The Virginian (TV series)

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The Virginian (TV series)

(49) The Virginian 1962 – 1971 Opening and Closing Theme HD Dolby – YouTube

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to navigationJump to searchThis article is about the television series. For other uses (including film adaptations), see The Virginian (disambiguation).

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The Virginian
Also known asThe Men from Shiloh
Based onThe Virginian
by Owen Wister
Written byMorton FineDavid FriedkinBurt KennedyHarold SwantonWinston MillerRichard JessupTrue BoardmanFrank ChaseJohn HawkinsWard HawkinsDon IngallsRoy HugginsLeslie Stevens}
Directed byDavid FriedkinBurt KennedyTed PostDon McDougallAbner BibermanWilliam WitneyJames SheldonEarl BellamyMichael CaffeyRichard L. BareJoseph PevneyBernard McEveetyPaul Stanley
StarringJames DruryDoug McClureLee J. CobbCharles BickfordJohn McIntireClu GulagerGary ClarkeRandy BooneRoberta ShoreDiane RoterSara LaneDon Quine
Theme music composerPercy Faith
(seasons 1–8)
Ennio Morricone
(season 9)
Opening theme“Lonesome Tree”
conducted by Stanley Wilson
Ending theme“Lonesome Tree”
conducted by Stanley Wilson
ComposersPercy Faith
Richard Shores
Dave Grusin
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons9
No. of episodes249 (list of episodes)
Executive producersCharles Marquis Warren
Norman Macdonnell
Frank Price
Roy Huggins
ProducersMorton Fine
David Friedkin
Joel Rogosin
Winston Miller
Cy Chermak
Frank Telford
Arthur H. Nadel
Don Ingalls
Paul Freeman
Warren B. Duff
Jules Schermer
Production locationsUnited StatesIverson Movie RanchSimi Hills, CaliforniaLone Pine, CaliforniaBronson Canyon, Los Angeles
CinematographyBenjamin H. Kline
Lionel Lindon
Enzo Martinelli
John Russell
Walter Strenge
Running time65–75 minutes
Production companiesRevue Studios
(season 1)
Universal Television
(seasons 2-9)
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original networkNBC
Picture formatNTSC
Audio formatMono
Original releaseSeptember 19, 1962 –
March 24, 1971
Related showsLaredo

The Virginian, which was renamed The Men from Shiloh in its final year on network TV, is an American Western television series starring James Drury in the title role, along with Doug McClureLee J. Cobb, and others. It originally aired on NBC from 1962 to 1971, for a total of 249 episodes. (Drury had played the same role in 1958, in an unsuccessful pilot that became an episode of the NBC summer series Decision.) Filmed in color, The Virginian became television’s first 90-minute Western series (75 minutes excluding commercial breaks). Cobb left the series after the first four seasons, and was replaced over the years by mature character actors John DehnerCharles BickfordJohn McIntire, and Stewart Granger, portraying different characters. It was set before Wyoming became a state in 1890, as mentioned several times as Wyoming Territory, although other references set in later, around 1898.

The series was loosely based on The Virginian: Horseman of the Plains, a 1902 Western novel by Owen Wister that Hollywood had previously adapted for movies. Percy Faith composed the show’s original theme.

The series ran for nine seasons, making it network television’s third-longest running Western,[1] behind Bonanza at 14 seasons and 430 episodes, and Gunsmoke at 20 seasons and 635 episodes.[1]



When Revue Productions‘ hour-long series Wagon Train moved from the NBC network to ABC, The Virginian was proposed to replace it. From the beginning, the 90-minute series was filmed in Technicolor on 35 mm movie film.[2] The half-hour pilot in 1958 was filmed in black-and-white.



The half-hour black-and-white pilot titled The Virginian aired in 1958 as part of the series Decision, which in other weeks aired pilots for three other series.

In the pilot, unlike in the later series, the Virginian had a noticeable Southern accent and wore a belt buckle marked “CSA”, indicating service in the Confederate army.[3] (This portrayal of him as a young Civil War veteran would indicate that the time period of the pilot was decades earlier than that of the series.) He arrived by invitation at the ranch of Judge Henry (played by Robert Burton) to be an accountant and manager, and soon became involved in unraveling a plot to destroy the judge’s efforts to create a new town in the surrounding region. Other actors in the pilot, some of whom appeared in the series years later, included Andrew DugganJeanette Nolan, and Dan Blocker (in a small, nonspeaking role).

