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)

The Virginian Reunion Photos – Memphis (June 2-4, 2011)

Memphis Film Festival organizer Ray Nielsen has kindly given me permission to post his photographs from the recent Virginian reunion in Memphis, Tennessee.  From left to right are : Don Quine, Gary Clarke, Roberta Shore, Randy Boone, James Drury and BarBara Luna (Doug McClure’s 2nd wife). This was the first time Don Quine had attended a Virginian reunion event.

Hugh O’Brian Discusses The Virginian

 An interesting interview with Hugh O’Brian by Jennifer Howard, March 29, 2005, where he talks about filming the fight sequence with James Drury in the premiere episode of The Virginian, “The Executioners” in 1962. It begins 2:08 into the interview.

Original footage from The Archive of American Television website.

© 1995-2011 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation All Rights Reserved

The Virginian “The Executioners” (1:01) with Hugh O’Brian

The first episode of The Virginian, originally broadcast September 19, 1962, is a mediocre story that gives little hint of future heights.  Hugh O’Brian and Colleen Dewhurst dominate scenes while the regular cast are reduced to background players.

Even the Revue publicity still of the period emphasizes O’Brian over Roberta Shore and James Drury.

This episode premieres on Encore Westerns on January 1st followed by a January 4th broadcast at 4.30 p.m. EST.

To anyone watching The Virginian for the first time don’t be discouraged by this episode.  The first season is uneven in quality with the Charles Marquis Warren episodes heavily re-edited (see my book for complete background details to the turmoil at NBC as told to me by executive producer Frank Price).

The first season does include some excellent episodes and is also of interest for demonstrating the early and convoluted evolution of The Virginian television series.  Many episodes are atypical of the rest of the series and clearly owe a debt to 1950s Universal-International Westerns.