James Drury, taciturn star of 'The Virginian,' dies at 85

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, May 19, 2024

James Drury, taciturn star of 'The Virginian,' dies at 85
James Drury as The Virginian from the television program The Virginian, also known as The Men from Shiloh. Photo: NBC Television.

by Daniel E. Slotnik

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- James Drury, an actor best remembered as the stolid, black-hatted title character of the long-running NBC western “The Virginian,” died on Monday at his home in Houston. He was 85.

Karen Lindsey, his assistant, confirmed the death in an email but did not specify a cause.

Drury, who had iceberg-blue eyes and a no-nonsense mien befitting a frontier hero, appeared on television westerns like “Broken Arrow,” “Cheyenne” and “Wagon Train” before he landed the role on “The Virginian.” The show, which was loosely based on Owen Wister’s novel “The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains” (1902), began airing in 1962.

Drury’s character, the tough but fair foreman of the Shiloh Ranch in Wyoming, was never named, and little of his history was revealed. He tussled with cattle rustlers and other outlaws threatening the ranch until “The Virginian” was canceled in 1971, after 249 episodes.

Only two other television westerns, “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza,” lasted longer (“Gunsmoke” the longest).

“The Virginian’s” weekly episodes were, unusual for a primetime series, 90 minutes long, requiring a grueling shooting schedule that Drury, speaking to Cowboys & Indians magazine in 2016, compared to “making a movie a week.”

The show featured many stunts, including tricky riding sequences and fistfights, that Drury sometimes took part in himself rather than having a stuntman take his place.

This had its advantages, like allowing Drury’s face to appear in action shots, and its disadvantages, like risking injuries. In one choreographed fight, a stuntman threw an extra punch, “which was not in the script and hit me in the temple like a Missouri mule,” Drury said in an oral history interview. He spent the next several days of shooting trying to hide the golf ball-size lump on his head.

“The Virginian’s” cast, which rotated over the years, included Lee J. Cobb, Clu Gulager, Roberta Shore and Charles Bickford.

The show also featured a host of guest stars, like Bette Davis, Lee Marvin, Joan Crawford, Robert Redford, Leonard Nimoy and Harrison Ford. Drury and Doug McClure, who played the lighthearted cowhand Trampas, were the only actors to stay with the series for its entire run.

In 2018, Drury told the Oklahoma newspaper The Daily Ardmoreite that he was grateful for his years as the Virginian, even though the role defined the rest of his career.

“The Virginian was an indelible character,” he said. “I had a great deal of issues getting past being seen as the man in the black hat.”

James Child Drury Jr. was born on April 18, 1934, in New York City to James and Beatrice Drury. His father was a professor of marketing at New York University, and his mother’s family owned a ranch in Salem, Oregon.

He spent much of his childhood on the ranch, learning horseback riding, marksmanship and other skills that would prove useful to his career in westerns. He started acting in the theater when he was 8.

Drury attended New York University but left after signing a contract with MGM. He appeared in films like “Forbidden Planet” (1956); “Love Me Tender” (1956), Elvis Presley’s first feature film; and “Bernardine” (1957), Pat Boone’s first feature. He also appeared in movie westerns like Sam Peckinpah’s “Ride the High Country” (1962).

Drury’s first two marriages, to Cristall Orton and Phyllis Mitchell, ended in divorce. His third wife, Carl Ann Head, died in 2019.

He is survived by two sons, James and Timothy; a stepdaughter, Rhonda Brown; two stepsons, Frederick Drury and Gary Schero; four grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren.

After “The Virginian” went off the air, Drury starred on the television show “Firehouse” and appeared on shows like “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.” He was also a regular at western festivals around the country, where fans were still eager to meet the man in the black hat.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

Today's News

April 8, 2020

With museums empty, security experts hope thieves stay home, too

Lessons from the plagues, painted for Passover

Beatles Shea Stadium poster sets world record to lead Heritage Auctions' Entertainment Auction beyond $1.6 million

John Prine, revered American folk songwriter, dies of coronavirus complications

David Nolan Gallery presents "The State of Play," an exhibition of new works by Jorinde Voigt

Sergio Rossi, Italian shoemaker and ready-to-wear ally, dies at 84

Christie's announces Jewels Online Sale, features a broad selection of iconic designs by renowned jewelers

Leïla Menchari, who turned store windows into art, dies at 93

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's International Center for the Arts of the Americas launches expanded, enhanced website

Dr. Claudia Perren appointed as the new director of FNHW Academy of Art and Design in Basel

Excuse my French: Franglais rappers raise hackles in Quebec

James Drury, taciturn star of 'The Virginian,' dies at 85

New Head of Collections invites you to help document COVID-19 in the Evergreen State

Casula Powerhouse goes digital with free online programming

Harvard University Graduate School of Design shortlists three architects for 2020 Wheelwright Prize

The Museum of Neon Art announces the appointment of Corrie Siegel as Executive Director

Cranbrook names new Photography and Painting Artists-in-Residence

Italian tenor Bocelli to sing on Easter from empty Milan Cathedral

Phillips appoints Elie Massaoutis as Head of Design, France

World's top animation festival moves online over virus

Sam Fox School announces 2020 Stone & DeGuire Contemporary Art Awards

The Baltimore Museum of Art expands digital resources for art experiences at home

Daylight Books publishes 'Diane Durant: Stories'

Which Type Of Paint Is Best?

Why Oil Painting Is A Wonderful Hobby

Why You Should Buy Art Directly From The Artist

Useful Tips for Buying the Readymade Curtains

How To Get More Views On YouTube

What Is A Nebuliser?

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful