Remember the Men From Shiloh
The Virginian celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2012
It has been over fifty years since The Virginian aired on NBC back in 1962. Celebrations have been enjoyed across the country to honor the great classic television western. In recent years it was aired on Encore Westerns every week day afternoon. After Encore dropped the show in 2011 fans were heart broken and gave their full opinions to the network and to other channels playing the classics in hope of bringing back The Virginian in time to celebrate its anniversary. INSP gladly obliged the fans of The Virginian and included it as part of their Saddle Up Saturday line up. It was a renewal of fame so well deserved. Values and excitement all in to one action packed drama enjoyed by millions of fans both young and old.
Congratulations to The Virginian and to it's talented cast and guest stars. May there be many more celebrations yet to come.
The series setting was the year 1886, based on the 1902 novel by Owen Wister. Wister’s story encircled its action packed adventures around a tough handsome cowboy who was foreman (James Drury) of a huge Wyoming spread called Sunk Creek Ranch near the town of Medicine Bow, Wyoming. Television has a slightly different version of Wister's original story, so they call their ranch Shiloh after a Civil War battle ground in Virginia. It kind of fits nicely seeing our lead character is from Virginia. As in the western novel the writers of the television series never gave their lead character a name. The man is always known to his peers as the Virginian. His cowhands will call him boss or Boss-man and on occasion you will hear him called Ramrod. James Drury himself could not tell you the character’s surname.
The Two Main Characters
Throughout the nine years many characters came and went. The Virginian (James Drury) and his top hand Trampas (Doug McClure) were the only two who stayed the entire run of the series. Where The Virginian was a serious firm talking man, his sidekick, best friend, Trampas was a high spirited, fun loving, character who could almost always bring a smile to his foreman’s face. Trampas was truly The Virginian’s opposite and it shows their audience what friendships really are all about. It is no wonder the two actors brought out the best in all nine seasons. Lucky for us Trampas is not a cattle rustling villain in television's The Virginian like he is in Wister's book and the movie's made from it.
Shiloh Changed Owners Four Times
Shiloh changed owners four times.Seasons 1-4, Judge Garth (Lee J. Cobb) and daughter Betsy (Roberta Shore) occupied the big ranch house.
Season 4, Judge Garth's orphaned niece, Jennifer Sommers (Diane Roter) came to live at Shiloh. Betsy gets married and the Judge is appointed governor of Wyoming as their characters depart and Morgan Star (John Dehner) came in to run the ranch and try out new ranching techniques at his own expense until Garth could sell it. Star and Jennifer, both leave before another season airs.
Seasons 5-6, John Grainger (Charles Bickford) with his granddaughter Elizabeth Grainger (Sara Lane) and grandson Stacey Grainger (Don Quine) moved in. The Graingers bring with them a family generated atmosphere.
Seasons 6-8, John’s brother, Clay Grainger (John McIntire) and his wife Holly (Jeanette Nolan, McIntire’s real life wife) took over the ranch and the care of their niece Elizabeth. A happily married couple gave Shiloh yet another well liked version of American values.
Season 9, newly named The Men From Shiloh, Col. MacKenzie (Stewart Granger) became Shiloh’s new owner. This was to be the last changing of the guards as the show lost something the last eight seasons tried so hard to keep. The characters and the actors were great, but something was missing. Could it be the family oriented story line was gone? Whatever happened, the show was canceled regardless of the reason.
Each new owner of Shiloh gave trust and respect to their head man, the Virginian. And in return he showed them loyalty as he carried out his duties as foreman. With time and changes season after season the Virginian treated his employers, their families and the men who worked under him like a sibling yet with the strength and the attitude of a leader which everyone looked to him for advice and answers.
Because the final season had a new name, (The Men From Shiloh) this could have caused enough confusion to bring the ratings down and therefore the end to a nine year run, but again this is only a guess.
Good Help is Hard to Find
Despite the many obstacles facing workers on a ranch of this size. The Virginian managed to keep track of a crew who not only respected him, but found their home there at Shiloh punching cattle for a dollar a day.
Trampas (Doug McClure) was his top hand with an easy going attitude not always in compliance with the Virginian's views, but always dealt with respect and close friendship.
