Oscar-nominated actress Sondra Locke passed away on November 3rd, 2018. Locke endured a long battle with breast and bone cancer and died of cancer-related cardiac arrest in her Los Angeles home at the age of 74. The proper authorities were reportedly informed at the time of Locke’s death, but it took some six weeks for the story to come to light for the rest of the world.
Locke was born on May 28, 1944, as Sandra Louise Smith. She later adopted her stepfather’s last name and changed the spelling of her first name to use as a stage name.
The actress grew up in Tennessee, where she and fellow classmate Gordon Anderson enjoyed acting out scenes in front of Anderson’s Super 8 camera. The two worked on making their movie careers happen together and even married in 1967, despite Anderson’s being gay, because they felt they had a “spiritual kinship.”
Locke appeared in a couple of plays and worked for a radio station before being recruited in a nationwide talent search to co-star in the 1968 movie adaptation of Carson McCullers’s 1940 novelThe Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. She was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for that first performance but won neither of them. So she went on to play several small roles that amounted to very little fame before meeting Clint Eastwood on the set of The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976.
The actress co-starred in six Clint Eastwood films and even dated the actor for 13 years. Her first Eastwood film appearance was in The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976, followed by The Gauntlet (1977), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Bronco Billy (1980), and Any Which Way You Can (1980). Her last Eastwood film was the Dirty Harry movie Sudden Impact in 1983.
Locke’s career paralleled Eastwood’s while the two dated, but she was forced to find her own roles at times, when Eastwood was working on a movie that had no co-starring role for her to play in, such as Escape from Alcatraz (1979) and Firefox (1982). During that time, she took on the role of Rosemary Clooney in a 1982 TV biopic and directed the film Ratboy (1986), which was well-received in Europe but not in the U.S.
In late 1988, Locke’s career and love life took a turn for the worse when Eastwood broke up with her and locked her out of the house she thought had been a gift from him. She sued him in the hopes of gaining financial support and professional rights and then later sued for fraud after Eastwood reportedly offered her a fake movie role so she would drop the “palimony” suit against him. The lawsuit was highly publicized, but the amount settled on in jury deliberations in 1996 was never disclosed.
With her acting career effectively over, Locke penned the memoir The Good, the Bad and the Very Ugly: A Hollywood Journey to recount her experience of her on-screen life, as well as her first brush with breast cancer, which led to a mastectomy and chemotherapy. She also revealed that she’d had two abortions and a tubal ligation while with Eastwood, because he was adamant that he did not want children during the height of his career.
“I try to cover the good years as well as the bad and the ugly,” Locke said about the book. “Also, that in even the worst ugly things there can sometimes be a lot that will make you a better person.”
Check out some of Locke’s most memorable film appearances in the video montage below.
Locke lived out most of the remainder of her life outside of the public eye with the exception of a few small acting roles, although she did go on to direct the 1990 film Impulse, Death In Small Doses in 1995, and Do Me a Favor in 1997. Her breast cancer would sadly recur later in life, along with breast cancer, complications of which eventually killed her. At the time of her death, she was still legally married to Anderson, despite reporting in 1997 that the two were merely close friends. Anderson is also the person who reported Locke’s death.
Locke was buried at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles, California.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?