Rory Calhoun

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Rory Calhoun
Rory Calhoun - 1961.jpg
Photo from 1961
Born Francis Timothy McCown
(1922-08-08)August 8, 1922
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died April 28, 1999(1999-04-28) (aged 76)
Burbank, California, U.S.
Other names Smoke
Years active 1941–1993
Spouse(s) Lita Baron (1948–1970)
Sue Rhodes (1971–1999)

Rory Calhoun (August 8, 1922 – April 28, 1999) was an American television and film actor, screenwriter, and producer.

Early life[edit]

Born Francis Timothy McCown in Los Angeles, California, Calhoun spent his early years in Santa Cruz, California.[1] The son of a professional gambler, he was of Scot-Irish and Spanish ancestry.[1] He was only nine months old when his father died; Calhoun's mother remarried, and he occasionally went by Frank Durgin, using the last name of his stepfather. At age thirteen, he stole a revolver, for which he was sent to the California Youth Authority's Preston School of Industry reformatory at Ione, California. He escaped while in the adjustment center (jail within the jail). After robbing several jewelry stores, he stole a car and drove it across state lines. This made it a federal offense, and when he was recaptured, he was sentenced to three years in prison, and served his sentence at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.[2] After finishing his sentence, he was transferred to San Quentin prison on other charges. He remained there until he was paroled shortly before his twenty-first birthday.[3]

Career[edit]

After his release from San Quentin, Calhoun worked at a number of odd jobs. In 1943, while riding horseback in the Hollywood Hills, he met actor Alan Ladd, whose wife, Sue Carol was an agent. She landed Calhoun a one-line role in a Laurel and Hardy comedy, The Bullfighters, credited under the name Frank McCown. Shortly afterwards, the Ladds hosted a party attended by David O. Selznick employee Henry Willson, an agent known for his assortment of young, handsome and marginally talented actors to whom he gave new, unusual names. Willson signed McCown to a contract and initially christened him "Troy Donahue"; it was soon changed to "Rory Calhoun". Willson carefully groomed his new client and taught him the social manners he had never learned in prison.[4]

Calhoun's first public appearance in the film capital was as Lana Turner's escort to the premiere of Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), a Selznick production. The glamorous blonde and her handsome companion attracted the paparazzi, and photos appeared in newspapers and fan magazines. Selznick then began loaning his contract player to other studios; subsequently, Calhoun appeared in Adventure Island with Rhonda Fleming, The Red House with Edward G. Robinson, and That Hagen Girl with Shirley Temple.[5]

as Bill Longley in The Texan (1961)

As Calhoun's career gained momentum, he next appeared in several westerns, musicals and comedies, including Way of a Gaucho with Gene Tierney, With a Song in My Heart with Susan Hayward, How to Marry a Millionaire (as the love interest of Betty Grable) and River of No Return. The last two films featured Marilyn Monroe.

Willson maintained careful control over his rising star, arranging his social life and ending his engagement to French actress Corinne Calvet. In 1955, Willson disclosed information about Calhoun's years in prison to Confidential magazine in exchange for the tabloid not printing an exposé about the secret homosexual life of Rock Hudson, another Willson client. The disclosure had no negative effect on Calhoun's career and only served to solidify his "bad boy" image.

In 1955, Calhoun and Julie Adams co-starred in the film The Looters, the story of a plane crash in the Rocky Mountains. Part of the picture was filmed about Tarryall Creek in Park County in central Colorado. The advertising poster reads: "Five desperate men ... and a girl who didn't care ... trapped on a mountain of gale-lashed rock!"[6]

In 1957, Calhoun formed a production company with Victor Orsatti they named Rorvic to make and star in the films The Hired Gun, The Domino Kid and Apache Territory.[7] In the same year, he co-produced and starred in CBS's The Texan, a Western series that ran on Monday evenings until 1960. On March 26, 1959, he appeared as himself in the episode "Rory Calhoun, The Texan" on the CBS sitcom December Bride, starring Spring Byington, then in its last season of production. While filming The Texan, Calhoun would continue to produce and write screenplays throughout his career. After The Texan was canceled, he was strongly considered for the lead of James West in The Wild Wild West, but the producers were not impressed with his screen test.[8][9] Like many American actors, Calhoun also made a variety of films in Europe, notably starring in Sergio Leone's first film, The Colossus of Rhodes.

