Universal Studios : The Virginian Backlot 1967

This aerial photograph shows the Universal Studios backlot in 1967. Shiloh Ranch is visible in the lower left. The Virginian Medicine Bow sets were centered around New Denver Street and Laramie Street. Other locations are Six Points Texas, Mexican Street, Fort Laramie and Waterfall & Caves.

Photo originally posted by universalstonecutter

Author: PGreen

Published work in U.S.A. for McFarland & Co. Inc. : A History of Television’s The Virginian 1962-1971 (2006, 2009 Softcover edition) Pete Duel : A Biography (2007, 2009 Large Print edition; Kindle edition) Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns (2009) Jennifer Jones : Life and Films (2011)

52 thoughts on “Universal Studios : The Virginian Backlot 1967”

  1. Paul, I know that the Shiloh Ranch set is no longer standing. But does Universal Studios have any Western streets remaining?

  2. Good question Richard. Last time I looked there were still some Westerns streets remaining but I was told some were due for demolition.

  3. I saw something like this a few weeks ago on Flickr.
    Universalstonecutter has some really good stuff – especially concerning The Virginian. There’s a whole set of Virginian backstage photos. They’re really neat.

  4. Can you tell me when the show Laramie with John Smith and Robert Fuller was filmed was the Sherman ranch filmed at the Shilow ranch ? If not, can you tell me where it was filmed ? I would think it would be at the time a standing ranch house and lot as the show was on for 3 or 4 years Thanks Richie Bartolo

    1. Hi Richie: The Shiloh Ranch set was built specifically for “The Virginian” in 1962. “Laramie” (1959-1963) pre-dated “The Virginian” and was also filmed on the Universal-Revue Studios backlot, but the Sherman Ranch was a different set. Both shows did share the same “Laramie Street” backlot. Production briefly overlapped for one season (1962-63). James Drury told me he would see the Laramie crew filming the show while he was filming “The Virginian.” Robert Fuller became close friends with Doug McClure.

      1. I don’t know the exact location Gary as my speciality is “The Virginian” TV series. I have the following info: The set that served as the Sherman Ranch and Relay Station appears in a 1960 episode of Wagon Train – The Larry Hanify Story.
        The town scenes were filmed on Western Street on Universal’s backlot (a.k.a.Revue Studios at the time of filming).

    1. Hi Michael: The waterfall set was most likely located at Falls Lake on the Universal backlot. “Between the 1920s and 1980, the cliffs were much taller than they are now. In 1980/81 the ground levels of a large area of the backlot / theme park were changed with a massive construction project. The ground level in this part of the backlot were raised considerably.”

      1. Thank you sir! I’m really enjoying re-watching this series so many years later. Easily the best of the TV westerns of that era.


      1. Thank you for your quick response, We are watching the Virginian now for the second time around on Encore Westerns and loving it, in our 70’s. Much Kudos to you! Tom and Nadine Gregg. WE lived in S. Cal from 1975-2005, Our kids remember the tour and our middle son , Derek, (we still have this photo) thought that “jaws coming up out of the water” was a set up by us to get him to listen. His exclamation was, “I’m sorry, daddy, sorry daddy! We still laugh about this event even at family gatherings. The grandsons moved to Texas in 2005, but we miss California.

    1. Was curious as to what actually stands now where Shiloh ranch was! I try to match up hills behind the ranch with today’s pics but I’m having trouble. Thanks

  6. Funny story Tom. I recall that rubber shark on my two visits to Universal Studios in the late 1970’s. At least I got to travel down the Medicine Bow back lot. I really wanted to see Shiloh Ranch, little knowing it no longer existed at the time. Now many of the Western sets are gone. So much for progress.

