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Rory & Lita Calhoun: “Our Mid-Summer Miracle”

Last April Rory Calhoun and his wife, Lita Baron, set out for a foundling home in a southwestern state. There, awaiting them, was a baby boy, only two years old, who had already captured their hearts, although they had seen him only once before. In the eight years of their marriage they had been wonderfully happy except for a void that only a child could fill, and although twice it had seemed they were to be blessed by one of their own, both times their hopes had come to sadness. Now here was a little fellow who was to be theirs. They were adopting him.

They had seen him for the first time only a few months before—or rather a photograph of him. Lita had caught her breath. The baby not only had black hair and blue eyes with long lashes like Rory’s, but he also had a widow’s peak, like Rory, and high cheekbones and general shape of face like hers.

“It’s unbelievable!” she had cried—and she couldn’t help weeping. “People will insist it could only be Rory’s and mine! I want to go see him right away.”

Shortly after, they made the first trip. Monsignor Don J. Kanaly, Rory’s old friend and mentor, had brought the photograph to them. He met them, went along to the home, and the baby was brought out. Lita could hardly restrain herself from picking him up and taking him right then and there. The picture had not even done him justice. Her eyes swam and she knew from the way Rory’s grip on her arm tightened that he was as deeply touched as she.

Arrangements had had to be made; legalities entered into, commitments rendered. All these were begun. They were told only that the baby had been abandoned by an unmarried mother. Then they went back to Hollywood to wait—each day a forever by itself, it had seemed to Lita. But, finally, by April, word had been sent out they could come for the boy. Now, for the second time, they were here.

Neither Lita nor Rory paid any attention to a car parked across from the foundling home when they pulled up at the entrance. But as Rory helped his wife out, a girl got out of that car and walked over towards them—a very attractive girl, Lita noted, with black hair and blue eyes, and a nervous manner.

Was she a movie fan who had recognized Rory, Lita wondered. Yes, her actions indicated this. She was looking at Rory intently and when she came close, she spoke to him. “You’re Rory Calhoun, aren’t you?” she asked.

Rory nodded but he was puzzled. And Lita knew why. This wasn’t the place for this sort of thing. Something was wrong. Then the girl was talking to both of them.

“I understand you are going to adopt my little boy,” she began.

Then the girl’s eyes swung to Lita and Lita felt her whole body go hollow—except for her heart which began pounding loud and ominously. Rory was licking his lips and Lita knew he couldn’t think of what to say. She forced herself to speak. “If she knows, its silly to deny it,” she told Rory.

The girl knew all right. She was ready with her next words.

“I couldn’t have prayed for a better home for my child,” she said. “But could I ask for one favor?

“Could I go along,” she asked, “and be your housekeeper?”

This was it. Lita felt as she had felt when she had lost her first two babies. The little boy with the black hair and the widow’s peak was not to be hers. Rory knew it too. He was reaching to open the car door and Lita realized there was no use even going into the foundling home. When she was seated she saw Rory turn his head for a moment to nod and smile, a somewhat strange sort of smile, in farewell to the girl, and then they drove off wordlessly.

They didn’t need to speak. They were practically in a state of shock. This was final, there was no altering it. They could never have the baby. A mother who knew where her baby was, even a movie-struck mother, as Lita suspected this good-looking Southern girl was, would sooner or later claim her child for her own again. Taking him would never work out—never.

The Monsignor was astounded when he heard about it. Nothing like this had ever happened before in the whole history of the home. All adoptions were confidential, with actual mother and adopted mother never meeting, never knowing who the other was. But when he investigated he learned that this time there had been a leak; one of the younger staff members had carelessly mentioned Rory’s name on the outside and had described the baby chosen.

It wasn’t easy to forget

When they got back to their home in Beverly Hills Lita thought it had never seemed so quiet before. Then she realized it was because she wasn’t hearing what she had so many times anticipated hearing—the cries of a baby, calling her. Rory wasn’t enjoying the house either. He wanted both of them to forget about what had happened. He turned down two picture offers, had her pack a suitcase, and drive down to Newport Beach with him. There he rented a bungalow and said they ought to get a boat. They did—a 54-foot clipper-bowed schooner called the Quisette.

Lita knew he was trying to give her new things to think about. And she was willing. But it wasn’t easy forgetting the little boy—and the times before him too.

She remembered that it had been only two years after her marriage when she had learned for the first time that she was an expectant mother. At the time she was preparing a new act with Billy Daniel. They were booked to open at the Mapes Hotel in Reno and it never entered her mind for a moment that this might jeopardize her pregnancy. She was told that lots of exercise was helpful.

She was thrilled and proud of what was happening to her. She told the girls she worked with around the hotel about it. One lady, a guest at the hotel, bought her a little yellow knitted sweater for the baby. Even the waitresses gave her presents of baby things. And then—tragedy.

Was it the fact that she had worked? Had she been too active? Nobody knew for sure; the only thing she had been sure of back then was that it was best to keep busy afterwards and not dwell on it.

Two years later, in January of 1953, after a three-months tour playing Las Vegas, Ciros and then The Mocambo, the most inexplicable of all things had happened. She became ill and learned for the first time that for the past four months she had been pregnant without knowing it. There had been none of the usual indications. She had been pregnant—again she was not to be a mother.

