Rory on TV
Rory Calhoun is best known to us Westernistas for his big-screen oaters, and very good many of them were too. But he also figured prominently on the small screen (and they were small in those days, weren’t they), most notably of course as Bill Longley in The Texan, which ran for two seasons, 1958 – 60, on CBS. Of course he was a very fictional Bill Longley and he didn’t murder anyone, just roamed the West helping out poor widows and children and being kind to animals, you know how they did.
Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre was, as you probably know, a Western series which ran on CBS from 1956 to 1961. It had many distinguished guest stars in different episodes and Season 1, Episode 12, first aired in December 1956, featured our friend Rory.
It was written by Aaron Spelling and it is a pretty straightforward moral tale about how wealth can corrupt but innocence prevail.
It was not a usual Western role for Calhoun, who has no gun and wears a suit. But he acquits himself well, suggesting his character’s unhappy past and doubts about any brighter future.
It’s an inconsequential affair but well handled. You can watch it on YouTube if you want, here.
More than a decade later he had aged (he was 45) but he was one of those lucky men who ages well and in the 1967 episode of Custer, titled Blazing Arrows, he looks incredibly like George Clooney. So Rory and I have that in common.
Custer wasn’t my favorite show, I must admit, and this one was missing Slim Pickens so that didn’t help. Wayne Maunder didn’t quite cut it as Custer for me. Still, this was quite a good episode because it featured Rory as the leader of Fredonia – no, not the 1820s breakaway republic but a fictional valley that set itself up as independent right after the Civil War. The men wear Reb uniforms and drill all the time and several of them don’t quite seem to have understood that the war’s over, especially the half-crazed Sergeant Carhew (Adam Williams) who wants to shoot anything in a blue uniform or a feathered bonnet.
There’s also a nasty railroad man (railroad men had to be nasty and grasping) whom no one likes. He’s played by Stacy Harris. He wants to run his tracks right through Fredonia and damn the consequences.