Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
April 28
Rory Calhoun April 28, 1999
Rory Calhoun dies

By the time that Rory Calhoun died of emphysema and diabetes in 1999, he had survived a lot. Born in 1922 as Francis McCown in Los Angeles, Calhoun grew up in Santa Cruz, where he frequently ran afoul of the law or just ran away from his abusive father. At 17, he struck out on his own, working as logger, mechanic, truck driver and occasional car thief. It was the latter job that put him in a Springfield, MO penitentiary for three years. At 22, Calhoun was back in Los Angeles, where he was discovered by Alan Ladd, and then picked up by Henry Wilson, the notorious agent of Hollywood studs. It was Wilson who groomed Calhoun as the dark-haired sultry type, first naming him Troy Donahue, before striking that name for Calhoun. In the late 40s and 50s, Calhoun was cast in a range of Hollywood productions, invariably finding his strength playing a cowboy. He later confessed, “You could say there were more B Westerns than A Westerns, but even so, I always enjoyed putting on the hat, strapping on the gun and feeling like a kid again." In 1955, Wilson betrayed his protégé, turning over information about Calhoun’s arrest record to Confidential Magazine to keep them from revealing the homosexual dalliances of another client, Rock Hudson. Calhoun survived the scandal, eventually moving his career towards television where he anchored the western series The Texan. He won the money for his first house gambling, then lost most of everything in his first divorce. Even though he was married, his supposed affairs (mostly with women) were legendary, as was his life. In the end, he even appeared in The Simpsons, when Mr. Smithers compared a puppy to him: "you know that fellow, who’s always standing and walking…Rory Calhoun."


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