Oct 11, 2015

Chuck Connors

Chuck Connors may be forever remembered as the taciturn, loving, and endlessly shirtless Lucas McCain,  Johnny Crawford's dad on The Rifleman, but he had a long career before and after as a screen hunk.  Born in 1920, he started out as a pro ball player -- both baseball and basketball -- before a talent scout spotted him and cast him in Pat and Mike (1952).  Dozens of Westerns, spy movies, and war movies followed, with an occasional comedy thrown in, like the tv series Hey Jeannie (1958) and Love That Jill (1958).

The Rifleman brought him fame, of course, both for his shirtless shots and for the frequency with which he kills bad guys -- two or three per episode.  Fortunately, the kids who grew up on a diet of nonstop violence turned out fine -- the 10 year olds of 1958 grew into the 20-year old anti-war protesters of the Summer of Love.

Immediately after The Rifleman, Chuck moved back to the 20th century to play Porter Ricks in the movie version of the boy-and-pet-dolphin movie Flipper (1963), with Luke Halpin as Sandy; it later became a popular, beefcake heavy tv series.

In the Doris Day comedy Move Over, Darling (1963), Ellen (Doris) is lost at sea and presumed dead, so after five years her husband Nick (James Garner) moves on.  But Ellen resurfaces during his honeymoon.  Hijinks ensue. Chuck plays Steven Burkett, the handsome, athletic, leopard-skin swimsuit-clad man she shared a desert island with for five years.  Nothing happened, however.

Some dramas and Westerns followed, including Synanon (1965), with Alex CordBranded (1966-67), about a man unjustly drummed out of the army for cowardice ("what do you do when you're branded, and you know you're a ma-aa-n?"; and Cowboy in Africa (1967-68), which I never saw, but appeared to be about a same-sex couple (Chuck Connors, Tom Nardini) who run a ranch in Kenya and adopt a native boy.  It was based on the movie Africa: Texas Style, starring Hugh O'Brian.

I didn't seem much of Chuck during the 1970s; he appeared mostly in Westerns, which I didn't care for.  But he appeared again in Werewolf (1987-88), which starred hunky Eric (John J. York), a college student bitten by a werewolf; Chuck played evil head werewolf Janos Skorzeny, the object of Eric's quest to free himself from his curse.

Chuck Connors died in 1992.  He was married three times and had four children.  Recently there was a rumor circulating that he did some gay porn during his pro-ball days.  I doubt it; he wasn't part of the Physique Pictorial or Henry Willson crowd, and the footage doesn't really look like him.

But here's a censored full-frontal.  It looks a lot like him.

The uncensored photo is on Tales of West Hollywood.

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