Sondra Locke was born May 28, 1944 in Shelbyville, Tennessee, a quiet little town about 60 miles southeast of Nashville. She was the daughter of Raymond Smith, a military man stationed in the area, and Pauline Bayne. Smith departed the scene before Sondra's birth. Her mother quickly wed Alfred Locke (hence, the last name) and together they had a son, Donald (born 1946). Sondra's stepfather owned a construction company, and her mother worked in a pencil factory. For the smart, fanciful Locke, "My childhood felt as if I had been dropped off at an extended summer camp for which I was waiting to be picked up." The bright girl loved to read, which puzzled her simple mother, who was always pushing her to spend more time outside. Sondra's happiest moments occurred on weekend visits to the local movie theater.
Locke was a cheerleader and the class valedictorian in junior high. At Shelbyville Central High School, the "classroom was the one place where I felt like I had a chance to prove myself and I continued to excel. I felt safe there and I liked it." Her best friend was classmate Gordon Anderson. He was a fey young man, who shared many of Sondra's fanciful hopes about the future and was her collaborator in devising harmless ways to make their lives in Shelbyville more magical. One of the duo's frequent activities was making home movies with Gordon's Super 8 camera.
Sondra and Gordon both enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University in 1962. Sondra acted in MTSU's productions of The Crucible and Life with Father. In the summer of 1963, after completing her freshman year of study, Sondra had a blowup with her mother, left home, and did not return to college. Instead, she worked in Nashville in assorted menial posts at radio station WSM, with occasional work as a model and in commercials. While in Nashville, Locke began acting in community theater, and won a statewide award for best actress in 1965 for her performance in The Monkey's Paw. Meanwhile, Gordon revealed to her that he was homosexual. He went off to Manhattan to study acting and, for a while, had a lover there. Anderson was talented but unfocused about his theater craft and eventually returned to Tennesee. Because of Locke's spiritual kinship with Anderson, she and Gordon decided to wed. The couple were married in a simple church service in Nashville on September 25, 1967. (Reputedly, the marriage was never consummated.)
If Gordon was unable to launch his own acting career, he had no such problems igniting Sondra's. He learned that Warner Bros. was holding an open casting call for a young actress to play a key role in the screen adaptation of Carson McCullers's novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968). Anderson helped Locke research the part of Mick, a teenage waif in a southern town who befriends a deaf-mute boarding at the house where she lives. For the audition, Gordon bleached Sondra's eyebrows and bound her bosom so that she would instantly impress casting agents. The ploy worked, and, after several callbacks, Locke--who lied about her age to seem younger--was hired. The movie was released in the summer of 1968 and earned respectful reviews from critics, although many filmgoers found the picture too arty. Sondra was Oscar-nominated for her sensitive portrayal.
Next, Sondra moved to Los Angeles, with Gordon in tow. She hoped to parlay her Academy Award nomination into further acting assignments. She even posed for a semi-nude pictorial in the December 1969 issue of Playboy magazine to increase her exposure. The big-eyed, petite, wiry blonde found it difficult to win suitable parts, making her accept lesser projects, the most famous of which was Willard (1971), a film about marauding rats (it was a modest success at the box office, but lacked the prestige of films she anticipated on doing). Most of Locke's acting work in the first half of the 1970s was on television drama series such as "The F.B.I." (1965), "Cannon" (1971), "Kung Fu" (1972), and "Barnaby Jones" (1973). Among the few other theatrical features she made was The Second Coming of Suzanne (1974), an experimental film in which she played a Christ figure.
A personal and professional turning point for Locke came in 1975, when she was cast as Clint Eastwood's love interest in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). The two became romantically involved during the on-location shoot in Lake Powell, Arizona. On their first night together, Sondra explained to Clint that her husband was gay and that she had no plans to get divorced, a situation he was fully accepting of. They moved in together within the year, and went on to co-star in five more movies: The Gauntlet (1977), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Bronco Billy (1980), Any Which Way You Can (1980), and Sudden Impact (1983). Though none of the Eastwood/Locke collaborations received particularly favorable reviews, all of them did well--in some cases, outstanding--at the box office.
Sondra had long expressed interest in directing, and in the mid-1980s she developed a project called "Ratboy" for Warner Bros., where Clint had a long-term working relationship. She made Ratboy (1986), but despite good reviews, the film received scant distribution. In retrospect, Locke concluded that her exertion of authority over the project caused her longtime lover to turn away from her, to find someone who was more compliant. Although she didn't know it at the time, Eastwood began to conduct a surreptitious affair in Carmel with Jacelyn Reeves, a flight attendant by whom he had two secret love children he would take years to acknowledge. The betrayal was a slap in the face to Sondra, who had undergone two abortions and a tubal ligation in the late 1970s because Clint insisted that parenthood wouldn't fit their lifestyle.
