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Rory Calhoun Turned His Life Around from Convicted Criminal

Rory Calhoun was a Golden Age movie star that got his start working in the entertainment industry thanks to David O. Selznick. Rory starred in a great many classic films during his time, including 1953’s How to Marry a Millionaire. Rory appeared alongside starlet Betty Grable in the film, and Betty would later be called out during Rory’s first divorce as one of nearly 100 women that the star had extramarital affairs with. Even outside of his infidelities, Rory wasn’t always the most moral fellow. Join Facts Verse as we explore how Rory Calhoun turned his life around from convicted criminal.


Rory Calhoun Had Risky Living in His Blood

Rory Calhoun was born on August 8, 1922, in Los Angeles, California. His father was a professional gambler, and this alternative way of life seems to have had quite the effect on the young boy. Though there was nothing inherently illegal about what Rory’s father was doing, the craving for a high-risk lifestyle was passed onto the boy in an unfortunate way. At the age of only 13, Rory stole a gun and was caught with it by the authorities. He was subsequently sent to the Preston School of Industry, located in the state of California.

The Preston School of Industry was a notable youth reformatory, but it had trouble holding Rory Calhoun. Rory couldn’t get himself to behave in the facility, so he ended up being forced into solitary confinement. There’s a legend that Rory managed to escape the Preston School of Industry during his time being held in solitary confinement. Before he was of age, Rory was living with his mother. However, his penchant for misbehavior was continuing to grow. Because of this, the young man often received vicious beatings from his stepfather. At the age of 17, Rory ran away from the beatings that he was receiving at home to a life of crime.

As the story goes, Rory Calhoun ran away from his mother’s home at the age of 17, robbed a handful of jewelry stores, hotwired a car, and then made off across state lines. The future star must’ve assumed that fleeing the state was going to significantly decrease his chances of getting caught. However, all it did was make it so that the consequences were much worse when the authorities inevitably tracked him down. Due to the fact that Rory took himself and his stolen goods across state lines, the crimes that he had committed were considered federal offenses. The teenager was forced to serve three years at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, located in the state of Missouri.

By the Age of 21, Rory Was Ready to Live Righteously

Rory Calhoun was ready to be let go from the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners around the same time that he was gearing up to turn 21 years old. Having spent so many of his early years behind bars, Rory decided that he had no interest in returning to a life of crime once he finally got out. Instead, he did his best to find an honest trade for himself that he would be a good fit for. The future star was rumored to have tried out a number of professions during these years, including fishing and fighting forest fires.

In 1944, Rory Calhoun met Alan Ladd. As most will know, Alan Ladd was an incredibly popular actor. Rory allegedly met Alan during a horseback-riding excursion. Alan was apparently impressed by the man’s physicality. He saw something in Rory that he thought would translate well to the screen.

Though most will know of Alan Ladd as a notable actor from Hollywood’s Golden Age, fewer will know that the man was married to a talent scout by the name of Sue Carol from 1942 until his 1964 death. Sue Carol was just as impressed by Rory Calhoun’s physicality as her famous husband was. Sue used her industry connections to garner Rory a screen test at 20th Century Fox. The screen test resulted in the actor receiving a few uncredited roles in the studio’s productions. According to the late Alan himself, he didn’t think much was going to come out of this little venture into Hollywood. However, he greatly enjoyed how much money he was getting for the relatively easy work. The actor assumed that he was going to receive a handful of miniscule roles on the screen and then return back to his life as a laborer with a little more money in his pockets than before.

How Rory Calhoun Became a Hollywood Star

Meeting Alan Ladd and his talent-scout wife got Rory Calhoun the chance to transition from being a hard-laboring ex-con to being an uncredited background actor on the screen for 20th Century Fox. However, it would be legendary Golden Age producer David O. Selznick that would turn the actor into a star. Rory’s connection to David O. Selznick began when he met a man by the name of Henry Willson at a party that was being put on by the aforementioned couple of Alan Ladd and his wife. Henry Willson was an agent that was known for working with David O. Selznick. Like Alan and his wife, Henry saw something in Rory. On Henry’s recommendation, Rory Calhoun then signed a contract with David O. Selznick’s Vanguard Films. The rest is history!

