Monday, September 24, 2012


James Drury and Clu Gulager
On Saturday, September 22nd, eight series regulars, a handful of guest stars, and hundreds of fans from all over the country converged at the Autry Center in Griffith Park to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of one of the finest Western series of all time, THE VIRGINIAN.  It was a time not only to wax sentimental about the 249 episodes that ran from 1962 to 1971, but to celebrate their rebirth to a new audience!  Coinciding with the celebration, INSP Television was holding a VIRGINIAN marathon to mark both the anniversary, and the series’ return to the airwaves, as it will now be part of their SADDLEUP SATURDAY line-up, along with BONANZA, BIG VALLEY and starting just last week THE HIGH CHAPARRAL (I don’t know how my wife’s going to get me out of the house on Saturdays!).

THE VIRGINIAN was ground-breaking in many ways.  It was the first Western series to run 90 minutes, and in color.  It was, in effect, a new Western feature film every week, thirty or so per year, for nine years.  But it was also ground-breaking in less obvious ways.  While great actors had guest-starred on series like WAGON TRAIN, no western series ever before had, as a regular, an actor of the stature of Lee J. Cobb.  He’d created the role of Willy Loman in DEATH OF A SALESMAN; he’d been nominated for Oscars for ON THE WATERFRONT and THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV.   The other actors in the series were not only a much more than a cut above average, James Drury, Doug McClure and (in later seasons) Clu Gulager were real honest-to-gosh cowboys.   And the first producer of the series, Charles Marquis Warren, was the man behind the first seasons of GUNSMOKE and RAWHIDE; for quality, no other producer’s Western credits could match his.      

The day was divided into screenings, very up-close-and-personal autograph sessions, a wonderful panel discussion, and a chuck-wagon banquet.  I had the opportunity to sit and talk with a number of stars from the show.

Roberta Shore
First I spoke to Roberta Shore who, aside from shorter hair, looks very much as she did when she was Judge Garth’s daughter Betsy.  “I was on the first three seasons.”  Prior to that, she’d appeared on THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB, as Annette Funicello’s nemesis on the ‘Annette’ series-within-a-series, and as a French girl, opposite Tim Considine, in THE SHAGGY DOG.  I asked her what the transition from Disney to Universal Studios was like.

ROBERTA: Well, with Disney, it was with all the kids, the Mouseketeers, and it was a fun lot.  It was a different atmosphere, but they were both equally as fun. 

HENRY: Were you intimidated at all, working with Lee J. Cobb?

ROBERTA:  No, not at all.  Lee J. just put you right at ease – he was a real gem.  Very funny; dry wit.  I loved him.  He was great for me.

HENRY:  Did you have any particular guest stars you enjoyed working with?

ROBERTA: Vera Miles.  She was my favorite; my absolute favorite. 

HENRY:  What were your favorite episodes?  

ROBERTA:  Probably my favorite one was with Robert Redford.  That was a fun show.

Roberta, Jim Drury and Lee J. Cobb
HENRY: You did a lot of great television comedy – OZZIE AND HARRIET, FATHER KNOWS BEST, DONNA REED.  How was the tone of production different, going from a sitcom to a 90 minute color drama.

ROBERTA: Well, it was more tense.  I mean, you were on a pretty tight schedule.  Sometimes we’d be doing two shows at a time, so we’d go from stage to stage.

HENRY: How many days did you have to shoot a show?

ROBERTA: Normally a week.  And sometimes it would go into six days. 

HENRY:  Who were your favorite regulars?

ROBERTA:  I liked them all; Lee J. was my favorite, my absolute favorite, but we all got along.

Roberta Shore got married, in real life, and left the show in 1965.  Lee J. Cobb, playing Judge Garth, her father in the series, left the following year, and Shiloh was taken over by the Grainger family, led by Charles Bickford, with his grandson and granddaughter, played by Don Quine and Sara Lane.  I was fortunate to speak with both siblings.

Charles Bickford, Sara Lane, Don Quine
HENRY:  Prior to THE VIRGINIAN you were doing a lot of TV dramas like THE FUGITIVE, 12 O’CLOCK HIGH and PEYTON PLACE.  The only Western that I know you did prior was an episode of RAWHIDE.


DON QUINE: That is correct.


HENRY:  After all that modern-day drama, how did you feel about going into Westerns?


