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Rory Calhoun, TV’s ‘Texan,’ Dies

April 29, 1999

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) _ Rory Calhoun caught his first acting break while riding a horse, and his rugged image and handsome face propelled him from there.

Calhoun, the lanky lumberjack and a stalwart hero of Western movies and the TV series ``The Texan,″ died Wednesday at age 76. He had been hospitalized for 10 days with advanced stages of emphysema and diabetes, said his longtime friend, Paul Dean.

Calhoun often told the story of how he was discovered in 1943 while he was horseriding in the Hollywood Hills. Alan Ladd, then a top star, happened to be out riding, too.

``I met this fellow up in the hills and stopped to talk,″ Calhoun recalled. ``He asked me if I was an actor, and I said, `Hell, no!′ We talked some more and he asked, `How would you like to be in films?‴

His face and sturdy physique won him lesser roles in ``Something for the Boys,″ ``Sunday Dinner for a Soldier,″ ``The Bullfighters″ and other wartime films. His most important early role came as boxer James Corbett in ``The Great John L.″

The actor, whose real name was Francis Timothy Durgin, saw his career accelerate after a meeting with agent Henry Willson, who discovered and invented names for Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter and Troy Donahue.

He was considered ideal for such Westerns as ``Massacre River,″ ``Rogue River,″ ``Yellow Tomahawk″ and ``Four Guns to the Border.″ In the late ’40s and early ’50s, he also appeared in ``The Red House,″ ``Ticket to Tomahawk,″ ``How to Marry a Millionaire,″ ``Meet Me After the Show″ and ``With a Song in My Heart.″

From 1958 to 1960, Calhoun starred in a CBS television Western, ``The Texan.″ He played Big Bill Longley, a fast gun who traveled from town to town helping those who were victimized by bad men.

In his later career, Calhoun appeared in lower budget films, many of them made abroad. Among the titles: ``The Treasure of Pancho Villa,″ ``Flight to Hong Kong,″ ``Marco Polo,″ ``The Colossus of Rhodes,″ ``Young Fury,″ ``Black Spurs″ and ``The Adventures of Marco Polo.″

In 1982-87, he appeared on the CBS soap opera ``Capitol,″ playing Judson Tyler, head of one of the two feuding families in the show. He also was host of reruns of ``Death Valley Days″ in the syndicated ``Western Star Theater.″

Calhoun was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif. He dropped out of high school to wander the West.

``I’d read about Tombstone (Ariz.) and all of the bad men,″ he recalled. ``I was a wild kid for adventure. So I went to Tombstone, but I arrived 50 years too late.″

He hired out as a bronco buster and mined silver near Reno before returning to Santa Cruz.

In 1948, Calhoun married Latin entertainer Lita Baron, and they had three children. They divorced in 1970. In 1971 Calhoun married former journalist Susan Langley. They had a daughter before divorcing after five years.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete late Wednesday.

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