They talk of adoption

This was when Rory and she had finally begun to think of adoption, and talk about it to Monsignor Kanaly. They wanted a baby. They didn’t want any more heartbreak. The Monsignor had told them he would keep checking the foundling homes in his area. But by perverse luck from this point on, whenever he heard of a likely baby and came to see them about it, Rory had picture engagements which kept him traveling to distant locations—once to Hong Kong, several times to Mexico. By the time he was free to accompany Lita to the home the child had already been adopted.

And finally—this last failure.

It was just last May when Rory and Lita went to Newport Beach and bought the Quisette. The boat was in good condition but there were little things which needed attention and they both pitched in. Lita took charge of some topside painting—the pin-rails, rope blocks, deck railings. At night they drove around the twinkling lights and dancing water that was Balboa Bay and looked for little hideaways to dine in. And they always went to bed early and slept late. Rory had made sure of this because he thought they could both afford to go on a “health kick,” as he put it. He had selected a bungalow that had no telephone, no immediate neighbors, and was not near anything that could conceivably make any noise louder than that of wavelets lapping up on the beach.

The weekends at Newport

In June they went back to Beverly Hills because Rory, whose last picture had been Raw Edge for Universal-International, was to start working on Utah Blaine at Columbia. But all through June they kept coming back to Newport for weekends, and it seemed to Lita that they were closer than they had ever been before. She had developed a theory about the loss of her babies. She knew she was ordinarily a bundle of nervous energy, always on the move, never still. Perhaps if she could relax, slow down her tempo, she could achieve a better state for motherhood, emotionally as well as physically.

It made sense to Rory, too. That was why he was glad they had bought the boat. Sailing was restful. That was why they kept up the weekends. Then one day they were notified of another baby for adoption—a baby they could see soon. The tension drained out of Lita, replaced by a joyous excitement. She felt once more happy and relaxed. And maybe that was why one day towards the middle of July—July 11th, exactly—Lita heard something from her doctor that made her blink tears—but this time tears of joy. A mid-summer miracle was happening. She was pregnant again.

When she told Rory, she thought for a moment that he was going to keel over, but the next moment he had caught himself and was waving a careless hand as if he had never doubted for a moment that this would happen. The moment after, he was insisting that she lie down and rest.


Rest, wonder, anticipation and solicitude for her. This has now become Lita’s life. When Rory is home his eye is on her like a hawk’s to make sure she doesn’t want for anything that requires her going and getting it, and that she eats what she is supposed to. “I’ll get it,” is his refrain. “Match box? Oop! Don’t reach for it. I’ll get it! . . . Your glass of milk? It’s on the other side of the table. Hold it! I’ll get it. . . . What’s this, all white milk? Where’s the egg that should be in it? . . . Lita, are you sitting in a draft? That’s bad. Let me close the window behind you. . . . Oop! . . . Whoa there! . . . Ah, easy now . . . That-a-girl . . . !”

As early as last August, when Lita had not yet even felt any quickening of life within her, Rory was already addressing remarks to the baby.

“He talks to it,” she told friends. “He talks to it about hunting, baseball, camping trips. He describes our pool. He explains how you use a bow and arrow!”

It seems that Rory is convinced he is going to be the father of a boy. It seems that he kidded Guy Madison about not having any boys (Guy has two little girls) and now he may be using auto-suggestion on the baby to make sure it will be a male.

And Lita, who hates eggs, eats them now. And the lunches she never used to have time for, because she was too busy being her energetic self—she makes time for now. And her bed-time, which used to be any old time before, is a definite time, a time to respect now. And it comes early. Sometimes she can’t remember whether she is an expectant mo invalid—but she doesn’t mind.

Only once a scare

Only once so far in this pregnancy has there been a scare—a bad one for a split second. It happened on the night they gave their annual birthdays-wedding-anniversary party covering Rory’s birthday, August 8th, her birthday, August 11th, and the eighth anniversary of their marriage on August 29, 1948.

They decorated the garden and the pool area, engaged an orchestra and invited a half-hundred good friends, including Anne and Kirk Douglas, Debbie and Eddie Fisher, Lana Turner and husband Lex Barker, and Yvonne de Carlo.

The party was in full swing and Lita felt that she was having the time of her life. Every once in a while when she happened to pass Rory he would signal a warning to slow down and take it easy. Yet, inconsistently, he caught her around the waist a little later and whirled her into a rumba and a samba.

A few minutes later, Lita was standing near the orchestra. Someone threw a Mexican hat onto the middle of the floor. The orchestra broke into the music of “The Mexican Hat Dance,” and voices dared her to dance it. Before she knew it she was on the floor and her feet were flying. But suddenly she stopped and walked off. She was laughing—but inside she was terribly frightened.

She had felt a needle-like stab of pain. She saw an empty chair and sat down quietly. Rory was around, but she didn’t call him. She didn’t dare tell him. Minutes passed but the pain wasn’t repeated. She drew a long breath. Maybe she would be all right, she thought, and in fact no harm had been done.

The next morning there was a birthday present from Kirk Douglas and his wife, Anne. It was a beautiful silver shell for hors d’oeuvres service and a card: “Happy Birthday to the two and a quarter of you.”

She and Rory laughed. But she remembered her fright of the night before and a shiver went through her. Rory noticed it.

“Anything wrong?” he asked.

“No, not a thing,” she told him.

But she told herself something too. She told herself that she was going to be very, very careful from then on. And she is.



Rory Calhoun can currently be seen in U.A.’s film Flight to Hong Kong and will soon be seen in Columbia’sUtah Blaine



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