The showdown between Sondra and Clint occurred on New Year's Eve 1988 at their annual vacation spot in Sun Valley, Idaho. After an unpleasant confrontation, Eastwood suggested Locke return to Los Angeles. She scarcely saw Eastwood in subsequent months, but as far as Locke was concerned, they were still a couple. On April 10, 1989, as she was directing a demanding sequence in a new big-screen thriller, Impulse (1990), she learned that Eastwood had the locks changed on their Bel-Air mansion. He also had ordered her possessions to be boxed and put in storage. A letter signed by his lawyer was sent to "Mrs. Gordon Anderson" at her husband's address in West Hollywood, ordering her not to come home. When Gordon telephoned Sondra on the set to read her the letter, she fainted dead away in front of the cast and crew. The next day, the tabloids, the legitimate dailies and the broadcast media were full of the news, competing amongst themselves for details of Clint and Sondra's sensational break-up.
On April 26, 1989, Sondra amazed Tinseltown by filing a palimony lawsuit against her domestic partner of 14 years, who had once claimed she was the only woman he ever loved. Her action sought unspecified damages and an equal division of the property she and Eastwood had acquired during their relationship. She asked for title to the Bel-Air home they had shared and to the West Hollywood home that Eastwood had purchased for Gordon and his partner to reside in. Before any court decision could be made, a private settlement was reached between the parties. Locke received $450,000, the West Hollywood property and a $1.5 million, multi-year development-directing pact at Warner Bros. In return, she dropped her suit. By then, the fall of 1990, she was happy to end the hassle. (In the past months she had been diagnosed with cancer, undergone a double mastectomy, and endured chemotherapy.)
For the next three years Locke submitted over 30 projects to Warner Bros., but none received a green light to move ahead. Moreover, the studio refused to assign her to direct any of their in-house projects. In the mid-1990s, Sondra discovered that Eastwood had, in fact, arranged to reimburse Warner Bros. for her three-year studio contract -- a matter that he had never mentioned to her. It became obvious that the studio's negative professional attitude toward her had little or nothing to do with her directing or project-finding abilities. On June 5, 1995, Locke sued Eastwood a second time, alleging fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. She claimed that Clint's behind-the-scene actions had sent a message "to the film industry and the world at large ... that Locke was not to be taken seriously." (According to Sondra's lawyer, the situation was Clint's "way of terminating the earlier palimony suit.")
In 1996, just minutes before a jury was to render a verdict in Sondra's favor, Clint's lawyers advised him to settle for an undisclosed amount. The jubilant plaintiff said, "This was never about money. It was about my fighting for my professional rights." According to the victor, "I didn't enjoy it. But sometimes you have to do things you don't enjoy." Locke added, "In this business people get so accustomed to being abused, they just accept the abuse and say, 'Well, that's just the way it is.' Well, it isn't."
But Locke was not finished. She had a pending action against Warner Bros. for allegedly harming her career by agreeing to the sham movie-directing deal that Eastwood had purportedly engineered. On May 24, 1999, just as jury selection was beginning, the studio reached an out-of-court settlement with Sondra.
In the years following her courtroom saga, Sondra did not direct another movie. She did make a brief return to acting in 1999 with supporting roles in two films that failed to secure a cinematic release. In her personal life, she had a live-in relationship with one of the physicians who had treated her during her cancer siege. In 2001, she sold her home in the Hollywood Hills and moved to another part of Los Angeles.
|Gordon Anderson||(25 September 1967 - present) (separated)|
Former partner of Clint Eastwood (1975-1989). They never married.
Co-starred with Clint Eastwood in six films: Any Which Way You Can (1980), Bronco Billy (1980), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), The Gauntlet (1977), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) and Sudden Impact (1983).
Breast cancer survivor.
Graduated from Shelbyville Central High (now Shelbyville Senior High School) in 1962.
Attended Middle Tennessee State University, but did not graduate.
Has one younger maternal half-brother, Donald Locke (born 1946).
Listed as one of the top sex stars of 1969 by Playboy magazine.
In February 2001, Locke purchased a large, six-bedroom home in the Hollywood Hills, an affluent and exclusive neighborhood of Los Angeles, California in the southeastern Santa Monica Mountains.
In acting, you're subject to what everyone else does to you: the light someone else puts on you, the pace someone else sets for the scene, how someone else cuts you together, what they throw away and what they keep. Pretty soon you realize, 'This is great, but there must be something a little more.'
