The Virginian

1962 | United States

Based on a 1901 Owen Wister novel of the same name, The Virginian was TV's first feature length Western series, running at 90 minutes per episode and previously told thrice on the big screen, the most notable being a 1929 production that kick-started the career of Gary Cooper. 

Set on the Shiloh Ranch in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, the stories centred around the ranch foreman known only as The Virginian (James Drury) and his impulsive young friend Trampas (Doug McClure), one of a supporting cast of ranch hands. Originally Judge Henry Garth owned the ranch, (Hollywood screen star Lee J. Cobb) before passing into the hands of brothers John and Clay Grainger (Charles Bickford and John McIntire, respectively). 

With the arrival of the next owner (Colonel Alan McKenzie-another big Hollywood name-Stewart Grainger), the series setting was moved on to the 1890's and the show was re-titled The Men From Shiloh. Many other top stars of the day passed through and these included George C Scott, Robert Redford, Bette Davis, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Lee Marvin and Ryan O'Neal. Even the production and writing teams were littered with famous names such as Sam Fuller, Ida Lupino and Glen A Larson. 

Trivia

Owen Wister's book was the first Western novel to be published, spurring a revolution in publishing that has not stopped to this day. The Western novel business has turned out more pages and earned more revenue than any other genre! 

"The Virginian" hotel in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, literally filled with antiques, was named after the novel in honour of Owen Wister. 

Published on February 11th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (Trivia: Scott deBeaubien of Denver, Colorado) for Television Heaven.

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