Tuesday, August 08, 2017

A Birthday Tribute to Rory Calhoun

Western star Rory Calhoun was born in Los Angeles on August 8, 1922.

Calhoun overcame difficult teenage years, including time spent in jail. After his release he turned his life around, and legend has it he was horseback riding when he was discovered by Alan Ladd. Ladd's wife, agent Sue Carol, helped launch Calhoun's career.

Calhoun quickly moved up through the ranks, graduating from bit roles in the mid '40s to supporting roles in "A" films and starring roles in lesser productions just a couple years later.

His career took off to further heights in the early '50s, and he found particular success as a Western star, the genre in which I enjoy him the most. As his career progressed into Westerns, his looks simultaneously matured from being almost too good-looking to a more ruggedly handsome appearance.

Moving into the late '50s, he produced three Westerns himself and wrote yet another, and he also produced his TV series THE TEXAN (1958-60), which is available on DVD.

Below are photos and posters from some of my favorite Calhoun films. Links to reviews of each film may be found at the end of this post.

In the moving Americana I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (1951) Rory and Barbara Bates played a young couple helped by a minister (William Lundigan) and his wife (Susan Hayward). Years later, as producer of APACHE TERRITORY (1958), Calhoun cast his friend Bates as his leading lady. It would be the troubled actress's last feature film.

Numerous readers of this blog agree that FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER (1954), in which Rory and Colleen Miller were directed by Richard Carlson, is one of the more underrated Universal Westerns of the era. It's a terrific film with a memorable love scene; anyone who's seen it knows that sequence immediately.

And speaking of underrated, another marvelous film is DAWN AT SOCORRO (1954), with Calhoun doing a spin on Doc Holliday. The movie begins with an OK Corral-type sequence, but that's only the beginning, not the end. Piper Laurie costars, directed by George Sherman.

RAW EDGE (1956) is quite an oddball film, about an Oregon town where the first man to claim a widow can marry her, whether she wants to or not, but it's also a fun watch. Calhoun costarred in the film with his friend Yvonne DeCarlo, seen below. The previous year Calhoun wrote SHOTGUN (1955), in which DeCarlo starred with Sterling Hayden and Zachary Scott, and he also gave her away at her wedding to stuntman Bob Morgan.

THE HIRED GUN (1957) was the first of three Westerns produced by Calhoun. It's a short (63 minutes!), rugged little Western filmed with Anne Francis in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, California.

I'm also especially partial to the next Western he produced, DOMINO KID (1957), in which he's tracked down four of the five men who killed his father and is on the trail of the very last one. Kristine Miller costars.

Offscreen, during the heyday of his career Calhoun was married to actress-singer Lita Baron, who passed away last year. They're seen together here on the set of RED SUNDOWN (1956), which I'll be watching later this year.

Sadly Calhoun was not known for his fidelity, to put it mildly, and he and Baron parted ways after nearly 22 years. Calhoun remarried less than a year later, a union which would last for 28 years, until his passing on April 28, 1999, in Burbank, California. He was 76. In addition to his wife, he was survived by three daughters with Baron and one with his second wife Susan.

Rory Calhoun movies reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: SUNDAY DINNER FOR A SOLDIER (1944), THAT HAGEN GIRL (1947), I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (1951), POWDER RIVER (1953), THE SILVER WHIP (1953), FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER (1954), DAWN AT SOCORRO (1954), RAW EDGE (1956), FLIGHT TO HONG KONG (1956), THE BIG CAPER (1957), UTAH BLAINE (1957), THE HIRED GUN (1957), DOMINO KID (1957), and APACHE TERRITORY (1958).

Additionally, here's a review of the Western written by Calhoun, SHOTGUN (1955).

Just a handful of other notable Rory Calhoun films from a lengthy filmography which spans half a century: SAND (1949), ROGUE RIVER (1951), WITH A SONG IN MY HEART (1952), WAY OF A GAUCHO (1952), HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953), RIVER OF NO RETURN (1954), THE YELLOW TOMAHAWK (1954), A BULLET IS WAITING (1954), THE LOOTERS (1955), RED SUNDOWN (1956), THE SPOILERS (1955), and RIDE OUT FOR REVENGE (1957).

Be watching for more reviews of Rory Calhoun films here in the future, starting with RIVER OF NO RETURN in the near future. Update: Here's my review of RIVER OF NO RETURN (1954).

Update: Here are reviews of MASSACRE RIVER (1949), THE RED HOUSE (1947), RETURN OF THE FRONTIERSMAN (1950), HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953), RED SUNDOWN (1956), and THE GUN HAWK (1963).


Blogger Bill O said...

FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER has what must be the most sexually suggestive scene of its decade. Colleen Miller at the candy counter. The men in the scene, including TONTO, look properly stunned. This is just before the love scene you noted. A quick girl-to-woman transition.....

2:14 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Nice to see a lengthy remembrance for one of the finest actor in westerns, Laura. I always liked him but over the years have come to really appreciate just how good he was as a western lead.
I love those films to which you drew particular attention and would add "RED SUNDOWN" & "UTAH BLAINE", both fine examples of the genre.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the comments!

Jerry, I have a feeling I'm really going to like RED SUNDOWN, everyone I know who has seen it has loved it. :) I liked UTAH BLAINE quite well also.

I'm also looking forward to digging into THE TEXAN at some point, as I got the DVD set when it was on sale a while back.

Best wishes,

12:08 AM  

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