Clark College grad Sam Elliott, The Hero

first_imgSam Elliott has a voice like a bear — big and strong, serious and smooth.You may have heard him intone, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” while the mouth of Smokey Bear moves on TV. Or, you may have caught Elliott saying, “Support the campaign for Clark College, ensuring a bright future,” over appealing images of our local community college. Those Clark College Foundation spots ran in 2013.Hard to say whether Elliott’s voice was quite so seductive, five-plus decades ago, when you could have caught him onstage at Clark. The California boy was a teen when he moved with his parents to Northeast Portland, graduated from David Douglas High School and, “after jumping around for a while,” he said, eventually landed at Clark.“I found it a great school. My recollections are pretty keen. I just loved it,” Elliott said during a telephone interview.Elliott got a lot of acting encouragement at Clark and appeared in various plays, including the classic musical “Guys and Dolls.” His role was only a supporting one — Big Jule, the fearsome but finally humbled Chicago gangster — but that was perfectly OK with him.“I was happy to do whatever. The drama department there was great,” Elliott said. “But I knew I wanted to be a film actor. I grew up in Sacramento, and I’d seen too many movies, too many movie theaters. I didn’t want to do stage work. I wanted the movies.”He got his wish. Within four years of his 1965 graduation from Clark, Elliott was onscreen in the hit feature film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Of course his role, “Card Player No. 2,” was small — but it was only the beginning of an illustrious career.last_img read more