Rory on TV
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 series, 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 in season 1, episode 12, first aired in December 1956, featured our friend Rory.
After the usual slightly flippant intro by Dick Powell, we see Mason Ward (Calhoun), a no longer practicing lawyer from Kentucky but now in Wyoming, apparently bitter from the Civil War, being given a job as schoolteacher by the mayor (Parly Baer). One of his new pupils is obsessed with finding gold. Though everyone scoffs at the boy’s dream, he does in fact find nuggets but he is apparently exploited by his new teacher, who takes and keeps the gold in return for a few small items the naïve boy (Bobby Clark) wants to give as presents to kind neighbors.
It was written by Aaron Spelling and it is a pretty straightforward moral tale about how wealth can corrupt but innocence prevail.
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 we 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 one 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.
We might look at Rory’s episodes of Wagon Train another day but for, that’s all, e-folks!