The Virginian: TV Show Cast of Classic Western Reuniting

The VirginianThough it isn’t remembered by many TV viewers today, The Virginian TV show was one of the most popular Westerns in its day. The NBC series ran for eight seasons, from 1962 until 1970. The characters returned in the 1970-71 season in a different format and the show was renamed The Men from Shiloh.

The Virginian series follows the adventures of a strong-willed man known only as the “Virginian” (James Drury) who works to maintain order on the Shiloh Ranch in Wyoming. Other regular actors during the run of the series include Doug McClure, Lee J. Cobb, John McIntire, Charles Bickford, Stewart Granger, Clu Gulager, Gary Clarke, Randy Boone, and Roberta Shore.

It’s often been remarked that The Virginian had such high production values that each episode looked like a feature film. The 249 installments are 90 minutes apiece and were all shot in color; a rarity for its day.

Now, nearly forty years after the end of the series, members of the cast are reuniting as part of the 10th Annual Saddle Up festival in Pigeon Forge, TN. On Saturday, February 27th, Drury, Clarke, Shore, and Boone will come together for a special three hour event that will include a meet and greet reception, a Q&A session, clips from the series, and autograph sessions.

The event will also mark the release of The Virginian on DVD. The complete first season is being released for the first time on DVD. Episodes have been restored and will be accompanied by special extras. The first season is being released in two ways; in a pair of half-season releases and also in a 10-disc, special collector’s edition tin. Patrons of the festival can be among the first to purchase the DVDs since they won’t be available in regular retail stores until May 25th.

Tickets for the festival are $20 each for adults or $50 for the four day weekend, February 25-28th. Kids under the age of 17 are free. Aside from the reunion, the festival also features Western-themed concerts, shows, poetry readings, and dining. The Virginian castmembers will be attending each day, in addition to the reunion event.

Canceled and renewed TV show

80 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Mike says

    Regarding Gary Clarke after he left the Virginian show, I do know that he co-starred with Ralph Taeger in Hondo, a western that lasted sadly only one season. That was 1967; he also wrote several episodes for Get Smart; the robot character Hymie was his creation. My favorite Steve Hill Virginian episodes were “Duel at Shiloh”, “Rope of Lies”, “The Small Parade” and “Roar from a Mountain”. The characters of Steve, the Virginian, and Trampas were great to watch. I can’t wait to purchase the DVD.

    • BadBoy says

      Encore is now showing the third season of the Virginian with different exciting title sequence with a big “V” that appears before each main character is shown.
      I see Gary Clarke is no longer a regular, but is a guest star in a couple episodes like the one that aired on Friday with the two sisters.

      • Jody says

        BadBoy, I noticed the new opening segment. I like it. Good to see Gary Clarke in Friday’s episode too. I really miss him, but I like Clu Gulagher {?} alot and wish we could see more of him. I can take or leave the Randy character, but he’s growing on me. No one mentions him much, but I love L.Q. Jones (I don’t remember his character’s name). He played so many villains in his career later on, and he was good at it, but it’s nice to see him playing a good guy here.

  2. Cindy Hohlstein says

    Well, this is a neat forum. I too have been watching the Virginian on Encore. What memories it brings back. I was one of the lucky ones to be able to watch it in color. I was just in grade school when it aired originally but I was certainly old enough to have a mad crush on James Drury. Those eyes! And now I realize after all these years I STILL have a crush on him. My husband and I watch it every afternoon. He is a Trampas fan. Sure wish I could meet James in person. Unfortunately, we still work and these days can’t get much time off nor can we afford it.

    • Dot Mahaffey says

      You and me both, Cindy. Those eyes and that smile always did me in and still does. I am so excited about finally meeting him. He is a couple years older than me, both of us in our 70s but The Virginian was and still is my favorite Western Series. It is so marvelous to be able to watch all those great shows again. And, all the stars, some at the very beginning of their careers. Saw Harrison Ford the other night and I swear he must have still been in his teens. So thin and his voice nothing like it is now and was even during his Star Wars days.

