Many thanks to Val for posting extensive video footage of The Virginian cast panel at the 50th Anniversary event. To view the footage click on the Comments section of “Clu Gulager at the 50th Anniversary Autry Event.’ Clu Gulager is in fine form and I’m very pleased to hear him and Don Quine giving credit to producer Frank Price.
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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)
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.
“It’s So Hard To Tell Mama Goodbye” is an early example of a music video (on film) from 1967 featuring Randy Boone on vocals and film. Randy had left The Virginian when this film was shot but the song provides an interesting insight into the concerns of young people in the Vietnam War era. Concerns that had a dramatic effect on the Western genre leading to the anti-hero as a lead character. Traditional Western stars such as John Wayne saw their popularity waver in the late 1960s and the TV Western become less relevant to an increasingly jaded generation. The few key TV Westerns (The Virginian, Bonanza, Gunsmoke) that survived through the 1960s into the 1970s all began their runs in more optimistic times for America and the few TV Westerns that began production during the mid-to late sixties all suffered early cancellation with the exception of The Big Valley and The High Chaparral which both ran to four seasons.
I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts on the people I interviewed for my book. Personalities stand out immediately when you conduct interviews. James Drury is a commanding personality who speaks with great authority and care for his choice of words. Gary Clarke is a great storyteller and a funny guy. Roberta Shore still has the girlish charm that made her so memorable as Betsy. Randy Boone was one of my favorite interview subjects. Genuinely down-to-earth and humble about his achievements. Sara Lane is an enthusiastic, upbeat lady who I loved to interview.
The most knowledgable person I interviewed was without doubt Frank Price. He knows more about The Virginian than anyone alive today, having written the original format for the show and serving as executive producer. He literally gave me months of his time and many rare behind the scenes photographs for my book. His wife, former actress Katherine Crawford was also extremely helpful. She provided the story behind her on set friction with James Drury on “Felicity’s Spring” and working with Doug McClure.
It was obvious Tane McClure had great love and affection for her father Doug as she told me she was looking at his framed photograph on her desk as I interviewed her. Tane also kindly provided family photographs. I attempted to capture the personality of the people I interview by presenting my interviews in a Q&A format. I hope it worked.
After my book was published a few people stand out in my memory. I’ll always remember my wife telling me James Drury was on the phone as I came from our mailbox. He told me how much he enjoyed my book. I thought it very kind of him to take the trouble to call me personally. Another pleasant surprise was receiving a handwritten letter from Randy Boone saying that he actually appreciated The Virginian more after reading my book. I’ve posted the reaction of The Virginian cast and producers in my Reviews section.
Of course there were people who didn’t respond to my attempts to interview them. That is always out of the control of any author. Timing is a factor. People may be unavailable because of work or family commitments or they simply might not wish to talk. I was able to contact Sara Lane with weeks left on my deadline. So I am always extremely thankful for the people who agree to be interviewed on any of my projects.
Writing my book on The Virginian television series was not only a challenge, but also very rewarding on a personal level in that I got to speak with many of my favorite actors, actresses and producers about my favorite television Western series. Back when I was watching The Virginian every Friday night on BBC 1 I never imagined I would one day speak with the cast and producers and write a history of the show.