Schwarzenegger, Arnold Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Already a champion bodybuilder when he came to America to advance his career, Arnold Schwarzenegger became a major film star and multimillionaire businessman, married into one of the most famous political families in the United States, and was twice elected governor of California.

Born in Austria in 1947, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the son of a small-town police chief and a housewife. He became enamored with bodybuilding when he was thirteen and won his first major bodybuilding title when he was only eighteen. After winning his second Mr. Universe title in 1968, he emigrated to the United States and settled in Southern California, the center of the national bodybuilding subculture. He initially planned to stay for only one year but ultimately remained there. He spoke English poorly at first, and although he eventually became fluent in the language, he never rid himself of his heavy Austrian accent.Schwarzenegger, ArnoldBodybuildersActors;Arnold Schwarzenegger[Schwarzenegger]Austrian immigrants;Arnold Schwarzenegger[Schwarzenegger]Schwarzenegger, ArnoldBodybuildersActors;Arnold Schwarzenegger[Schwarzenegger]Austrian immigrants;ArnoldSchwarzenegger[Schwarzenegger][cat]EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS;Schwarzenegger, Arnold[cat]POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT;Schwarzenegger, Arnold[cat]SPORTS;Schwarzenegger, Arnold[cat]FILM;Schwarzenegger, Arnold[cat]BIOGRAPHIES;Schwarzenegger, Arnold

Schwarzenegger’s first film, Hercules in New York (1970), was both a commercial and critical failure. He was billed as “Arnold Strong,” and his accent was so thick that his dialogue had to be dubbed by another actor. A few years later, his English had improved sufficiently for him to win a Golden Globe Award from the Los Angeles Press association as new star of the year for his role as a bodybuilder in the film Stay Hungry (1976). He then starred in the documentary Pumping Iron (1977) and invested his earnings in real estate.

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addressing farmworkers on water issues outside the state capitol in October, 2009.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

The year 1980 was a transitional time for Schwarzenegger. That year he won his last bodybuilding title and was cast as Hargitay, MickeyHungarian immigrants;Mickey Hargitay[Hargitay]Mickey Hargitay, the husband of actor Jayne Mansfield, in a television film about Mansfield’s life. Because Hargitay had been a Hungarian-born champion bodybuilder, the Austrian bodybuilder Schwarzenegger was the obvious choice for the role. However, Schwarzenegger’s breakthrough role came when he played the title character in Conan the Barbarian (1982). Because he was playing a fantasy character, his thick accent was irrelevant, as it also was for The Terminator (1984), in which he created his most famous character, an android from the future. Other action film roles followed, and Schwarzenegger established himself as one of the leading box office draws in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, in 1977, Schwarzenegger met Shriver, MariaMaria Shriver, the daughter of Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps and the 1972 Democratic nominee for vice president, and Eunice Shriver, the sister of former president John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. and Edward Kennedy. He married Shriver in 1986.

Despite his marriage into the most famous Democratic family in America, Schwarzenegger chose to become a Republican after he became an American citizen in 1983, because of the party’s stronger probusiness stances. At the Republican National Convention the following year, he spoke on President Ronald Reagan’s behalf, and he campaigned for George H. W. Bush during the presidential elections of 1988 and 1992.

In 2002, Schwarzenegger considered running for governor of California but decided to reprise his android role in the film Terminator 3. Fortuitously, however, he had another chance to run for governor in 2003, when the Democratic incumbent, Gray Davis, was subjected to a recall election at the same time a new election for his possible replacement was held. Davis lost his bid to retain his governorship, and Schwarzenegger won the second election over a field of more than two hundred candidates, including another immigrant, journalist Huffington, AriannaArianna Huffington. Three years later, Schwarzenegger was reelected after completing Davis’s original four-year term.

Schwarzenegger was sufficiently popular as governor to inspire a movement to amend the U.S. [a]Constitution, U.S.;presidential qualificationsConstitution to allow a foreign-born citizen such as Schwarzenegger to run for president, beginning in 2004. However, the idea lost momentum after a few years.Schwarzenegger, ArnoldBodybuildersActors;Arnold Schwarzenegger[Schwarzenegger]Austrian immigrants;Arnold Schwarzenegger[Schwarzenegger]

Further Reading
  • Andrews, Nigel. True Myths: The Life and Times of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Secaucus, N.J.: Birch Lane Press, 1996.
  • Leamer, Laurence. Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005.
  • Mathews, Joe. The People’s Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy. New York: Public Affairs, 2006.

Atlas, Charles

Austrian immigrants


Huffington, Arianna

Categories: History