Image: The Everett Collection
With his towering 6' 5" figure and chiseled-stone looks, Chuck Connors made for one heckuva television cowboy. Later in his career, he was an imposing bad guy, too. No wonder. The multitalented man was just one of 14 men on planet earth to ever play professionally in both the NBA and MLB.
All that rugged manliness meant that Connors did not get a chance to show off his romantic side very often. As Lucas McCain on The Rifleman, Connors portrayed TV"s first-ever single parent. Considering that trailblazing fact and the era in which it aired — not to mention the era that it depicted — The Rifleman largely concerned itself with McCain's role as a widowed father. His love life was secondary to rearing young Mark. In the show's fifth and final year, the 1962–63 season, Lucas fell for a hotel owner named Lou Mallory (Patricia Blair).
Had that season aired a year later, there's a chance the casting of Lou Mallory might have gone different. Because in 1962, Connors fell in love. A year later, he married (for the second time). And his wife would frequently appear alongside him onscreen.
As The Rifleman was wrapping up its run, Connors landed the lead role in United Artist's big-budget Western Geronimo. The 1962 film cast Connors controversially against type, as the legendary Bedonkohe Apache leader. One of the most familiar cowboys of the era was playing a Native American. While the whitewashing was regrettable, the movie was progressive as one of the first scripts to cast a sympathetic eye towards Native American characters.
The film's producers originally hoped to cast Hollywood veteran Linda Darnell as the love interest, Teela. Instead, they turned to a newcomer, an Indian woman named Kamala Devi — Indian, as in born in Mumbai. Yes, it was truly a different time in 1962.
Connors and Devi hit it off. In the photo here, you can see the two of them relaxing on set. They seem to be enjoying some tea, as well as each other's company. The two married on April 10, 1963. That just so happened to be Chuck's 42nd birthday.
Devi began landing small parts on popular television shows. On My Three Sons, she got to play an Indian woman in the 1964 episode "Stone Frog." That same year she appeared alongside her husband on his latest series, the legal drama Arrest and Trial. That Chuck Connors series lasted a mere season, alas.
Devi also turned up a guest star on The Rogues, I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but her most charming moments in 1960s television can be found on Branded, the gritty action series that sent Connors back to the Wild West.
At the start of the multi-episode narrative "The Mission," Devi portrayed Laurette Lansing, an old flame of Jason McCord (Connors). The two share a passionate kiss — perhaps his most passion committed to film. Laurette returned for the two-part taled "The Assassins," a story credited to Chuck Connors. He had a hand in bringing her back. Around that time, in 1966, Devi became an American citizen, as Connors campaigned for Ronald Reagan's California gubernatorial campaign.
In 1967, following the cancelation of Branded, Connors found himself starring in Cowboy in Africa, a vehicle that reunited him with creator Ivan Tors. The two had previously collaborated on Flipper, filmed right about the time that Devi and Connors married. Devi popped up in one episode playing M'Koru.
It would be her last screen credit. Connors and Devi divorced in 1972.