DON QUINE:  I had trepidations, quite honestly.  I had thought, ‘Well, it’s another western.’  And there were so many of them, and I didn’t know what was going to happen.  But the scripts were good, and the family dynamics worked really nice, Charles Bickford playing the grandfather, Sara over here was my sister.  So it worked out quite well.  It went on to be the most successful season they had in the show.  Their ratings had dropped down in the 4th season; then they brought the new family in.  Sent us out on a national tour, and we shot up to number eleven, and everyone was very pleased. 


HENRY:  Now Charles Bickford was one of my favorite actors, and a stern and scary guy onscreen.  What was he like offscreen?


DON QUINE:   (Laughs)  He was a pretty scary guy.  He was a very pragmatic man, incredible business man, suffered no fools.  What you saw was basically Charley Bickford. 


HENRY:  What about the other actors on the show?


DON QUINE:  Well, I probably spent the most time with Doug (McClure) than anybody else.

Me and Don Quine

HENRY: Was it difficult joining the show several seasons in, when everybody else had worked together for a long time?


DON QUINE:  Well no, because they got rid of everybody in the show but Jim and Doug. 


HENRY:  Did you have any particular favorite guest stars you worked with?


DON QUINE:  Yes I did; Aldo Ray, who was in a show called, I think, JACOB WAS A PLAIN MAN as a deaf mute.  He was wonderful; an outstanding performance.  Jo Van Fleet in a thing called LEGACY OF HATE.  Actually that was the first show that we did, and it set up the relationship with the family.  A lot of good shows. 


HENRY:  You never did another Western after THE VIRGINIAN.  Do you like Westerns?  Do you watch them on your own time?


DON QUINE:  I do; in fact, one of my favorite films of all time is UNFORGIVEN. 


HENRY:  The John Huston one or the Clint Eastwood one?


DON QUINE:  The Clint Eastwood one.  The Huston one was really good too, but I think the Clint Eastwood one is one of the great, great westerns.  Pretty gritty.


HENRY:  All through high school I had a poster of you over my bed.  You’re on the phone, saying, “I SAW WHAT YOU DID, AND I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!”  What was it like, doing that film for William Castle?


SARA LANE:  You know, it was wonderful.  This was the old days of Universal, and there was the Big Black Tower, where Wasserman was, and there were all these little bungalows in the back, and that’s where he was.  He was just a wonderful, wonderful person.  And funny, and so much personality.  I liked him very much.  Joan Crawford was in that, and John Ireland – it was quite a cast.  It was the first time that I’d really worked, and I was scared.  It was the first William Castle that didn’t have smoke-o-vision or whoopee cushions and all those things that he did.  And working with Joan Crawford was a kick; she was very generous to the young girls on the show.  We actually got to do a tour in New York, of the theatres, as a publicity thing when the movie came out.  And there were hundreds of people, and they would have it cordoned off, police with us.  And we would go up on the stage and introduce the show, before it started, then go back again.  And at one point, we had been running around, barefoot, on the bus.  And Joan said, “Get me some paper towels.”  And she made us sit down, and she washed our feet!  So that we could put our shoes back on, to go in the theatre.  Joan Crawford – pretty remarkable. 


HENRY:  When you joined the cast of THE VIRGINIAN you were about fifteen.


SARA:  Actually I was about seventeen, and I was playing sixteen or seventeen, because when you’re fifteen, they don’t let you have crushes on the outlaws. 


HENRY:  What was it like coming into a show that was that established?  Was it hard to become part of the family?


SARA:  You know, we had the best of both worlds, because it was established, so it knew what it was doing.  But we came in as a whole new family.  So it wasn’t one person coming in.  Although two beloved persons did leave, because Roberta and Danny were adored, by the people on the set, and by the fans.  But we came in as a little show within an already established show.  So we had the best. 


HENRY:  I always admired your wardrobe.  Who did your clothes on the show?


SARA: (scoffs) Who did my clothes!  Be serious!  We wore hand-me-downs, but luckily they were beautiful hand-me-downs.  (holding up a picture)  I was so proud of this; I thought this was the one outfit that they had made for me special, and Roberta said no, they had made it for her special.  I wore the clothes of anyone whose size was nearly mine.  I wore Doris Day’s clothes.  In the movies they would make whole new wardrobes.  For the TV shows we got to wear all those wonderful clothes.  So I’m not sure that I had anything made for me.  But I wore beautiful hand-me-downs.


HENRY:  What was Charles Bickford like off-camera? 


