Rory Calhoun

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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 (1971–1979; 1982–1999)

Rory Calhoun (August 8, 1922 – April 28, 1999) was an American film and television actor, screenwriter and producer. He was born Francis Timothy McCown in Los Angeles, California, and spent his early childhood in Santa Cruz, California. Calhoun worked a number of odd jobs before being discovered by agent Henry Willson. He entered into a contract with Willson and soon his name was changed to Rory Calhoun. He first appeared on film in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945).

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 Irish 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.[citation needed]

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. He served his sentence at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.[2] He remained there until he was paroled shortly before his twenty-first birthday.[3]


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 it was soon changed to "Rory Calhoun". Willson carefully groomed his new client.

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.[4]

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.[citation needed]

In 1955, Calhoun and Julie Adams co-starred in the film The Looters (it), 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!"[5]

In 1957, Calhoun formed Rorvic, a production company with his partner, Victor Orsatti, to make and star in The Hired Gun and Apache Territory.[6]

In 1958, on the recommendation of studio boss Desi Arnaz, Sr., Calhoun co-produced and starred in the CBS western television series, The Texan, which aired on Monday evenings until 1960. While filming The Texan, Calhoun would continue to produce and write screenplays throughout his career. The Texan could have filmed a third year had not Calhoun desired to concentrate on films.[7] On March 26, 1959, he appeared as himself in the episode "Rory Calhoun, The Texan" on the CBS sitcom December Bride, starring Spring Byington, a series then in its fifth and final season of production.

After The Texan ended, Calhoun was considered for the lead of James West in the 1965-1969 CBS series, The Wild Wild West, but the producers were not impressed with his screen test and instead chose Robert Conrad.[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.[citation needed]

Calhoun 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, having been persuaded to accept the role by his family after his regret over turning down a part on CBS's 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 film Pure Country (1992).

Personal life[edit]

Calhoun was married twice. He had five daughters, three with first wife Lita Baron (m. 1948-1970), Cindy, Tami and Lori, one with actress Vitina Marcus, and one with his second wife (m. 1971-1979; 1982-1999, his death), journalist Sue Rhodes.[1]

When Lita Baron sued Calhoun for divorce, she named Betty Grable as one of 79 women with whom he had adulterous relationships. Calhoun replied to her charge, "Heck, she didn't even include half of them".[6]

In 1966, Vitina Marcus filed a paternity suit against Calhoun. Both actors were married at the time. The suit was settled in Los Angeles Superior Court for an undisclosed sum.


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


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






  1. ^ a b c Oliver, Myrna (1999-04-29). "Rory Calhoun; Handsome Actor Starred in 1950s Westerns, TV Series". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  2. ^ "Rory Calhoun visits Missourian". Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  3. ^ The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson by Robert Hofler, Carroll & Graf, 2005, p. 137 ISBN 0-7867-1607-X
  4. ^ The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, pp. 141-142
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b Vallance, Tom (May 3, 1999). "Obituary: Rory Calhoun". The Independent. London, UK. 
  7. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr. and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 110-112
  8. ^ Roman, Author James W From Daytime to Primetime: The History of American Television Programs Publisher Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, p. 37
  9. ^ "Shadoe Steele's Interview with Actor Robert Conrad". 
  10. ^ "Rory Calhoun Interview at Hollywood Cult Movies". 
  11. ^ "Rory Calhoun: Obituary". 1999-04-29. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 

External links[edit]