Prior to the momentous occasion of Rory Calhoun signing with Vanguard Films, the actor had actually been known by another name. Rory Calhoun was born Francis McCown. It was David O. Selznick who came up with the stage name of Rory Calhoun. Allegedly, David came up with the first name of “Rory” because it sounded like the word “roar”. The produced apparently thought this word association would suggest to the audience that Rory was like a lion.

With the newly named Rory Calhoun now under contract with his studio, David O. Selznick set about making the ex-con into a star. Rory’s first mission as a star under contract with Vanguard Films was to accompany Lana Turner to the premiere of the 1945 Alfred Hitchcock film Spellbound. Lana and Alfred were already big deals in the entertainment industry, and everyone was curious to learn about the new man that was accompanying the starlet to the huge event.

David O. Selznick Gave Rory Calhoun Lots of Freedom

As a result of his appearance alongside Lana Turner at the premiere of Spellbound, everyone in the press was talking about Rory Calhoun. Rory was getting a lot of positive attention, but he also received some negative attention when he got into trouble with the law again after apparently punching a detective. As a result of this incident, Rory was put back in prison. Once he got out, he started appearing in films. The incident with the detective was a small slip-up, but Rory kept his head cool for rest of his Hollywood career.

Some of Rory Calhoun’s earliest features included 1947’s That Hagen Girl, in which the actor played third lead to the notable duo of Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple. David O. Selznick wasn’t afraid to let Rory work with other studios. In 1950, Rory signed a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox that would see him star in such classic pictures as 1953’s How to Marry a Millionaire. The film featured Rory playing the love interest of starlet Betty Grable. Today, How to Marry a Millionaire is considered Rory’s biggest film.

A year after playing Betty Grable’s love interest in How to Marry a Millionaire, Rory Calhoun got to play the boyfriend of Marilyn Monroe in the film River of No Return. However, his character in the film ended up losing Marilyn’s character to a competing love interest that was played by actor Robert Mitchum. In the mid-1950s, Rory appeared in some Western films for Universal Pictures. These films included 1954’s Four Guns to the Border and 1956’s Red Sundown. By the time that Rory was working with Universal Pictures, he was said to have been making around $75,000 per feature.

Rory Started Up His Own Production Company in 1957

By 1957, Rory Calhoun had become a massive Hollywood star. He used his clout to start up his own production company, which was dubbed Rorvic Productions. The production company produced several Western films during the late 1950s, and Rory would also continue appearing in Western works for other studios. In 1958, Rory Calhoun was cast to play the lead role in the Western television series The Texan. He was allegedly cast in this role at the behest of Desi Arnaz. The series ran for two seasons, until 1960.

After The Texan came to an end, Rory Calhoun continued working largely within both television and the Western genre. He made notable guest appearances on the series Gunsmoke and Bonanza, and also appeared in the 1961 Sergio Leone film The Colossus of Rhodes. In the mid-1960s, he made several Western films with producer A.C. Lyles, and he was even considered for the role of one of the leads on the television series The Wild Wild West.

Rory Calhoun continued working until the 1990s, with his final role being in the 1992 film Pure Country. Other notable roles he had during his later life include his villainous turn in the cult-classic 1980 horror Motel Hell, as well as his stint on the 1980s soap opera Capitol. The actor was married to two women over the course of his life, though he marred his second wife twice. Upon his first divorce, Rory’s first wife alleged that the star had cheated on her with nearly 100 women. According to Rory, this wasn’t even the half of it! He passed away from diabetes in 1999, at the age of 76.


Rory Calhoun went from being an ex-convict to being one of Hollywood’s most notable stars thanks to an encounter with Alan Ladd! Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Rory Calhoun was alleged to have cheated on his first wife with nearly 100 women, and that one of those women was Golden Age starlet Betty Grable? Comment down below!

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