Before he became the star of Rawhide, a World War II accident changed Eric Fleming's life

Fleming changed his life.

CBS Television Distribution

While many Western actors gain a reputation for being reckless and wild, Eric Fleming couldn't be farther from the stereotype. On-screen, Fleming played Gil Favor of Rawhide. Off-screen, Fleming was an introvert, instead choosing to engage in solitary activities for his own betterment.

According to an interview with the Hartford Courant, Fleming revealed that his reserved demeanor was a stark contrast to the rest of the Rawhide cast. "Ours is a pretty gregarious group," he said. "and when we first started Rawhide a few years ago, I'm sure they considered me a strange one, particularly since I preferred to read between film takes instead of horsing around or chewing the breeze." Luckily, the difference in personalities didn't put any strain on the friendship between cast members. "We're pretty close now," Fleming said. "They understand me for what I am, a cowpunch with egghead proclivities."

While Fleming's solitary nature fits the picture of the lonely cowboy we see depicted in so many films and television, he didn't come by it naturally. Rather, a potentially fatal accident during his time in World War II changed his outlook on life.

"When I joined the Seabees during World War II, you might have said I was rather wacky and irresponsible. What changed me? An accident that changed my life for the better when odds were 100-to-1 the accident would change my life for the worst."

The Seabees were a Navy unit in the United States Armed Forces. Fleming was injured on the job when his team was instructed to lift a large section of steel, weighing over 200 pounds. After the cable holding the steel in the air snapped, it went flying - right into Fleming's face.

As a result of the accident, Fleming had to undergo extensive plastic surgery to repair the damage done to his face. "This, actually, is a handsomer [sic] face than I originally had," Fleming said. "But good looks suddenly meant nothing to me at that time. It was my eyes I was worried about. I realized how precious eyesight was; how many things in the world I had yet to see: how many books I had yet to read."

Luckily, Fleming's eyes weren't impaired in the accident, a bit of luck he took full advantage of. "They say there's no one more zealous than a convert," Fleming said. "Well, my accident converted me to a search for knowledge and wisdom. I find it in books, mostly, and I'm dumbfounded that more people don't take advantage of their library cards, as I do."

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5 Comments

LynCarrigan 1 day ago
For me Fleming was the star of Rawhide. A very attractive, manly man.
Runeshaper 10 days ago
I'm glad Fleming wasn't severely injured.
McGillahooala 10 days ago
Sadly, I believe he drowned short after Rawhide went off.
True. Filming a movie in Peru.
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