“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.).
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)
Memphis Film Festival organizer Ray Nielsen has kindly given me permission to post his photographs from the recent Virginian reunion in Memphis, Tennessee. From left to right are : Don Quine, Gary Clarke, Roberta Shore, Randy Boone, James Drury and BarBara Luna (Doug McClure’s 2nd wife). This was the first time Don Quine had attended a Virginian reunion event.
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.
It’s interesting to note that none of the regular female actresses featured in the “ride-in” title sequence furthered their acting careers to any extent after The Virginian. Roberta Shore’s premature retirement cut short a promising career. There is no doubt Roberta could have extended her career had she not retreated to Salt Lake City.
Diane Roter quit acting in 1969. Sara Lane also quit acting soon after leaving The Virginian.
The young female cast played a large part in the Shiloh Ranch family. When a female was notably absent at Shiloh Ranch in the revamped final season The Men From Shiloh the feeling of family evaporated. Shiloh Ranch required the feminine touch.