Category Archives: James Drury

Peter Breck (1929-2012)

Late last year I was very pleased to learn that cable station INSP were broadcasting all four seasons of The Big Valley (1965-69). As a long time fan of the show and its wonderful theme music I began watching episodes and became a fan all over again. Wonderful location photography, fine acting and thoughtful scripts plus some fine work from The Virginian’s L. Q. Jones who appeared in five episodes.

Of course the Barkley family was the backbone of the show. Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Long, Lee Majors (The Men From Shiloh), Linda Evans and Peter Breck as Nick Barkley. The hot tempered member of the family always ready for a fight but also willing to listen to reason. He was a sucker for a pretty girl and more often than not they led him into trouble.  The romantic life of a TV Western character was never easy.  Breck’s strong personality and personal integrity shone through the character of Nick Barkley. You symapthized with him. He stood up for himself and his family and wouldn’t tolerate fools gladly.

Peter Breck guest starred with James Drury in an episode of Black Saddle (1959) and also appeared in The Virginian episode “Rope of Lies” (2:25) and The Men From Shiloh episode “Hannah” (9:13). James Drury has recorded a wonderful tribute to Peter Breck which you can view on Peter Breck’s official website.

After watching The Big Valley re-reuns it was my intention to begin work on a book on the series. I contacted Peter Breck’s wife before his sad passing. She told me the company who owns the rights are very protective of their property and charge high fees for permission to publish photographs from the show. So I placed my project on hold. I would love to write a book on the series but for now fans can watch the TV show on DVD and INSP weekdays (three episodes per day).

Although Peter Breck is no longer here with us in the flesh his spirit lives on in his fine screen performances. Rest in Peace.

The Virginian (2000) starring Bill Pullman

I’ve just watched the TNT production of The Virginian (2000) on the GMC cable network. This is the first time I’ve watched it for many years. I still find it a melancholy, gloomy and slightly depressing film totally lacking in humor or any sense of camaraderie. For those about to watch this film for the first time place everything you love about The Virginian TV series to one side. As we all know the TV show took liberties with Owen Wister’s original novel. Trampas was transformed from being the villain and the Virginian’s love interest Molly sidelined midway through the first season.

The TNT TV Movie is more faithful to Wister’s novel but is deficient in many areas. Bill Pullman is a pleasing Virginian but lacks any sense of being a Southerner. He comes across as an educated northerner despite telling us he’s from Virginia and had little education. James Drury makes a brief token appearance late into the film as “Rider” but is wasted. John Savage has little to do but is effective as the tragic figure of Steve. Trampas isn’t explored in depth and Colm Feore never comes to grips with the character. Diane Lane as Molly Stark gives the standout performance and is one of the few characters who displays warmth and kindness in the hostile environment she reluctantly finds herself a part of.

Filmed in Canada, the overcast leaden skies and Pacific Northwest landscape doubling for Wyoming fails to convince as an authentic Western setting.  I know this film has many fans but I’m not one of them. Mainly because of the inauthentic location work, choppy editing and slow-paced direction by Pullman. Medicine Bow is not the kind of place you’d ever want to visit in Pullman’s vision.

Memphis Film Fair Western Stars Group Photo

Front Row:(seated) Lou Elias (stuntman brother of James Stacy leaning on chair) James Stacy, Michael Dante, BarBara Luna, James Drury, Roberta Shore, and William Smith. Middle Row: Peter Ford, Dennis Holmes, Johnny Washbrook, Don Quine, Randy Boone, Gary Clarke, and Jimmy Baird. Back Row: John Saxon, Tony Numkena, Robert Wolders, James Hampton, John Buttram, Roger Mobley, and Bobby Diamond. (Thanks to Ray Nielsen)