For this list, we're avoiding the obvious—the handsome gents who are household names, like Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn and William Holden. Here, we take a look at a group of actors who are somewhat lesser known but blessed with stunning good looks and sometimes lengthy, popular and acclaimed careers in their own right.
Guy Madison—real name Robert Moseley—was discovered by an assistant to Henry Willson, in charge of talent for David O. Selznick's Vanguard Pictures. A small part in Since You Went Away (1944) got him noticed by the population at large, allowing him the opportunity for a long career in movies and television, mostly in westerns.
Actor, singer and civil rights leader Harry Belafonte—the subject of an outstanding new documentary, Sing Your Song (2011), by director Susanne Rostock—got his start on Broadway and moved on to recording, television and movies. Throughout, he remained a steadfast crusader for equality around the world. His civil rights work continues to this day.
Frank McCown was a man with a checkered past, having stolen a gun, jewelry and a car at various points in his youth. Paroled from San Quentin just before he turned 21, McCown worked at a handful of odd jobs until he was spotted horseback riding in the Hollywood HIlls by Alan Ladd and his wife Sue Carol. A screen test was arranged, his name was changed to Rory Calhoun and his long movie career was born.
“As far as I'm concerned, it's time the button-down collar, white shirt and tie became the uniform of Hollywood's male dramatic personnel,” actor John Gavin said in 1959. “There are no bare-chested, pectoral-showing parts on my film calendar.” Best known to movie audiences as Steve Archer in Imitation of Life (1959), Sam Loomis in Psycho (1960) and Julius Caesar in Spartacus (1960), John Gavin was close to becoming a household name with the role of James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Then the producers dangled $1 million in front of a certain previous Bond, and Sean Connery decided to reprise his role. Nevertheless, Gavin was paid the full Diamonds Are Forever salary for which he signed. Retired from acting in 1980, Gavin would go on to serve as Ambassador to Mexico during President Reagan’s time in office.
Jacques Bergerac is perhaps best know for two MGM musicals: Les Girls (1957) and Gigi (1958). For the latter film, he was a last-minute replacement—and Eva Gabor's personal choice—for a role Richard Winckler was already slated to play. Gabor convinced producer Arthur Freed to make the switch. Bergerac married and divorced Ginger Rogers, then Dorothy Malone, and eventually left movies to head Revlon's operations in Paris.
“Janet Gaynor and I were always receiving wedding-anniversary presents in the mail, care of the studio,” Charles Farrell once remarked. “The fans didn't even know what date our anniversary fell on, which is logical, since we were never married.” The actor made a dozen movies with Gaynor, from silent classics like 7th Heaven (1927) and Street Angel (1928) to talkies like the Gershwin musical Delicious (1931). After retiring from films in the early forties, Farrell became a fixture in Palm Springs, serving as mayor from 1947 to 1955.
Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr., nicknamed Typhoon, became Ty Hardin when he hit the silver screen, first in The Space Children (1958). He then went on to slightly greater things with The Chapman Report (1962), PT 109 (1963), The Battle of the Bulge (1965) and a campy 1967 circus drama starring Joan Crawford called Berserk. After he left motion pictures, Hardin became an evangelical Christian preacher involved in right-wing politics and formed a group called the Arizona Patriots, who stockpiled weapons in anticipation of a war with the US government. The FBI and ATF eventually raided their headquarters and confiscated a large amount of illegal guns and ammo.
Tab Hunter is what resulted when legendary Hollywood agent Henry Willson—who named Rock Hudson, Chad Everett, Troy Donahue and others—got ahold of one Arthur Kelm from New York City. Kelm, now Hunter, made his screen debut in The Lawless (1950) and played his most famous character, Joe Hardy, in the musical Damn Yankees! (1958). In 1957, Hunter recorded a song called “Young Love,” which hit number one on the Billboard charts. In 1971, the actor reflected upon his career: “"The star thing is over. I've knocked around quite a bit in the past few years and now I'm just another actor looking for work. Acting is what I know and what I do best...I'm trying to find a new niche...something to help erase that bland image the studios gave me in the fifties. I'm looking for roles that will establish me as a more mature actor."
David Manners is probably most famous for the horror films Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932) and The Black Cat (1934), though he had big roles opposite some of the most prominent actresses of the day: Barbara Stanwyck in The Miracle Woman (1931), Katharine Hepburn in A Bill of Divorcement (1932) and Claudette Colbert in Torch Singer (1933).
In his first film, Robert Forster played a small but memorable part in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), which led to his breakout role as a TV cameraman in Medium Cool (1969). "I'm not sure how a guy wins or loses in this business, but somebody's got to come along and make you lucky,” the actor once said. “You can't do it yourself." One of those guys was Quentin Tarantino, who revived Forster’s career in 1997 when the director cast the actor in Jackie Brown. Forster’s subtle work as a bail bondsman earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. "When he gave me the script he knew I hadn't had a big part like this in twenty-five years,” said Forster.