      The Spirit of the West Festival is only about 30 miles from me this year so I am going to be able to go and meet Mr. Drury. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I can get a photo with him. That would be fantastic but I’m not counting on it. Don’t want to set myself up for a disappointment. Starts in just two days so got my boots out and my old Western hat that I’ve had for 50 years. It’s still in good shape; it sure has held up a lot better than I have. LOL. I’m not kicking since I still am still kicking.


  3. stefan says

    Clu Gulager is still actively acting as well as directing. Just hung out with him last night at an Oscar Party in L.A. Very cool guy.

    • Jody says

      Thank you so much for this update. Some of you travel in much different circles than I do – lol – but it’s fun to hear of your first-hand experiences with some of the talented people I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’ve always admired Clu Gulager as an actor. It’s good to know he’s a nice guy in person too. Just saw the Virginian episode last week where he played a deaf mute. It was a very moving episode, and his acting illustrated early on what an accomplished actor he would become throughout his career.

  4. JoAnn says

    Gary Clarke was great in The Virginian. I so enjoyed him in the first few seasons. I wish he had not left. He was handsome, a great actor, and he was perfect with the Virginian and Trampas! He looks great today. Boy, time flies. I wished he stayed all nine years.

    • Dot Mahaffey says

      Jo Ann

      Hi, I too loved Gary Clarke. If I had had my way, the first season actors to the last man would have stayed through to the end. But, I have to say, if two had to be left for the full run, I’m glad it was Drury and McClure. I wonder why Gary left. I mean, if it was his idea or the show’s. So sad to hear that Doug passed away at such a young age.

  5. Dot Mahaffey says

    This is getting to sound like real fun, Marvin. And, not to worry, I am a retired citizen also, husband deceased but I promise to be a good little girl. LOL.

    I sure hope I can find out when Mr. Drury will be signing autographs. I would think he would be there when the award is given to him but don’t know if that would be at a time when he would sit down to sign some photos. I left a message with Westworld asking if they could provide some sort of schedule.

    Boy, I sure do miss the old westerns. Dale was terrific too. And Laramie was another favorite of mine. Robert Fuller was terrific in that one. I saw all of them in Black and white though and I find it really interesting that The Virginian was shot in color even way back when hardly anyone had a color TV. Thank goodness someone was using their heads on that decision.

    • Marvin says

      And thank you for your response, Dot. We’ll definitely figure out a way to connect while we’re at the festival and maybe a small group of us fans can sit together at one of the meals or events. I’m not sure what the rules are for this website, regarding listing my email address, but if all else fails, I’m staying across the road from Westworld so I won’t be hard to contact. We’ll stay in touch.

      • says

        @Marvin: We don’t usually like to post email addresses because they’ll get a lot of spam. If you like, I can forward the one you used to post here to Dot.

        • Marvin says

          Thank you. That would be wonderful; I would certainly appreciate your sending my email to Dot. I’m a senior citizen, retired of many years, married, and a grandpa, work very hard, part time, for a recreational railroad, so my motives are very honorable; I would just like to share some stories and meet some of the other fans. The only secret I want kept is how much I spend on autographed photos, LOL. That’s my only vice!

            • Marvin says

              If the creek don’t rise, I’ll be there. (Seriously, the only thing that might disrupt my plans is the possibly death of my cousin, who is gravely ill; I would have to be here for the funeral/memorial services; he’s one of the “greatest generation”; served on a battleship in the No. Atlantic, and moved over to the Pacific theatre after V-E day; his ship took hits from kamakazes, but he made it back.)

              When I finish up at Westworld, I’m heading over to Verde Canyon (to ride a train, what else!!!!) I reserved a first class seat on the 1 PM departure on 3/22. I’ve had a 70 year love affair with trains.

              • Dot Mahaffey says

                That is a great trip, the Verde Canyon ride, you’ll love it, Marvin.

                Called The Event and one of the staff said that the Cowboy Spirit Award will be presented at 2pm on Saturday, the 20th of March. So, I absolutely want to make sure I am there for that. She also said that she expected James to be there by 10am all four days. I am really getting excited about meeting him, hope he brings the pictures to sign.

                • JoAnn says

                  I just watched The Virginian, “Roar from the Mountain.” Gary Clarke was featured by himself. The guests were Jack Klugman and Joyce Bulifant (sp). Steve Hill (Gary Clarke) was tracking down a cougar that was a “man-killer.” Gary was wonderful in this episode. I wish they had given him more feature like this. He did a fantastic job! It is still difficult to believe that Gary is in his early 70s now.

