“The Virginian” is 55 today. It was first broadcast on NBC September 19, 1962 where it was promoted as the first 90 minute TV Western (length before adverts approx. 74 min.). A testament to its lasting quality is the fact the show is still in syndication today.
JAMES DRURY will be making a personal appearance at the “Cowboy Way Festival: Gene Autry Museum, Oklahoma from May 5-7, 2017. Roberta Shore and Gary Clarke will also be in attendance. Sadly the upcoming “Cowboy Up For Vets” event has been postponed this year.
“The Awakening” (4:05) directed by Leon Benson, written by Robert Crean and broadcast October 17, 1965, was a turning point for The Virginian and marked the end of the classic early period of the show (1962-1965). When Betsy Garth (Roberta Shore) married former minister David Henderson (Glenn Corbett), declared “I don’t need Shiloh anymore” and left for her new home in Pennsylvania as a preacher’s wife a vital character in The Virginian departed. Shore, a dedicated Mormon, was written out the show at her own request to concentrate on her own real-life marriage.
Roberta Shore would be replaced with a short one season run by Diane Roter. Sara Lane as Elizabeth Grainger would actually appear in more episodes than Shore but would never match her acting ability. Shore’s departure was a major loss for the show and one-half of a double body blow in the unsuccessful Season 4 when Lee J. Cobb also departed. The Virginian would never be the same again although the arrival of the Grainger family at Shiloh Ranch in Season 5 would see a return to form for The Virginian.
(Full details including author interviews with Roberta Shore, James Drury, Randy Boone, Frank Price and Joel Rogosin can be found in my book “A History of Television’s The Virginian 1962-1971” published by McFarland & Co.).
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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)