The product of a profoundly unhappy home life, Eric Fleming ran away at age 11 to live the life of a Depression-era hobo. Making his way from California to New York, he worked at a series of dead-end jobs, at one point sweeping the floors of a whorehouse. After a stint with the Merchant Marine, he joined the Seabees at the outbreak of WWII. While lifting a 200-pound iron block, he miscalculated and the block fell directly on his face. Forced to undergo extensive plastic surgery, Fleming left the hospital with the craggy, weathered facial features that would ensure him steady if not always lucrative employment as an actor. Making his debut in a 1944 training film, he did stage work in Chicago and New York, and in 1951 starred on a DuMont TV network kiddie series Major Dell Conway of the Flying Tigers. While his Hollywood film roles were largely confined to standard he-man heroics in such sci-fiers as Conquest of Space (1955) and Queen of Outer Space (1956), he was afforded a wider acting range on stage, exhibiting his singing and dancing skills in the 1955 Broadway musical Plain and Fancy. In 1959 he was cast as trail boss Gil Favor on Rawhide, one of the most popular TV Western series of the era. Feeling that he was being upstaged by younger co-star Clint Eastwood, Fleming left Rawhide in 1966 to seek out film work. After playing a secondary role in the Doris Day comedy The Glass Bottom Beat, he headed to Peru to film the pilot episode of a TV adventure series, High Jungle. While filming a canoeing scene in the turbulent Hullaga River, Eric Fleming fell into the surging rapids and drowned; his mutilated body was not recovered until four days later.