                  • Jody says

                    JoAnn, that’s the episode I recorded today. Haven’t watched it yet. I always did think Gary Clarke was just as good an actor as anyone in the cast, but I don’t remember seeing him after he left the Virginian. I love seeing all the guest stars they have, so many of them unknown at the time but who went on to have great careers. BTW, my name is JoAnn too – Jody is my nick :)

  6. Marvin says

    For all you Virginian fans, I believe James Drury will be attending the Festival of the West in Scottsdale, AZ, March 18-21, at Westworld. I understand he will be autographing photos. From my experience in meeting him in Gene Autry, OK, at their film and music festival, he’s a very warm and personable individual and has a nice array of photos from the Virginian series and current photos of himself as well.

    I’ll be driving over 800 miles one way, from California, to attend the festival, and consider it an honor to be able to attend. I thought Dot really said it best, when she mentioned Mr. Drury’s great acting, and the tough and honest character he played.

    I hope some of you can make it to Scottsdale. We should have a mini, unofficial fan club gathering.

    • Dot Mahaffey says

      OH Marvin:

      Thanks so much for responding to my comments. I live in Phoenix so am very excited about the possibility of meeting Mr. Drury. I will definitely be attending. I read on the website that James will be receiving the Cowboy Spirit Award this year, a lovely recognition of his contribution to the western life-style.

      Can you purchase pictures to be signed at these events? Never been to one so am somewhat in the dark as to procedures. Here’s a link if anyone needs more info:

      • Marvin says

        Regarding the purchase of photos, yes, if my memory serves me right, I bought both color and B/W photos of James, as the Virginian, different poses, and some of him as he looks now, current publicity shots; I think I paid $20 per photo (maybe a bit more for the color photos, can’t remember), but I do know he was willing to personalize them as well. It was such a treat.

        He was so popular at the Autry event that he literally ran out of photos; I will encourage him to bring a big supply of photos for this event.

        Just as a quick aside, you know who else was there in 2007 at the Autry Music/Film Festival in OK.; Dale Robertson; he was also signing photos and selling a couple of CD’s. Unfortunately, he lives out in Western Oklahoma and I don’t think he’d come to Arizona. I’m still a big fan of Tales of Wells Fargo and The Iron Horse, plus anything else he starred in.

        Donna Martell was at the table next to Dale; she’s still quite charming and a beautiful woman. I bought several of her photos, and got them autographed. Wonderful personality too; I spoke to her again briefly at the Silver Spur Awards in Universal City (CA) in October ’09, and she was so gracious. We are so blessed that these wonderful folks are so approachable.

  7. Dot Mahaffey says

    Have been watching all of the episodes on Encore and loving it. When this classy western first appeared way back in the sixties, I had a 19″ black and white TV so seeing all these wonderful shows in color is fantastic for me. What a great job they did almost 50 years ago. And, somehow managed to produce great TV without bloody gore and overt sexual scenes. Amazing! LOL. Loved the whole cast but especially James Drury. What a handsome fellow and a darned good actor and the character was super; tough, honest, principled, kind and gorgeous. What more could you ask for. Wish Lee J. Cobb had stuck around. I heard that the grind was just too much for him.

  8. turiddhu says

    i was watching and enjoying the virginian back in the original days and still doing now, on the western channel.the values of good shows like it never end.the reunion is good news.

  9. Maron says

    I too tape (dvr) The Virginian on Encore! Also, Maverick, Gunsmoke,Cheyenne, and Have Gun Will Travel! I didn’t get to watch them originally as I was too little when they were first run. These were the days when TV was good and stations listened more to the public than the ratings companies!

    Thank god for Encore and Cable!!