No matter how big actors get, they always somehow think, 'Today is it -- tomorrow everybody's going to wake up and hate me.'
As an actor, if there's a good role you can take it for the role's sake and not worry about the fact that the whole story doesn't seem to work. The actor won't get the blame for it. You'll do a good job and they'll say, 'The story stinks, but Sondra Locke was good in the part of whatever.' I look on acting as a great vacation now. You work a few weeks, get paid a lot of money and everyone pampers and takes care of you.
Everyone always wants to type you. With me, I started out as a vulnerable waif and for many years that's all anyone ever wanted me to play.
I've had some great parts, it's just that you're always looking for something that will take you in a different direction. People only see you in those boxes you've been most recently seen in. That way, they don't have to think or be creative.
I never felt at home in Tennessee. I felt I'd been parachuted out at the wrong spot somehow.
Success is just a drop in the bucket, a grain of sand on the beach.
Externals don't throw me. I'm like a turtle. If I don't like the going, I just pull my head in.
I am a romantic. I want to cry when I throw out my Christmas tree, and I have a lot of feelings about magic and fantasy. I believe in elves and giants. I believe that fairy tales are nothing more than news reports of what once happened.
I really get livid when somebody calls me Sandra or Sandy. Actually, my parents named me Sondra rather than Sandra so that people would not call me Sandy. Almost everything has a contradiction through common usage. Names have associations. You know, people look at their names.
[on marrying Gordon Anderson] It seemed like a natural thing to do.
[on the impact of her film debut] I was afraid Heart had put me into some kind of sexual oblivion. I played a practically prepuberty tomboy, and some producers thought I was a boy.
[1969, while making Cover Me Babe (1970)] It's difficult on this picture, because I have two Roberts working with me. One is director Robert Fields, and the other is my co-star, Robert Forster. The first prefers to be called Bob, and the other wants it strictly Robert. And so I get all mixed up and feel so silly.
People associate strength with masculinity. In this age of action movies specializing in masculine virtues, it's very difficult for an actress to play a strong woman. In the old days, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis managed to be strong and feminine simultaneously. So did Irene Dunne. The best example of all, perhaps, was Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. They dominated the screen, but not the leading man. Actually, a strong woman adds to the masculinity of the man she is playing opposite. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy played powerful characters to their mutual advantage. Claudette Colbert didn't dominate Clark Gable in It Happened One Night (1934). Yet she played a very strong woman. You need a strong and talented man to begin with if you hope to maintain your femininity. But I think a good many leading men confuse masculinity and strength. They're insecure about women's roles that accentuate strength. An actress never has to be worried about bowling over an actor like Clint Eastwood who is as secure in his masculinity as any man I've ever known.
I'd been typed as the sensitive thing, the little flower that somebody is always being mean to. So The Gauntlet (1977) was entirely different. I have a part that is equal to Clint's and, in a way, I am stronger than he is. So I think it could open up a lot of doors for me.
I think the reason actresses are taking a back seat to actors is that they're putting the wrong women on screen. They seem to put a new fashion model in a starring role every year. And being simply pretty isn't enough. It's boring. Using models in place of actresses implies that women have nothing to contribute to the screen. Acting is a profession and a special talent is involved. Films have moved away from pretty boys to actors with interesting faces. It's time they did the same thing with actresses.
[on directing Ratboy (1986)] There were many times when I said to myself, "why did I have to pick a story like this?". If I wanted to direct, why not go out and find a Top Gun (1986) and make some money? You know, something sensible. I felt I had to go for it. For me, the story had the heart of a fairy tale and the head of a morality play. I had the sense of it owning me, in some way. It swept me off with it. Then naturally, I showed it to Clint to get his opinion.
My personality, or persona or whatever, is really more in line with directing. If I had seen more women's names on the credits when I was a child - you know, "directed by Gladys Hooper" - I think I might have drifted more in that direction. As an actor, you take on the role of the child. You follow orders, and people are there to take care of you and pamper you. As the director, you have to be the parent.
[on Clint Eastwood] I discovered he was a liar and a cheat who was leading a double, no, a triple if not a quadruple life, and who was terrified of being found out.
Naturally, there are people at first glance who won't understand what [my] book is. They'll say, "Why is she still talking about Clint? Why doesn't she get over it?". I think somehow having it physically on the pages across the room from me does say it's the end of a chapter. I feel healed within myself.
Clint had every right, if he didn't love me, to end the relationship, but he didn't have the right to ... treat me that way. That's where the line is drawn with Clint. He has all the rights and you have none, across the board, no matter the situation.
|Sudden Impact (1983)||$350,000|
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