SARA:  You know he was gruff, very plain-spoken.  He wrote a book called BULLS, BALLS, BICYCLES AND ACTORS.  Very old-school conservative, and with a heart as big as the sky.  And so generous and gracious.  And he did not feel well; he was not well even in that last year, and I don’t know how old he was, but he was not a young man.  And he was just very kind to us, to both Don and me. 


HENRY:  Did you have any favorite guest stars?


SARA:  Oh, I loved working with Peter Duel; he was my favorite.  And Charles Bronson – that was so exciting to work with him.  I was such a fan of his.  Those were really fun experiences. 


HENRY:  And you were a rider prior to the show.


SARA:  Yes, I grew up with horses.  Mostly backyard horses in the beginning, then I actually got to show horses, which was really fun.  Then I worked in a summer camp, as a wrangler, and there’s nothing like that.  Gary (Clarke) was telling stories about herding horses, and horses are not easy to herd.  Because they move a lot faster than cows do, and they spook a lot faster. So we used to get up at five in the morning, go up to the camp, go into a huge pasture, bring all the horses in, saddle ‘em up, get them ready,  and take rides out all day long.  And we’d always get the dangerous ones, because you couldn’t put the campers on them.  So I learned most of what I knew about horses that summer. 

Sara Lane
HENRY:  What have you been doing since you left THE VIRGINIAN?


SARA:  (My husband and I) had a winery in Napa for twenty-three years, called Haven’s Wine Cellars, and it was a good winery, but we sold it about seven years ago.  The work that I’m proudest of after THE VIRGINIAN is that I used to work in mental health, with an alternative agency, with schizophrenic street-women, the ones they call shopping-cart ladies.  Opened a day center and a shelter on Santa Monica Pier.  It’s funny how everything you do in your life contributes to the next thing you’re going to do.  The discipline you learn in a TV series – if you’re late on the set it’s like a couple thousand; maybe a hundred thousand dollars it’s going to cost someone. 

In next week’s Round-up, I’ll continue with more VIRGINIAN interviews, highlights of the panel discussion, and my conversation with INSP’s Senior Vice President of Programming SVP Doug Butts.  Special thanks to INSP's Melissa Prince, who provided nearly all of the pictures from Saturday's event.


Although his identity has not been revealed, Disney confirmed that on Friday, a member of the LONE RANGER crew died.  The Disney Company issued the following statement: “We regretfully confirm that a Lone Ranger crew member has passed away after being taken to a local hospital. Our hearts and thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues at this time, and our full support is behind the investigation into the circumstances of this terrible event.”

There are still few details, but it is known that the death occurred not during filming but in preparation for filming an underwater scene.  Working on a ranch in Palmdale, a crew member wearing scuba gear was working to clean a deep pool.  According to the New York Daily News, a fellow crew member noticed that bubbles were no longer rising from the water, the man was hauled up, but it was too late to save him.



Pastor Mike heridan, 3rd from left

Pastor Mike Sheridan will be holding his last Cowboy Church of the summer at 6:30 pm on Friday, September 28th.  It takes place at the Sheridan Ranch, which is located in a beautiful valley just behind the iconic Western location, the Vasquez Rocks.  The services are next to the riding arena and adjacent to the barn and the horse stalls on each side of the arena.  Lise Meyers, who has attended frequently, tells me, “There are more than enough chairs, a nice stage with lights for the evening and plentiful stars in the sky, unobstructed by the city lights. I could sit there for hours and look at the night sky.

“The format of the cowboy church is potluck dinner, some cowboy music (and sometimes poetry), a short message (usually 5-10 min), more music and/or poetry). It usually last about 1 1/2 hours or so.  The best one ever was when there were thunderstorms in the distance and Pastor Mike was making a great point, accentuated by loud peals of thunder and a couple of good lightning bolts.”


 Directions from points south of Agua Dulce; take the 5 or the 405 to the 5 to the 14 Freeway (Antelope Valley Freeway) and exit at Escondido Canyon Rd (next exit past Agua Dulce Canyon Rd.). Turn left at the top of the offramp, and turn on Old Stage Road, which will be the first left with a street sign (you will drive through one cut hill, and Old Stage Rd. is just after that on the left). Turn left and follow the road until you see a large Mediterranean-style house with white ranch fencing behind it. The road will curve around the back of this house, which shares a driveway with the Sheridan's. Enter the driveway and follow the signs. Address is 9424 Old Stage Rd., Agua Dulce, CA

Call 661 268-8863 for further information.