    1. HELLO, THE VIRGINIAN SEASON 8, Black Jade, James A Watson Jr. sings a song at the piano, can you find out the name of this song and are there lyrics posted? Is this song and the song that is romantic played in the epsidoes with dances on the Virginian on the album, (is there more than one album) thank you so much for your time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Sorry I can’t help you with the songs Tom. As far as I’m aware there’s only one album featuring the dance music etc. of John Williams.

  7. Finding out that Shiloh was leveled & no trace to signify the longest running & first 90 minute Wester Series “The Virginian” was even there. When I read about it, it was like being punched in the stomach.

  8. Hi Paul, your book via frank Price mentions (pg 54) that the end credit titles were changed in season 5 with overhead view of Shiloh Ranch. However wasn’t this change introduced in season 4 which I recently watched (or am I mistaken?). A little pedantic I know.

    1. Hi Charlie: Frank Price was involved with another TV show (Convoy) during Season 4 so he wasn’t aware of changes to the end titles until he returned for Season 5. So his comments refer to the season he headed. I should have stated Season 4 in the intro to Frank’s comments.

      1. Hi Paul, that explains it nicely. As I watched season 5 and 6 episodes on DVD another question came into my head. Aside from Clay Grainger explaining that his brother was away on business in John McIntire’s first episode was Charles Bickford’s character permanent absence ever elaborated on or even mentioned again?

  9. Charlie: As far as I know John Grainger is never mentioned again. In “The Girl in the Shadows” he is obliterated from the Grainger family history. A major mistake in continuity.

    1. They forgot about Stacey in that episode, too! The premise of the story was about a couple of con artists trying to horn in on an inheritance Elizabeth is about to receive from her deceased parents. Stacey should have been part of that inheritance, too, but he was never mentioned..

  10. Clay mentions John Grainger in ‘The Orchard’ (ep. 7.03). Young Walt Bradbury notices a damaged seeding machine at Shiloh. Clay tells him “My brother John bought it” and offers to let him use it if he can repair it.

    1. Interesting. Seems to me since actor (Charles Bickford) had passed away then Clay Grainger (in his first episode Bitter Autumn) could have instead said, at this point or in later episode, that his brother had decided to retire from ranching and move to wherever retirement place due to say ill health. And he was taking on the ranch as a result. Illogical that he would simply be away on business for entire period of seasons 6-8. From reading Paul’s book I think this is an oversight Frank Price (had he been in charge) would have come back to and addressed. Also it seems to me that James Drury and Doug McClure were the continuity police as they were with the series throughout but I guess stuff still slipped through the net.

  11. Charles Bickford was employed by Frank Price. It was his idea to have him become the new Shiloh Ranch owner. Same with Don Quine. Norman Macdonnell had a tendency towards continuity errors. Look at Season 4 when the Shiloh cook (who was murdered in Season 3) was miraculously restored to life in one episode. There may be contractual reasons why Bickford and Quine couldn’t be included in the photo scene so they just decided to ignore them altogether. It’s a mystery that only Macdonnell could clarify. But sadly he was long gone when I wrote my book. It would have been interesting to have heard his point of view.

  12. Yip would be interesting indeed. Guess we’ll never know but wonder if even JD ever thought it odd that John Grainger’s permanent exit wasn’t properly explained. Or John McIntire when shooting that photo scene thought to himself hang on didn’t I have a brother in this show called John who I’ve taken over Shiloh from? Your book certainly raises some interesting side points and fills lots of gaps as I watch all these episodes again as an adult. None would have even entered my mind as a watching child. Although all those years ago, pre the world of communication, I can vaguely recall wondering why this ranch keeps changing owners or where has so and so gone. On to enjoy more episodes now (having made some DVD purchases of later seasons)

  13. It occurred to me that they didn’t mention John or Stacey in the photo scene because they were both out of contract. One dead and the other no longer on the show. And using their image might have proved expensive. The same thing happened on “Bonanza” when Adam Cartwright was ignored in the family history in an episode where the brothers had carved their name on a tree when younger. Adam’s name was absent. I think much of it is contractual legal issues at play.

