The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
“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.” Sondra Locke
Actress and film director Sondra Locke made her acting debut playing a lonesome, small town girl who bonds with a deaf-mute man in “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” (1968), from which she picked up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and Golden Globe nominations for Most Promising Newcomer - Female and Best Supporting Actress. Her career received a boost during the mid 1970s to early 1980s thanks to work with her then-companion Clint Eastwood. They appeared together in such films as “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976), “The Gauntlet” (1977), “Every Which Way But Loose” (1978), “Bronco Billy” (1980), “Any Which Way You Can” (1980) and “Sudden Impact” (1983). Locke moved behind the camera as a director with “Ratboy” (1986), which she also starred in, and was handed a Razzie nomination for her acting job. She gained praise for directing “Impulse” (1990). After directing “Death in Small Doses” (1995, TV) and “Do Me a Favor” (1997), she briefly resumed her acting career in 1999.
Locke is known for her former relationship with director/actor Clint Eastwood. Meeting in 1972, the two began dating in 1975 when she was cast in “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and began living together in 1976. They broke up in 1989, but were involved in legal action into the late 1990s.
A breast cancer survivor, Locke found new love during treatment with Scott Cunneen (born 1962), the Chief of Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. They moved in together in 1996, but later separated. In 2001, she sold her home in Los Angeles and moved to Hollywood Hills.
Locke remains married, in name only, to the openly gay sculptor Gordon Anderson. The two remain close.
Childhood and Family:
Sondra Locke was born on May 28, 1947, in Shelbyville, Tennessee, to Raymond Smith, a military man, and Pauline Bayne Locke, a pencil factory worker. Her parents split up before she was born and her mom married Alfred Taylor Locke (born in 1922, died in 2007), who owned a construction company. The marriage produced one child, Don Locke (born 1946). Sondra was the valedictorian of the Shelbyville Central High School class of 1962. In high school, she played basketball and was active in the drama club. She spent a year as a drama major at Middle Tennessee State University before leaving to pursue an acting career.
On September 25, 1967, Sondra married her childhood friend, Gordon Anderson. The decision was considered unconventional because Anderson is openly gay. Although they have separated, they remain very close and are still legally married.
In 1965, Sondra Locke gained statewide recognition thanks to her performance in a stage production of “The Monkey's Paw,” which was directed by her close friend and soon to be husband Gordon Anderson. The same year, she was spotted by Warner Bros. in a nationwide talent search and hired to star in the film “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.” Released in 1968 and an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Carson McCullers, the drama was directed by Robert Ellis Miller and also starred Alan Arkin. They received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Arkin) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Locke). Her promising performance also brought Locke Golden Globe nominations for Most Promising Newcomer - Female and Best Supporting Actress and Golden Laurel nominations for Female Supporting Performance and Female New Face.
Locke resurfaced two years later when she was cast in the Noel Black directed drama “Cover Me Baby” (1970). Costars of the film included Robert Forster, Sam Waterston and Ken Kercheval. The following year, she supported Bruce Davison, Elsa Lanchester and Ernest Borgnine in the horror flick “Willard” (1971), an adaptation of Stephen Gilbert's novel “Ratman's Notebooks.” Directed by Daniel Mann, the film was nominated for the Edgar Award in the category of Best Motion Picture at the 1972 Edgar Allan Poe Awards and the Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature Film at the 1972 American Cinema Editors Awards.
Still in 1972, Locke branched out to television with work in the ABC series “Night Gallery” episode “Lindemann's Catch/A Feast of Blood/The Late Mr. Peddington” and the Efrem Zimbalist Jr. dramatic series “The F.B.I” episode “Dark Christmas.” She went on to appear in episodes of “The ABC Afternoon Playbreak” (1973), “Kung Fu” (1974), “Planet of the Apes” (1974), “Barnaby Jones” (1975), “Cannon” (2 episodes, 1973-1975) and “Joe Forrester” (1976). She made her TV movie debut alongside Bo Hopkins and Norman Lloyd in “The Gondola” (1973), which was scripted by Alfred Hayes and based on his novel. Also in 1973, she returned to the big screen with a supporting role in William A. Fraker's horror film “A Reflection of Fear,” which starred Robert Shaw, Sally Kellerman and Mary Ure. She then starred with Paul Sand and Jared Martin in the drama “The Second Coming of Suzanne” (1974), for director/writer Michael Barry.
Locke's partnership with Clint Eastwood began when she was cast as Laura Lee, a pioneer girl who falls for Eastwood's character, in the popular western “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976), which starred and was directed by Eastwood. This marked the start of a professional and personal relationship between the two that would last many years. After starring in Peter S. Traynor's thriller “Death Game” (1977, with Colleen Camp and Seymour Cassel) and Earl E. Smith's “The Shadow of Chikara” (1977, opposite Joe Don Baker and Ted Neeley), she was reunited with Eastwood for the action film “The Gauntlet” (1977, directed by and starred Eastwood). The next year, she played Lynn Halsey-Taylor in “Every Which Way But Loose” (1978), a comedy directed by James Fargo. The actress closed out the decade costarring in television films “Friendships, Secrets and Lies” (1979, with Cathryn Damon and Shelley Fabares) and “Tales of the Unexpected” (1979, opposite Harry Andrews, Charles Dance and Samantha Eggar).
Opening the 1980s, Locke played Antoinette Lily in the adventure film “Bronco Billy” (1980), again directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. The role brought her a 1981 Razzie nomination in the category of Worst Actress. She also reprised her role of Lynn Halsey-Taylor in the Buddy Van Horn directed “Any Which Way You Can,” the sequel to “Every Which Way But Loose.” After starring as Rosemary Clooney in the well received CBS movie “Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story” (1982), opposite Tony Orlando and Penelope Milford, she was cast in the action thriller “Sudden Impact” (1983), which starred, was produced and directed by Eastwood. She went on to play Edna in an episode of “Tales of the Unexpected” called “Bird of Prey” (1984) and Vanessa in an episode of “Amazing Stories” titled “Vanessa in the Garden” (1985).
In 1986, Locke entered the world of directing with the independent drama “Ratboy,” in which she also starred in. The film earned Locke a 1988 Razzie nomination for Worst Actress. She resurfaced four years later directing Theresa Russell, Jeff Fahey and George Dzundza in “Impulse” (1990). The thriller, about a female police officer who works undercover as a prostitute on the streets of Los Angeles, was praised by critics. During this time, her developing career as a director was interrupted by personal problems when she and Eastwood broke up. She filed a lawsuit for support and received a directing deal with Warner Bros. as part of her settlement.
It was also in 1990 that Locke learned she had breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. She eventually recovered and although hoping to work again, did not direct another film until television’s “Death in Small Doses” (1995), which starred Richard Thomas, Tess Harper and Glynnis O'Connor, and the independent film “Do Me a Favor” (1997), starring Rosanna Arquette, George Dzundza and Devon Gummersall. She returned to court in 1996 to sue Warner Bros. and Clint Eastwood and received a $7 million out-of-court settlement in 1999.
Also in 1999, Locke resumed her acting career with roles in the direct to video films “The Prophet's Game” (starred Dennis Hopper) and “Clean and Narrow” (starred Jack Noseworthy, Laura Leighton and Jackie Belvin). She has since retired from the movie business.