In 1884 novelist Helen Hunt Jackson, eager to draw attention to the plight of California Indians in the same way that Harriet Beecher Stowe exposed the evils of slavery with UNCLE TOM’S CABIN, wrote RAMONA.  It was a publishing phenomenon, and although it may not have had as large a political effect as the author had hoped, the romance of Ramona and Allesandro continues to find new fans to this day. Though a work of fiction, Jackson set her story at the very real Rancho Camulos, which was established in 1853 by Ygnacio de Valle.  Its 1,800 acres were carved from the enormous 48,612 acre Rancho San Francisco, granted to de Valle’s father Antonio, administrator and foreman of Mission San Fernando. 


Located in Piru, Rancho Camulos, named for the Kamulos Indians, is world famous as The Home of Ramona, and has been a pilgrimage site for fans of the novel for more than a century.  And this Saturday, September 29th, the myth and history of RAMONA will come to life as Rancho Camulos Museum hosts the 5th Annual Ramona Days.  The event runs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and highlights include three performances of scenes from the RAMONA PAGEANT, which has been presented every summer in Hemet since 1923, with the core cast from the current production.  The performances are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. 


RAMONA has been filmed at least four times, memorably in 1936, with Henry King directing Loretta Young and Don Ameche in the leads, and Technicolor at its most glorious.  But the first film version was made in 1910, on the actual locations at Rancho Camulos, directed by the great D.W. Griffith and starring Mary Pickford and Henry Walthall, and with a supporting cast that includes future king of comedy Mack Sennett.  Though a scant 17 minutes in length, it’s a beautiful and moving film that tells the heart of the story of RAMONA -- and you can watch it where it was actually shot!

Henry Walthall and Mary Pickford

You can also view unique memorabilia and historic displays, experience living history and attend presentations by Ramona experts such as ‘Ramona Memories’ author Dydia DeLyser, Phil Brigandi, and film maker Hugh Munro Neely.

Linda "La Matadora" Andrade and her performers will demonstrate the art of Flamenco. There will be food, music, art and craft sales and demonstrations, original artwork by local artists, used book sales, wagon rides, museum and garden tours, free children’s activities and more. Visitors are encouraged to come in costume and character for a fun experience.


Tickets are $5 in advance, $10 at the gate, and you can learn more about the event, and even read the entire text of the novel, by visiting the Museum’s website HERE.




At a time when many communities are cutting back library hours or shuttering branches entirely, Old Town Newhall, neighbor to William S. Hart Park and Melody Ranch, is celebrating the grand opening of their beautiful, huge facility on! Festivities begin at 10 a.m. with a literacy-themed street faire, and then Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies begin at 10:30 a.m.! 

There will be book-signings from 10 to 3. Western history and fiction writers taking part include Julie Ann Ream; DEADWOOD regular Geri Jewell; THE WESTERNERS author C. Courtney Joyner; and GUNSMOKE: AN AMERICAN INSTITUTION author Ben Costello – both excellent reads.

24500 Main Street, Santa Clarita, CA 91321.  661-259-0750.



Did you know the part of Sister Sara was originally written for Elizabeth Taylor, but by the time they had it set, there were schedule conflicts?  This is a delightful picture, a solid Western and romance and comedy.  Directed by Don Siegal from Budd Boeticcher’ s screenplay, and with a wonderfully funny score by Ennio Morricone.  It stars Clint Eastwood and Shirley McLaine, starts at 7:30, costs $11, but with a special $5 geezer-rate.   

Well, that's it for this week's Round-up!  Next week, more on the VIRGINIAN 50th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!
Happy Trails,
All Original Contents Copyright September 2012 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved  




  1. Henry- That was a great day at the Autry!
    Good stories and good laughs and a cool bottle of Gene Autry Root Beer.
    Thanks for keeping us up to date on these not to miss events. That's livin'!

  2. Thanks, Henry!
    You are 'TOPS' in reporting the best news around!
    Been meaning to let you know just how much I enjoyed your contribution to my 'Read'Em Cowboy'event in July.
    Sorry I missed the Virginian event at the Autry, heard it was great; but was away at another show honoring the Veterans in Indiana.
    Hope to see you at the Old Town Newhall Library event this Saturday.
    Love You!,

  3. I was so sorry to miss it - Maxine Hansen of the Autry Entertainment and Boyd Magers were guests on "Around the Barn" sharing the plans for the day and I had every intention of going. The "19th Annual Hart of the West POWWOW" down the street from OutWest here in Newhall kept me away. What a great time was had by all!