Vintage Hunk: Rory Calhoun

By: Mike McCrann

Rory Calhoun was never a major star but at the beginning of his career in the late 1940s, he was one of the hottest young actors to grace the American screen.

Born Francis McCowan in Los Angeles, the actor's early years included imprisonment in the California Youth Authority at 13 and later hard time in San Quentin for armed robbery. Finally paroled at age 21, Rory was spotted horseback riding in the Hollywood Hills by actor Alan Ladd, whose wife Sue was an agent.

At one of her parties young Francis was taken in hand by notorious gay agent Henry Willson. (Mr. Willson's list of talent would later include Rock Hudson, Guy Madison, Troy Donahue, etc.) Henry Willson briefly christened his new find "Troy Donahue" but later changed his name to Rory Calhoun. Troy would have to wait until the next decade to be used. Whether Mr. Willson sampled the new talent or not is debatable.

Rory calhoun1 Rory Calhoun's first major film was The Red House released in 1947. Starring Edward G. Robinson, the film co-starred cute gay actor Lon McCallister but the real find of the movie was the impossibly beautiful duo of Rory Calhoun and Julie London. As this movie was never properly copyrighted, it was shown on TV during the 1950s a lot. Aside from being a wonderful country noir with the great Robinson and Judith Anderson, it was a wet dream for any gay teenager who had both the adorable McCallister and sexy Calhoun to fantasize over.

Calhoun did do a few major films including With a Song in My Heart alongside Susan Hayward, and both How to Marry a Millionaire and River of No Return with Marilyn Monroe.

Rory calhoun2 Although he continued to make movies and even had a TV Western series The Texan, Rory Calhoun never reached the top in Hollywood. His criminal past was revealed by Confidential magazine in 1955. It turned out that Henry Willson disclosed this information to the scandal sheet in order to prevent them from printing an expose of Rock Hudson's gay life. The Confidential tell-all had very little negative effect on Calhoun's career as he always played the bad boy, and most of his film career was over by then.

For any gay man, the unsubstantiated story in the book about Henry Willson (The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson) about Calhoun screwing Guy Madison in a car will go down as one of the hottest gay urban legends of all time.

But whether or not it's true, Rory Calhoun was a beautiful young man who did possess a certain screen presence, and for any young gay teen seeing him in The Red House he was the stuff  dreams are made of.