“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.).
© 2012 The Inspirational Networks, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The Virginian Television Series 50th Anniversary
Celebration at the Autry National Center
The Autry National Center in Los Angeles, California and Gene Autry Entertainment will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the ground-breaking western television program The Virginian on Saturday, September 22, 2012. The day’s events include a panel discussion with cast members, episode screenings, autograph session, and more.
The Virginian cast members scheduled to appear are James Drury, Randy Boone, Gary Clarke, Sara Lane, Diane Roter, Roberta Shore and Don Quine.
Owen Wister’s 1902 western novel The Virginian was one of the first great novels of the American West. Set in the semi-mythical town of Medicine Bow, Wyoming in the 1890’s, it chronicled the lives and relationships of the people who came west and settled the wild land. Starring James Drury in the title role, The Virginian was the first 90 minute television western, airing in prime time on NBC from 1962-1971.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
10:00AM to 4:00PM
The Autry National Center
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Autry Museum Members: FREE
Students with current ID & Seniors (60+): $6
Children (3-12): $4
Children under 3: Free
Free with current ID for active military personnel and veterans, peace officers, and park rangers
Contact: Maxine Hansen
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.
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.
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.