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.
To anyone who is thinking of buying my book here are the contents. I personally interviewed James Drury, Gary Clarke, Roberta Shore, Randy Boone, Sara Lane, Pippa Scott, Tane McClure, Diane McClure, BarBara Luna, Katherine Crawford, John Saxon, executive producer Frank Price and producer-writer Joel Rogosin. Plus director Abner Biberman’s daughter-in-law Elizabeth Perry and writer Roland Kibbee’s daughter Meredith Kibbee.
Frank Price provided many behind-the-scenes photographs from his personal collection.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments vii Foreword by Frank Price 1 Preface 5 Introduction 7
1. Owen Wister 9
2. Beginnings 15
3. The Virginian: Season One 21
4. Early Seasons: Seasons Two and Three 31
5. Change of Direction: Season Four 45
6. New Beginnings: Season Five 51
7. MacDonnell in Charge: Seasons Six to Eight 62
8. The Men from Shiloh: Season Nine 72
9. Production and Location 79
10. Lee J. Cobb: Judge Henry Garth 90
11. James Drury: The Virginian 94
12. Doug McClure: Trampas 104
13. Gary Clarke: Steve Hill 118
14. Roberta Shore: Betsy Garth 132
15. Randy Boone: Randy Benton 140
16. Clu Gulager and Diane Roter: Emmett Ryker and Jennifer Sommers 151
17. Charles Bickford, Don Quine and Sara Lane: John, Stacey and Elizabeth Grainger 155
18. John McIntire, David Hartman and Tim Matheson: Clay Grainger, David Sutton and Jim Horn 166
19. Stewart Granger and Lee Majors: Col. Alan Mackenzie and Roy Tate 170
20. Familiar Faces: Pippa Scott, L. Q. Jones, John Dehner, Jeanette Nolan and Ross Elliott 173
21. Frank Price: Executive Producer 179
22. Producers 184
23. Writers 192
24. Directors 200
25. Directors of Photography 212
26. Composers 217
27. Episode Guide 230
28. Afterthoughts 267
Appendix: The Virginian Memorabilia 269 Bibliography 271 Index 275
I recently came across this comment by Outlaw Territory writer Skipper Martin on the Newsarama.com website. He has excellent taste!
“Oddly enough, I’m having a new love affair with the western right now thanks to my day job. I’m currently re-mastering the 1960’s classic “The Virginian” television series starring James Drury at Universal Studios. I can honestly say I’m now an official fan of the wonderful Doug McClure in his signature role of Trampas. Truly excellent show!”
Gene Barry (real name Eugene Klass) best known for the film War of the Worlds (1953) and the TV series Bat Masterson, Burke’s Law and The Name of the Game has passed way at the age of 90.
James Drury appeared with Gene Barry in the 1971 TV movie The Devil and Miss Sarah – a Western that qualified as an entry in my Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns book.
Doug McClure was a guest star in the revived Burke’s Law in 1995 on the episode “Who Killed the Highest Bidder?” Doug played high bidder J. Ross Richardson in a small role broadcast a few months before his death in May 1995.
I love this photograph of Doug McClure as Trampas on his beloved horse Buck. Whenever I watched Doug in a contemporary movie he seemed out of place. He was best suited to the Western and the character of Trampas was a perfect fit.
I’ve just finished watching the 1982 horror movie The House Where Evil Dwells. My main reason for watching was to see Doug McClure, but Doug’s character is secondary to lead actors Edward Albert and Susan George.
This ghost story set in Japan is entertaining enough if you can stomach graphic decapitations and Doug’s naked backside as he shares a sex scene with a topless Susan George. It’s certainly far removed from his heyday as Trampas.
Do I recommend this film to Doug McClure fans? I say it’s worth a look if you like R rated movies with blood, gore and nudity. Oh, and the ghosts are worth a look as well. 🙂 As for Doug McClure, he’s given little chance to stretch his acting skills, but like fellow ex-Virginian star Clu Gulager he found his own niche in horror and fantasy movies in later years.