He continued to appear in both television and film throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including Thunder in Carolina, Rawhide, Gilligan's Island, Hawaii Five-O, Alias Smith and Jones and Starsky and Hutch. In 1982, Calhoun had a regular role on the soap opera Capitol, being persuaded to do it by his family after his regret over turning down a part on Dallas.[10] He stayed with the series until 1987.[11]

Calhoun became known to a new generation for several roles in cult films such as Night of the Lepus (1972), Motel Hell, Angel (1984) and its sequel Avenging Angel (1985), as well as Hell Comes to Frogtown (1987).

His final role was that of grizzled family patriarch and rancher Ernest Tucker in the 1992 film Pure Country.

Personal life[edit]

Calhoun was married twice and had five daughters, three with wife (1948-1970) Lita Baron, one with his second wife (1971-1999, his death), journalist Sue Rhodes and one with actress Vitina Marcus while he was married to Baron.

When Lita Baron sued Calhoun for divorce, she named Betty Grable as one of 79 women he had adulterous relationships with. Calhoun replied to her charge, "Heck, she didn't even include half of them".[7]

In 1966, a paternity suit by Vitina Marcus against Calhoun was settled in Los Angeles Superior Court for an undisclosed sum. At the time, he was 43, and she was 28; their daughter, Athena Marcus Calhoun, was 7. Athena went on to become "The World's Most Beautiful Showgirl" and received a "Key To The City Of Las Vegas" in 1987.[12]

Calhoun's cousin is popular sports talk show host Bob McCown.

Death[edit]

Rory Calhoun died in Burbank, California at the age of 76 from complications resulting from emphysema and diabetes.

Legacy[edit]

For his contribution to film, Calhoun has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7007 Hollywood Blvd. and a second star at 1750 Vine Street for his work in television.

In the Simpsons episode "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds," supporting character Montgomery Burns remarks that a puppy with a habit of standing on his hind legs reminds him of Rory Calhoun, since Calhoun was known for "always standing and walking."

Filmography[edit]

Television[edit]

Producer[edit]

  • The Hired Gun (1957)
  • Domino Kid (1957)
  • Apache Territory (1958)
  • The Texan
  • Fists of Steel (1991)

Writer[edit]

  • Shotgun (1955)
  • Domino Kid (1957)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Oliver, Myrna (1999-04-29). "Rory Calhoun; Handsome Actor Starred in 1950s Westerns, TV Series". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  2. ^ http://www.capecentralhigh.com/cape-photos/rory-calhoun-visits-missourian/. Retrieved 23 February 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson by Robert Hofler, Carroll & Graf, 2005, pg. 137 ISBN 0-7867-1607-X
  4. ^ The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, pp. 137-139
  5. ^ The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, pp. 141-142
  6. ^ Laura King Van Dusen, "Movie Making", Historic Tales from Park County: Parked in the Past (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2013), ISBN 978-1-62619-161-7, pp. 182-183.
  7. ^ a b Vallance, Tom (May 3, 1999). "Obituary: Rory Calhoun". The Independent (London). 
  8. ^ p.37 Roman, Author James W From Daytime to Primetime: The History of American Television Programs Publisher Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005
  9. ^ http://www.nctc.net/hazard/conrad/shadoe/
  10. ^ http://www.hollywoodcultmovies.com/html/rory_calhoun_interview.html
  11. ^ "Rory Calhoun: Obituary". 1999-04-29. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  12. ^ [1]

External links[edit]