  14. Yes your theory seems plausible Paul. However, Charles Bickford’s actual departure could have been handled much more elegantly by for example Clay Grainger stating he’d made a snap decision to retire from ranching due to say poor health and handed the reigns over to his brother. Perhaps contractual issues at play here as well which led to the he’s simply away on business explanation. Think i’m too nit picky for my own good.

    1. Hi can you find out if JAMES DRURY is the cowboy in the 2018/2019 “We Ready” NFL PLAYOFFS COMMERCIAL THX SO MUCH, Tom and Nadine Gregg

      1. Just saw the commercial during tonight’s Eagles v. Saints game. No it isn’t James Drury.

    1. No Michael. Lee left the show mid-season (4th) and was replaced by John Dehner who played Morgan Starr.

  15. Hi Paul, watched “The Girl In The Shadows” the other night. Might there be another angle on the Grainger family history goof? Shortly after Clay arrives at Shiloh Elizabeth starts calling him Uncle Clay and he his niece even though his brother John was in fact her Grandfather. When Clay produces the photo of himself and his two brothers he says Charles is on the right, he is in the middle and Elizabeth’s father is on the left. They don’t say his name but isn’t this meant to be John Grainger? So in fact the series had already been incorrectly portraying Clay as Elizabeth’s Uncle and therefore had changed John to being her father i.e. the man on the left in the photo?

    1. can you find out the name of the dishes they serve and eat from in the dining scenes, also there is a hat rack hall tree umbrella stand with small mirror inside a circle of wood with wood arms that make it look like a wheel with large pegs on each end for hanging coats or hats, this furniture item is in more than one episode (obviously was in the prop/furniture warehouse). it was in the episode with the daughter, widowed of a Native American with son who returns to check out her inheritance from her dying father. thx, Tom Gregg (my wife wants these items for our home!

      1. Hi Tom: The simple answer is is after all these years there’s no way of finding out the name of dishes in dining scenes. Use your DVD or DVR to stop frame and guess the ingredients. Steak and potatoes are high on the list. Concerning the umbrella stand prop we’re talking about the 1960s. It may or may not still exist but if it does it’s the property of Universal/NBC.

  16. Hi, Charlie ~ that is quite an intelligent observation! I never had a problem with Liz calling Clay and Holly “uncle” and “aunt” even though they were actually her great uncle and aunt. Who wants to yell out “Great Uncle Clay” or “Great Aunt Holly”? That’s how I personally solved the issue. I would think that if Liz and Stacey’s father was Clay’s brother he would have had to have been a really “little brother” because John said that Trampas reminded him of their dad. However, I do think you are being very thoughtful about this because “Bitter Autumn” which introduced Clay and Holly could have been quickly put together right before or after Charles Bickford’s death, and we know there are other stories (such as “Woman From White Wing” which made a big deal of Betsy not being Garth’s daughter) which provided some important character issues that were completely overlooked in the rest of the series.

    1. Hi Bobbie – Frank Price told me Roy Huggins discarded the “Woman From White Wing” narrative. It would have been interesting to explore the Betsy-Judge Garth backstory – but maybe the producers thought it was too much of a distraction as episodes tended to be stand alone back in the 1960s.

  17. Thank you, Paul – maybe that’s the whole answer to all the character questions that “episodes tended to be stand alone” at that time instead of the continuing stories we have on TV now.

  18. I’ve been enjoying The Virginian on Grit TV recently. After seeing the train pull in and out of Medicine Bow in dozens of episodes, I was wondering if there was a map showing where else the tracks went on the backlot? I’m assuming it was in the form of a loop, but I’m curious how far one could travel around the lot before making a return?

  19. One of the photos above shows the train tracks running along the edge of the Medicine Bow set. Looks like it is not a loop, but only goes as far as the length of the street. I guess they had to run the train forwards and then backwards in order to do the scenes.

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