-to-DVD crime drama "Clean and Narrow" (2000), only to take another extended - possibly permanent - break from Hollywood.
By Bryce Coleman
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