John Dehner as Morgan Starr

Morgan-Starr3Arguably the least popular addition to the Shiloh “family” – Morgan Starr succeeded Judge Garth at Shiloh Ranch for a brief period during Season 4 and departed without explanation.

John Dehner was never granted a spot in the “ride-in” title sequence but left an indelible impression during his time as manager of Shiloh Ranch.

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28 thoughts on “John Dehner as Morgan Starr”

  1. Yes I know of quite a few people who enjoyed John Dehner’s contribution Michael but the majority began to turn off during Season 4 when it was originally broadcast on NBC.
    Had the show been canceled (which was a serious possibility at the time) most fans would have blamed the departure of Lee J. Cobb and Roberta Shore and the failure of their replacements to capture the interest of the audience.

  2. I think it was the general “grimness” of the stories that hurt season 4 and the introduction of Morgan Starr and his hard-nosed persona only exacerbated things. It would have been nice if there had been a lighter episode or two featuring Starr.

  3. Yes I agree Bob. As a kid watching Season 4 for the first time I actually felt depressed watching episodes and was convinced the show would be canceled. Most of the blame has to be placed on the character of Morgan Starr and Dehner’s acting style that was more suited to guest villains.

  4. I am currently watching the season 4 episodes of “The Virginian” on Encore Westerns channel and the episode introducing Morgan Starr (John Dehner) was broadcast on June 9, 2010. I did happen to catch a few of the later episodes featuring Charles Bickford when the Family Channel aired the program back around 1989 and at this juncture I believe that the Lee J. Cobb episodes were better, even though I intend to watch the year five stories when EncoreW begins airing them. The majority of the stories strike me as being morality plays, and, overall, I think that Cobb’s departure…as well as Roberta Shore’s…did hurt the quality of the program, even though it ran until 1971.

    1. Thanks for your coments Will.
      Season 4 marked a major transition for The Virginian and I agree it never fully recovered from the departure of Lee J Cobb and Roberta Shore. Season 5 did mark a return to quality episodes thanks mainly to executive producer Frank Price returning to take charge.

  5. I too am watching encore westerns. Seasons 1 thru 3 were great. Season 4 is horrible so far. I was crushed to see my man ,”The Virginian”, take the “hat in his hand ” approach to Morgan Starr. I’m glad to hear season 5 gets better. Can’t wait.

    1. Hi Skip: The blame for season 4 has to be placed in the hands of executive producer Norman MacDonnell who clearly had his own ideas about the relationship of the characters. When Frank Price returned he corrected the imbalances. MacDonnell returns in season six with a better approach.

  6. I am currently watching season 4 of The Virginian and cannot wait until John Dehner makes his departure–I can’t stand his character and I miss the part of Betsy and Steve. I watched this growing up and now I see why I stopped watching for a while. Hope season 5 gets better (without Morgan Starr).

    1. Hi Sandra: I have to agree with you. It makes you wonder how they could have thought Dehner a suitable replacement for Lee J. Cobb. Season 5 gets better. 🙂 Roberta Shore and Gary Clarke could never be replaced but Sara Lane and Don Quine did a good job. And Sara is one of the friendliest and most down-to-earth people I interviewed for my book.

  7. Hello again. If any of the other posters are interested, the Retroplex Movie Channel has a “Westerns” night on Monday evenings and reruns of early season one episodes of “The Virginian” are being aired. I was a bit surprised to hear that the program was in danger of possible cancelation in 1966 but then that could be a logical surmise as The V went up against “Lost In Space” and “Batman” that year. I’ve been catching the remainder of year 4 stories on EncoreW and the ones with John Dehner are very subpar. Dehner’s forte was playing villains and intellectual snobs and he was seriously miscast as Morgan Starr. Can’t wait for season five; I think another factor in why the fourth season wasn’t so hot was that it started dealing with downbeat issues as bigotry and mental retardation….such hard reality facets hurt fantasy scripted television. BTW, why did Gary Clarke leave the series?

    1. I interviewed Gary Clarke at great length for my book Will. He explains the complex reasons behind his leaving the show.

  8. how many episodes did Mr. Dehner play in the Virginian? Did he play an attorney on
    The Virginian for one episode? We record 5 episodes weekly from Encore Western, we currently have 10 still recorded.

    1. Hi Bob: John Dehner appeared in only four episodes featuring Morgan Starr. He appeared as guest star three times. Twice in 1963 and once in 1969 as a Sheriff. I have a photo from the 1969 episode which I’ll feature on a future post together with specific details of episodes.

  9. Thanks to the “other Bob”, I must confess, I had never heard of the
    Virginian; until about 7 months ago. So My wife and I have watched many,
    many of the episodes. I have gotten other viewers onto this. By the way, I am
    Baptist Pastor.

  10. personally i like morgan starr it reminded me how mash would replaced a character with a complete opposite
    character:potter/blake,trapper/bj,and burns/winchester.
    had the producers wanted another garth they should’ve
    kept cobb.

    1. I can see your point Terry but it’s a fact the ratings plumetted during season four and only the return of executive producer Frank Price and his supervision of season five saved the show from cancellation. Dehner might have pleased a section of the audience but many stopped watching following Lee J. Cobb and Roberta Shore’s departure.

    1. To make a complex story short he requested to leave Albert. The full details are in my book “A History of Television’s The Virginian 1962-1971” published by McFarland & Co. Executive producer Frank Price describes his working and personal relationship with Lee J. Cobb.

      1. Yes even though I didn’t care for many of the John Dehner episodes I agree that “Morgan Starr” (4:21) featuring the locusts was among the best of that season.

  11. Am watching the beginning of Morgan Star episode right now. Have always been fan of John Dehner days in radio and TV.

    1. Yes Dehner was in numerous TV shows. He was a versatile actor and appeared as a guest star on The Virginian before and after his stint as Morgan Starr. But I didn’t care for the character of Morgan Starr. The introductory episode was good but his character was too stern and humorless and was at odds with the atmosphere of previous seasons at Shiloh Ranch.

  12. I loved the introduction of Morgan Starr…..it took us back to the harder side of western living and rescued the show from becoming a soap opera. The story lines were more confrontational and gave us all an injection of excitement. eg the locusts. But then us kiwis never did affect US ratings. haha

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