  10. Gary Clarke says

    Personally, I think that Gary Clarke was the handsomest, cutest, most dashing and macho of all the guys on “The Virginian.” He was certainly the best actor. Oh, yeah, how he could ride! Must have been born in the saddle. Rumor has it that he recieved an average of 1,842,00 pieces of fan mail every week — and that was during the off season –and he answered every one personally. Directors loved him because every time they got into trouble and didn’t know what to do, Gary bailed them out. And that extra high fence they put up all around the Universal lot was to keep the women away from Gary. Ocassionally some got in. Oh, well. (Written by Gary Clarke)

    • Jody says

      If only I believed you were THAT Gary Clarke :) I just finished watching today’s episode – great story, as always, and the guest star was a very young Robert Redford! Good episode. Yes, “Steve” was a handsome rogue indeed, as was “Trampas”. My high school boyfriend was told alot at that time that he looked exactly like Doug McClure :::sigh::: And he did! And James Drury? Come on, do they get any better than him?? While there have been many losses from the cast, I’m glad the few that remain will be seeing each other at their upcoming event. I can ony imagine the memories they’ll share. I only wish I lived close enough to join them.

    • Marvin says

      Great comment; certainly good to see you’ve never lost your sense of humor.
      I met James Drury at the Gene Autry museum in Gene Autry, OK, in 2007, and am looking forward to seeing him again at the Festival of the West in Scottsdale in March. Sorry I missed your reunion in Pigeon Forge this weekend; found out about it too late to make plans to attend; I hope you make it to Scottsdale. The Virginian had to be one of the very top, if not the best, Western series ever on TV.

      Happy Trails.

    • Phil says

      I just got back from the cast reunion in Pigeon Forge. It was a great thrill to meet them. Jim, Gary, Roberta, and Randy are friendly, funny and just all around great people.

    • says

      hey gary, are u still in the 602!? i remember when your daughter was like 3 and we used to watch bambi a lot when me and my family would com over for pot lucks

    • carol says

      Hi Gary have to agree with everything you said Steve was indeed handsome dashing and macho he seemed very comfortable on a horse hope he didn’t get writers cramp personally answering all that fan mail love the Virginian have it on DVD happy trails from New Zealand Carol

  11. Simon Doyle says

    Always amazes me when a pundit goes “not many people remember”, when probably they mean “I personally don’t remember…”! How on earth does he know what is and isn’t remembered by other people?

    “The Virginian” also was a *huge* success outside of the U.S., and was event television in the U.K. – where things like “Rawhide” and “Have Gun, Will Travel” didn’t even make a dent.

    • says

      @Simon Doyle: Sorry if that offended you but that’s been our experience. We do remember the show here because we know and love TV. It’s been my personal experience that, when talking with others about TV Westerns, The Virginian rarely comes up. In the nearly five years that this site has been running, no one has ever emailed or posted a comment that mentioned it.

      I’m not sure why but suspect it might have something to do with the episode length. Stations may be less willing to plug-in 90 minute timeslots. It was never shown in my area in reruns while it seems I could always find Have Gun Will Travel, Big Valley, Bonanza, High Chaparral, Wild Wild West, Rawhide, Maverick, and on and on. The program’s name recognition isn’t helped by the fact that there was never a reunion movie, a remake movie or series (luckily), or an official DVD release (until now).

      Sadly, even supposedly better known classic shows that aired during that time period aren’t known by people under 35. How many people don’t pick up on the Waltons, Odd Couple, or Bewitched references in current commercials? Quite a few I’m sure.

      • Jody says

        I love The Virginian – it was a favorite when I was in high school in the early 60s. I record an episode every weekday on Encore Westerns through Comcast. No commercials, uncut, interesting story lines … not to mention lots of handsome cowboys :) The episodes they are showing now are from 1963 so I have a long way to go. I’m so glad I found it after all these years! Still good TV. Encore also broadcasts Have Gun, Will Travel; the old b/w Gunsmoke; Cheyenne; Maverick – just to name a few from that era. All those characters are like old friends to me :)

      • Kris says

        Every so often over the last couple of years, I would put VIRGINIAN in the search option of att uverse. What a pleasant suprise to see Encore westerns show it this year. Maybe it was the power of suggestion. Great cast, writing and photography. Also, some of the best horsemen on TV. The 90 minute format allowed for deeper charactor development not only of the cast, but the guest stars as well. Its nice to be able to enjoy good drama without innuendo , smart alecky kids and political jibes. DVR has got to be THE invention of a lifetime.

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