Second hour: Author Paul Green helps Ed revisit the life and career of Pete Duel, the star of Alias Smith and Jones who took his life on Dec. 30, 1971, at the height of his television celebrity. Paul recently updated his book Pete Duel: A Biography with new information from not only Duel’s family and friends, but the many fans who have kept the memory of Duel alive, more than four decades after his death. Also in this hour: Tony and Donna remember the thirty-fifth anniversary of the death of John Lennon, while Ed plays an excerpt from his December 2010 conversation with Keith Eliot Greenberg, author of Dec. 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died.
I’m happy to announce my Roy Huggins book was published on Friday January 24. You can order it from my publisher McFarland & Co. with immediate effect or if you want an author signed copy please contact me. Amazon and Barnes & Noble online stores also have my book in stock.
A chapter on Huggins’ involvement in the first season of The Virginian is included with comments from executive producer Frank Price and director Richard L. Bare.
Huggins’ daughter Katherine Crawford, well known to fans of The Virginian, has also contributed to my book.
Great news for The Virginian fans in America. Cable network INSP will be broadcasting The Virginian starting September 22. Scheduled for broadcast over over a three year period the show will initially be part of the Saddle-Up Saturday line-up.
The Virginian premiered Wednesday September 19, 1962 on NBC at 7:30 PM so the INSP broadcast marks 50 years and three days since viewers were first introduced to the occupants of Shiloh Ranch.
Joining The Virginian will be another fan favorite and one of the best TV Westerns of the late 1960s The High Chaparral.
Late last year I was very pleased to learn that cable station INSP were broadcasting all four seasons of The Big Valley (1965-69). As a long time fan of the show and its wonderful theme music I began watching episodes and became a fan all over again. Wonderful location photography, fine acting and thoughtful scripts plus some fine work from The Virginian’s L. Q. Jones who appeared in five episodes.
Of course the Barkley family was the backbone of the show. Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Long, Lee Majors (The Men From Shiloh), Linda Evans and Peter Breck as Nick Barkley. The hot tempered member of the family always ready for a fight but also willing to listen to reason. He was a sucker for a pretty girl and more often than not they led him into trouble. The romantic life of a TV Western character was never easy. Breck’s strong personality and personal integrity shone through the character of Nick Barkley. You symapthized with him. He stood up for himself and his family and wouldn’t tolerate fools gladly.
Peter Breck guest starred with James Drury in an episode of Black Saddle (1959) and also appeared in The Virginian episode “Rope of Lies” (2:25) and The Men From Shiloh episode “Hannah” (9:13). James Drury has recorded a wonderful tribute to Peter Breck which you can view on Peter Breck’s official website.
After watching The Big Valley re-reuns it was my intention to begin work on a book on the series. I contacted Peter Breck’s wife before his sad passing. She told me the company who owns the rights are very protective of their property and charge high fees for permission to publish photographs from the show. So I placed my project on hold. I would love to write a book on the series but for now fans can watch the TV show on DVD and INSP weekdays (three episodes per day).
Although Peter Breck is no longer here with us in the flesh his spirit lives on in his fine screen performances. Rest in Peace.
Director Charles S. Dubin passed away September 5 of natural causes at his Brentwood, California home. He directed seven episodes of The Virginian from season 4 through season 7 but is perhaps best known for directing over 40 episodes of M*A*S*H. Brooklyn born Dubin also directed many popular TV shows including Hawaii Five-O, The Defenders, The Big Valley, The Rockford Files and Murder, She Wrote.
A new four-part second season of Pioneers of Television began last week on PBS. The first subject was Science Fiction. This week it was Westerns. The format of the 50 minute show includes interviews with actors and actresses from key TV series in each genre. The main problem of the format is the limited coverage that ignores major TV shows. So this week the Westerns episode featured Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Maverick, The Rifleman, The Wild Wild West, The Big Valley, The High Chaparral and Daniel Boone. Missing from the discussion of the genre was The Virginian, Cheyenne, Rawhide, Laredo, Alias Smith and Jones etc. No mention of any Universal TV production indicates copyright restrictions for the low budget PBS network.
We did get to see interviews with many actors who have sadly passed away since the episode was filmed. Fess Parker, Robert Culp, Peter Graves, Stephen J. Cannell and rare film interviews with Mitch Vogel, Linda Evans, James Arness, Henry Darrow and Robert Conrad plus stars from Daniel Boone.
Definitely worth watching when it plays in your area. But very frustrating to see The Virginian ignored.
A quick glance of the new season sees yet another glut of police and lawyer shows. You know the formula. Dead body in the first five minutes followed by endless questioning, an autopsy or two, more questioning and the resolution. Yawn inducing just writing about it. We need someone to take a chance and produce a retro TV Western series. Not in the style of recent examples such as Deadwood. I found that far too negative and depressing. We need a series in the classic 1960s style. No sepia tones or cursing. We need positive, uplifting stories. We need heroes to return to TV. Not cynical. world weary anti-heroes in the Eastwood mold, but heroes in The Virginian or Cheyenne mold.
We all know the world has grown more cynical since the 1960s. But are we to expect decades of Law & Order and CSI spin-offs until we die? Some producer has to take a chance on another TV Western show that isn’t saccharin and isn’t cynical. A show that entertains in the classic Western style.