After the disastrous Season 4 executive producer Frank Price returned to rescue the show from cancellation. Wholesale changes included a new family at Shiloh Ranch. The Grainger family was headed by veteran actor Charles Bickford alongside two promising actors, Don Quine and Sara Lane. The season was a success and The Virginian survived, beating out the competition in the ratings The Monroes.
Karen Lindsey kindly confirmed this photograph from the 1979 Western reunion show When The West Was Fun. It featured numerous Western stars including Neville Brand, Henry Darrow, Mark Slade, Linda Cristal, Chuck Connors, Clayton Moore and Lee Van Cleef. And most importantly, Doug McClure and James Drury back together again.
I recently came across this interesting photograph of Clu Gulager and Lee J. Cobb chatting on the set of The Virginian. I wish I had discovered this earlier and included it in my book. But here it is – better late than never.
The enigmatic Clu Gulager played Sheriff Emmett Ryker on The Virginian from 1964-1968 but is best known to modern audiences for his role in the cult horror movie The Return of the Living Dead (1985).
Clu Gulager was a temperamental actor during his time with Universal but like may actors with an edge was also one of their best. He always expressed a desire to direct and found acting in television creatively unsatisfying. He got his wish to direct but still continued with his acting career and became a cult favorite of horror fans later in his career.
Fans of The Virginian will always remember him as Ryker. He was one of my favorite characters and his departure in 1968 marked a turning point for the series. He was impossible to replace.