Seasons one through eight[edit]

The main cast in the fall of 1964: Center: Lee J. Cobb (Judge Garth), from left: Roberta Shore (Betsy Garth), Clu Gulager (Emmett Ryker), Doug McClure (Trampas), Randy Boone (ranch hand), James Drury (the Virginian)

Set in the late 19th century, and loosely based on The Virginian, A Horseman of the Plains, a 1902 novel by Owen Wister, the series revolved around the tough foreman of the Shiloh Ranch, played by Drury. His top hand, Trampas (McClure), and he were the only characters to remain with the show for the entire run, although Ross Elliott, as Sheriff Abbott, recurred throughout the run, appearing in 61 episodes over nine years. As in the book, the foreman went only by the name “the Virginian”. The series was set in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. Various references in the first season indicate that setting is 1898:

  • In episode five, “The Brazen Bell”, guest star George C. Scott quotes from Oscar Wilde‘s The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which was first published in 1898.
  • In episode seven, “Riff Raff”, several of the main characters join Theodore Roosevelt‘s Rough Riders, the volunteer cavalry unit formed in 1898 to fight in Cuba during the Spanish–American War.
  • In episode 11, “The Devil’s Children”, the grave marker for one of the characters who dies in the episode states 1898 as the year of death.
  • In episode 13, “The Accomplice”, an 1898 calendar is present in the bunkhouse.

The series focused on the foreman’s quest to maintain an orderly lifestyle at Shiloh Ranch. The ranch was named after the two-day American Civil War Battle of Shiloh, at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. The show’s white Appaloosa was named Joe D., and Trampas’ buckskin horse was named Buck. As the show progressed, Trampas became the more developed of the characters, and continues to be the role for which actor Doug McClure was best-known.[citation needed]

Several cast changes were made throughout the program’s run. In the first four seasons (1962–1966), the owner of the ranch was Judge Henry Garth (Cobb). His de facto daughter Betsy (Roberta Shore) lived at the ranch with him, and had a sister relationship with the ranch hands. Ranch hand Steve Hill (Gary Clarke) joined in episode storylines. Randy Boone joined the show in the second season as a youthful ranch hand who played guitar and sang duets with Betsy.[citation needed]

In 1965, Decca Records released an LP of songs from the two singing actors. In the episode “First to Thine Own Self” (February 12, 1964), Boone’s character sings “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry“, written by Hank Williams in 1949.[citation needed]

In the third season, Clu Gulager, who had previously guest-starred twice in earlier seasons, was added to the show as the restless deputy Emmett Ryker. After executive producer Frank Price was replaced by Norman Macdonnell at the end of season three, season four became a troublesome time. When Shore left the cast, Macdonnell added a new leading woman — Diane Roter, who played Jennifer, the judge’s niece. When Cobb left the show in 1966, John Dehner, as Morgan Starr, was brought in as the manager of Shiloh when Judge Garth left to become the governor of Wyoming. His demanding presence and tough demeanor did not fit well with the show, nor did fans like his character.

Producer Frank Price was brought back on board for season five to straighten out the series. He replaced the characters of Randy, Morgan Starr, and Jennifer with a few actors who brought back the family atmosphere to the show. John Grainger (played by Charles Bickford) became the new owner. Elizabeth Grainger (played by Sara Lane), was John Grainger’s granddaughter. Her brother Stacey (Don Quine) rounded out this new cast.

Although Price left again, the series continued smoothly in the pattern that he set. In season six, Clay Grainger (played by John McIntire, who had previously portrayed the wagonmaster on Wagon Train), took over ownership after his brother John’s apparent departure “on business”.[citation needed] (John Grainger’s abrupt series exit, due to Charles Bickford’s sudden death on November 9, 1967, was never explained onscreen in the series.) The sixth season also added Holly Grainger (played by Jeanette Nolan, McIntire’s real-life wife, with whom he often worked professionally) as Clay’s wife. Season seven had the entrance of David Sutton, played by David Hartman. Sutton was replaced in season eight, though, with a younger hand, Jim Horn (played by Tim Matheson).[citation needed]

Season 9[edit]

The new The Men from Shiloh title card

In season 9 (1970–71), the name of the program was changed to The Men from Shiloh and the look of the series was completely redesigned. Ownership of the Shiloh Ranch was changed once more, and Colonel Alan MacKenzie (Stewart Granger) took over.[4][5] Also Lee Majors joined as a new character, Roy Tate, introduced in the fifth episode of the season. Granger said of his character:

They had some idea of Col. Mackenzie against the West. I wanted no part of that. Englishmen were running cattle here from the beginning. The English have this thing for land; for animals and crops… I said this old cocker’s out of India and the colonies: he can take the American West on his own terms.[6]

In several countries, including the United Kingdom, the show went under the extended title The Virginian: Men From Shiloh.[7]

The opening theme song was changed to a new one, composed by Ennio Morricone, and the look of the show was changed reflecting a style similar to spaghetti Westerns, which were very popular at the time.[8] The hats worn featured much broader brims and higher crowns. The clothing was also jauntier and more imaginative, and mustaches and beards were much in evidence.[citation needed]

These changes brought a better ranking (number 18) in the top-30 primetime shows, after the previous year had the show slip out of the top-30 rankings for the first time. (It was one of only four Western series on in primetime.[9])

The final season operated on a “rotating lead actor” basis of the four stars, with normally just one lead appearing each week. Two of the four lead actors (Lee Majors and Doug McClure) never appeared together in the last season. The ranch itself played a very nominal part in season 9, with most scripts featuring the four stars away from the ranch. Little seemingly could save it, as the final season brought in several big guest stars to the remaining episodes. The studio and network were set on ending the series, as evidenced by rivals CBS and ABC making demographic moves away from rural-oriented shows (see “rural purge“). The final episode aired on March 24, 1971, ending the show’s nine-season run.[citation needed]


The Virginian[edit]

The Virginian
James Drury as the Virginian in the Universal series by the same name.
First appearance“The Executioners” (1962)
Last appearance“Jump-up” (1971)
Created byOwen Wister
Portrayed byJames Drury
In-universe information
OccupationForeman of the Shiloh Ranch in Medicine Bow, Wyoming

Played by James Drury,[10] the Virginian was the tough foreman of the Shiloh Ranch. Based loosely on the character in the Owen Wister novel, he always stood his ground firmly. Respected by the town citizens and the hands of the ranch, he was a prominent figure in Medicine Bow. In the series, the Virginian is the ranch foreman from the first episode. This way, the producers were able to establish a feeling that he had been there for a while, thus keeping a consistent story line; this differed from the book, where he was the deputy foreman, eventually promoted to foreman. The Virginian usually wore a black hat, black leather vest, black boots, a maroon red shirt and a single right-handed holster and revolver. He often ordered Monongahela brand whiskey in saloons.

When making the show, the producers chose not to reveal the Virginian’s real name, and little about his past was actually made known. This succeeded in making the Virginian an intriguing and mysterious character. The foreman worked under five ranch owners throughout the series: Judge Garth (Lee J. Cobb), Morgan Starr (John Dehner), John Grainger (Charles Bickford), Clay Grainger (John McIntire), and Col. Alan Mackenzie (Stewart Granger). Drury was the only cast member to appear in the pilot (aired as an episode of the series Decision) and the entire nine season run of The Virginian, with McClure the only other cast member to remain with the show for all nine seasons of The Virginian, though not in the initial pilot.

Judge Garth[edit]

Starting in season one, Lee J. Cobb succeeded in making Judge Garth a stern man with a soft side to his personality. The judge acted as a father figure to the Virginian. Respected by all the townspeople, as well as his employees, the judge was often looked to for matters to be settled. Cobb left the series near the end of season four. In the episode “Morgan Starr”, the judge was stated to have left Shiloh to become governor of Wyoming. The judge had previously said he would leave Shiloh to his daughter Betsy, in “The Hero” (season three, episode four).[citation needed]


Played by Doug McClure,[10] the character of Trampas took on a completely different personality from the character in the novel. In Wister’s book, Trampas was a villain throughout the story and at the end was shot by the Virginian, but in the TV series, the producers chose to make Trampas a fun-loving and rowdy character; McClure fit the part perfectly. Trampas, a sandy-haired, rowdy cowhand who eventually settled down on the ranch, was by far the most developed character in the series, as compared to the minimal history on the title character. Several episodes were made detailing his past. McClure added a touch of light comedy to the series to counterbalance the Virginian’s serious manner. For part of season 9, the Trampas character wore a thick mustache and broader brimmed hat.

Steve Hill[edit]

Played by Gary Clarke, Steve was a good friend of both Trampas’ and the Virginian’s. He was constantly getting Trampas in and out of his usual scrapes. The on-screen chemistry that Gary Clarke and Doug McClure possessed reflected their good friendship off screen, and was loved by fans worldwide. Although he was with the show at the beginning, Clarke was being phased out of the show at the end of season two, but remained as a guest star for a few episodes in season three, before departing for good.

