Thursday, September 23, 2004

Rory Calhoun

Ever see any movies with Rory Calhoun? If you're my age (which so few of you are), you probably did. But did you know he was also a novelist? I've had The Man from Padera (Major Books 1978) on my shelves for probably 25 years, but I'm just now getting around to reading it.
The main character's name is Domino, which seemed a little suspicious to me since Calhoun starred in a movie titled The Domino Kid back in 1957. I looked the movie up on the IMDb and discovered that the plot is identical to the plot of The Man from Padera, not that there's anything wrong with that, since Calhoun is credited with the screenplay of the movie.

It's the old story of the guy who's out to find the man who killed his paw. Or in this case (to up the ante a little) the seven men who killed his whole family. The book consists mainly of a series of gunfights, leading up, of course, the the big shootout at the end, after Domino finally discovers who the mysterious seventh man was. (No prize for you if you figure it out long before Domino does.)

In spite of the publisher's name, Major Books wasn't exactly a major force in the paperback market, so you might be wondering why a movie star like Calhoun didn't find a better publisher. Calhoun, after all, did star with Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire, not to mention his appearance in the unforgettable Motel Hell. He was also in one of my personal faves, Hell Comes to Frogtown, though Hell was played not by Calhoun by by Rowdy Roddy Piper. Calhoun played a character named "Looney Tunes. But I digress.

One possible reason Calhoun didn't find a bigger publisher is that the book really isn't all that good (this, in spite of the fact that my book has "Real Good" printed on the cover by someone whose initials are J. W. G.). There are a few problems with the writing that a good editor could have taken care of, and in fact just a good copyeditor would have made a difference. But there are other problems, too, like characterization. It's a little on the thin side, not to say the cliched side, though that would also be fair. Some of the descriptions are quite good, though. It's almost as if Calhoun was watching the movie as he wrote them. Maybe he was.

There's some graphic violence in the book, and at least one sex scene that would have been impossible to film for the regular markets in 1957.

As far as I know, this is the only book Calhoun ever published, which is OK by me. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good enough to send me looking for another one.


Vince said...

MOTEL HELL is unforgettable, all right. Calhoun ended his career in sub-par exploitation fare like ANGEL -- honor student by day, hooker by night. (Rory played a different part.) At least THE SIMPSONS gave him a place in pop culture history. Mr. Burns remembers him as "that actor who always walked around on his hind legs." Could be worse, right?

Ivan G. said...

I've not only seen movies with Rory, I actually remember--albeit very vaguely--his television series, The Texan (1958-62). Though for some odd reason, his guest appearance on Gilligan's Island as a Most Dangerous Game-like big game hunter will not leave my brain now.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Vince may consider ANGEL sub par, but I think it's a real sleeper--that is, a good little movie trapped in a low grade genre. Rory Calhoun plays an old B-Movie cowboy who walks around the street of Hollywood in full cowboy regalia cadging tips from tourists who deign to listen to his tall tales. Everyone things he's a harmless old liar, but at the end of the movie he blasts away with his six guns with dazzling accuracy, proving he was telling the truth all along. Great scene. Dick Shawn and (I think) Sylvia Sidney also have strong supporting roles. Cap'n Bob says check it out.