Many a cowhand come and went like Steve Hill (Gary Clarke) who was another well liked character in the first three seasons. Steve also became a cowhand who the Virginian valued in a close friendship employee relationship. Owen Wister's original story has Steve as a friend his foreman catches stealing beef and is forced to hang. Television keeps him loyal until they write him out of the show altogether.
Years go by and one by one the cast is changed with other favorites like Randy Benton (Randy Boone), seasons 2-5, young and green as the Virginian brings him from his youth to a respected valuable cowhand and Beldon (L. Q. Jones), seasons 2-9, with his welcome comedy and short fused temper at times, gives the foreman a challenge to round out his work crew. Nothing the Virginian couldn't handle that a night in jail wouldn't cure after a Saturday night on the town.
Other cast included Harper (Harper Flanerty) who for six seasons cooked a mean plate of beans when beef stew wasn't on the menu. Dick (Dick Shane) was a character to be there at the Virginian's beck and call as a cowhand. This was a smart move on the maker's part because Dick Shane was a double and stuntman to the Virginian, making him a valuable cast member. He was there for five seasons.
In seasons 5-7 David Sutton (David Hartman) shone his way to the hearts of many fans as an eastern gentleman poked fun at until he earned respect as a well loved cowhand. In season 8, Jim Horn (Tim Matheson), a young cowhand with a background of a drifter was taken under the wings of the Virginian to mold into another well loved character. Jim respected his boss man and you could see the connection was a thought out appearance to give warmth to the drama.
By the time the Men From Shiloh became a new title to the series, so came more changes with yet another cowhand, sidekick, Roy Tate (Lee Majors).
Many a guest star played the role of a cowhand. Some were drifters for temporary positions, but many would return time and time again to be seen in episodes scattered throughout the series.
New name, new owner, new theme, but even with his new wardrobe and all that, the Virginian's character stayed well intact for season 9. His role as foreman is as much loved as ever before. New or not, one thing remains the Virginian is the lead man and it has always been his character the audience seeks. Regardless of the changes which brought him to carry strong only a few episodes alone that season, as they did the same with his sidekick Trampas, the show survives it's ninth season. Sadly, the curtain falls at the end of season nine making it the final run of the show.
The Virginian’s friend the sheriff deputy, Emmett Ryker (Clu Gulager) of Medicine Bow was a well liked character in seasons 3-6. The sheriff deputy was a young, but well respected lawman that did his best to provide justice in Medicine Bow and it's surroundings. The Virginian often helped Emmett fight off the bad guys. What would a good western be without bad guys? Many a guest star served their viewers well in these roles.
Sheriff Mark Abbott (Ross Elliot) appeared throughout the series from the beginning until the end although his deputy Sheriff Ryker carried far more episodes Sheriff Abbott was a much admired character giving the series a tasteful glimpse of how lawmen tamed the wild west. He highly respected the Virginian and the men he worked for.
Saddle Up With James Drury
The Virginian (James Drury) is 81 years young and still has the spirit of a young cowboy looking for new adventure. He travels across the country speaking about the old west and making appearances at festivals, conventions, and other western celebrations. He is often joined by his old cast members of The Virginian who are Randy Boone, Gary Clarke, Roberta Shore, Diane Roter, Sara Lane, Don Quine and L.Q. Jones. Even Clu Gulager shows up at the Autry Museum in L. A., Calif. on Sept. 22, 2012 in honor of the 50th celebration. He has been absent from past events.
Many of the cast members of The Virginian are no longer with us and as with so many of the old western stars they are deeply missed. We are so privileged to have James Drury still spreading the words of history about the old west. I can’t help but think how much it would mean to him to have his sidekick Doug McClure here today to share the spotlight. Happy trails Trampas, you are forever in our hearts.
Join The Virginian on Facebook or check out his website http://www.thevirginian.net/ and saddle up for a western adventure of your own. This is the place to get merchandise like DVDs, T-shirts, and autographed pictures of the cast members. This site is well maintained.
Happy Birthday James Drury, April 18
Mailing Address for cards and letters to James Drury
P. O. Box 822
Birthday wishes should be sent before April 10 to assure delivery before his birthday.
Mr. Drury is way too busy to reply to most fan mail, but appreciates all of it and does take time to read it.
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