Betsy Garth[edit]

Played by Roberta Shore, from seasons one through four, Betsy was the only daughter of Judge Garth. Early in the series, she was made clear to be adopted, but nevertheless, the judge treated her as his own. Betsy and the ranch hands had a sort of brother–sister relationship. Trampas and Steve had a particular soft spot for her, often jumping to protect her, and looking out for her wellbeing. At the start of the series, Betsy was said to be 15 years old. In a season-four episode, “The Awakening”, she married a minister (Glenn Corbett), and moved to Pennsylvania, reflecting Roberta Shore’s departure from the show.

Randy Benton[edit]

Played by Randy Boone from seasons two through four, Randy was a young ranch hand who played guitar and sang. He came into the show as Steve Hill was being phased out as a regular cast member. Before the new Grainger family was brought in for season five, his character was discontinued.

Deputy Sheriff Emmett Ryker[edit]

At the beginning of season three, a new cast regular was introduced. Clu Gulager played the restless deputy Emmett Ryker. Ryker was the first cast regular not to live on Shiloh. A former lawman turned hired gun, because the pay was better, Ryker decided to settle in Medicine Bow before he took his new profession too far. He was hired by Sheriff Abbott, with whom he had been acquainted, after solving the murder of a prominent rancher in the introductory episode “Ryker”. He became the sheriff in season four. Gulager remained with the show for four seasons, leaving briefly at the beginning of season five, then returning for the rest of season five before leaving for good toward the end of season six.

Jennifer Sommers[edit]

After Roberta Shore left the show, Diane Roter was brought in as the judge’s niece. At the end of season four, along with Boone and Dehner, she left, making room for the new owners.

Morgan Starr[edit]

Halfway through season four, Morgan Starr was brought in to run the ranch for Judge Garth because of Garth’s appointment as governor of Wyoming. John Dehner played a tough and demanding man, who was hard to befriend, as the Virginian and Trampas soon found out. Fans disliked Dehner’s character, and he left the show at the end of the season.

John Grainger[edit]

At the beginning of season five, with Judge Garth, Betsy, and Jennifer gone, a new character was brought in to run Shiloh.[11] Charles Bickford played a stern but loving grandfather to his two grandchildren, Stacey and Elizabeth. Although the Virginian and Mr. Grainger never quite had the father–son relationship that the Virginian and Judge Garth had, they got along well. Charles Bickford’s death on November 9, 1967, was a shock to the cast. He was replaced by John McIntire as his brother Clay.

Stacey Grainger[edit]

Played by Don Quine, Stacey Grainger, the grandson of John Grainger, lived at Shiloh, beginning in season five.[11] He worked alongside Trampas, and the two become good friends. Stacey’s sister Elizabeth looked up to him as a big brother, and he filled the role more than competently. Quine’s two seasons on The Virginian were the only ones that finished in the Nielsen rating top-15 yearend rankings.

Elizabeth Grainger[edit]

Stacey’s younger sister Elizabeth (Sara Lane) was the granddaughter of John Grainger, starting in season five.[11] Trampas, the Virginian, and Stacey all look out for her wellbeing. Elizabeth was cast as a teenaged girl enjoying her life on the frontier. She loved horses, riding the range, and going to the ever-present Saturday-night dances. Sara Lane left the series in season eight.

Clay Grainger[edit]

After the death of Charles Bickford, John McIntire was hired as his brother, Liz and Stacey’s great uncle. Clay had a wife, Holly (Jeanette Nolan), and was the ranch owner for seasons five[citation needed] through eight. McIntire had earlier taken over the lead role in Wagon Train upon the death of Ward Bond, assuming the role of the new wagonmaster. In season 9, The Virginian was revamped, and McIntire, along with Nolan, Lane, David Hartman, and Tim Matheson, left the show.

  • James Drury as the Virginian
  • Lee J. Cobb as Judge Garth
  • Lee J. Cobb and James Drury
  • Doug McClure as Trampas
  • Gary Clarke as Steve Hill
  • Roberta Shore as Betsy Garth
  • Charles Bickford as John Grainger
  • Stacey (Don Quine) and Elizabeth (Sara Lane) Grainger with their grandfather
  • Jeannette Nolan as Clay Grainger’s wife, Holly
  • Robert Redford and Patricia Blair, 1964 episode
  • James Drury and Billy Mumy
  • Victor Jory and Linden Chiles


Main article: List of The Virginian episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired

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