The Virginian: 50th Anniversary

James Drury - The Virginian - 50th Anniversary Celebration Post from F.M. Light and Sons, Western Wear for Over 100 Years in Colorado

By NBC Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You just can’t forget some characters. Especially when they’re tough, hard-working, generous, humble cowboys.

One such character is “The Virginian,” the foreman of the Shiloh Ranch. The show’s name is the same as the character – The Virginian ran for nine seasons from 1962-1971, and is TV’s third longest running western (second only to Bonanza and Gunsmoke). That is 249 episodes! This year marks the shows 50th anniversary, and we want to celebrate with a tribute to this fantastic western.

The Cast:

James Drury as The Virginian - 1971 TV Show

By NBC Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Virginian:

Doug McClure, who played Trampas in The Virginina, a western TV series

By NBC Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The title character of the show was played by James Drury. This talented actor personified the tough kindness of the foreman at the Shiloh Ranch. Click here for his biography and filmography. After being screen tested for the part and considered to be a bit too hefty, James went on a diet and lost 30 lbs in 30 days. I guess he really wanted the part!


Played by Doug McClure, Trampas is a well-loved character. A drifting cowhand who eventually settles at the ranch, Trampas’ fun-loving, rowdy personality helped balance the serious nature of The Virginian, making for a light hearted, more comedic character.

Other Characters:

The Virginian and Trampas were the only two actors to stick with the show for all nine seasons, but there are many other well-loved characters, such as Judge Garth, Betsy Garth, John, Clay, Stacey and Elizabeth Grainger, Deputy Sherrif Emmett Ryker, and many more.

Who is your favorite character? Why?

The Cast of The Virginian - 1964 - James Drury, Doug McClure, etc.

The entire cast of The Virginian, 1964. By NBC Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Interesting Facts:

  • The show averaged thirty 90 minute episodes a season; a breakneck pace. Drury remembers that “there were times when we had four Virginian episodes shooting on the same day. I would literally ride on horseback from set to set to give two lines here, three lines there, then over here to do 10 pages of script.”
  • The Virginian was based on a book by American author Owen Wister, which was set on a ranch in the west. Lauded as being the first true western ever written, it became the forerunner for books by greats Zane Grey and Lous L’Amour.
  • Four movies have been based on the story – one with Gary Cooper (2 of the films were silent).
  • James Drury’s portrayal is by far the most popular. He also possessed a very useful skill; he has a photographic memory and “could look at a 10-page scene and then shoot it verbatim.”
  • A very young Robert Redford appeared in a 1963 episode, called “The Evil that Men Do.”

The Return of The Virginian:

Good news! The Virginian will be on-air once again. It will return September 22nd, to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary. Learn more and view the schedule.

Hear the theme by Percy Faith:

All images are Public Domain

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