The Virginian was kind of a mysterious guy which would suggest that the character would have been very memorable. However, the character that I remember from this show was Trampas, who was a cowhand played by the "oh, so cute" Doug McClure (maybe that's why I remember him)! But he was a series regular and always a part of the action in one way or another.
Background of the Show
"The Virginian" was a classic novel written in 1902 by Owen Wister, and was the basis for the TV show of the same name. In this book we were introduced to a strong, silent type of cowboy who was tough and dangerous, but also gallant. And we learned about the Code of the West, the ironclad rules of honor and conduct that the cowboy lived by. By the time The Virginian became a TV show, this code was the standard followed by all of our cowboy heroes.
"The Virginian" was also produced 3 times as a motion picture; the most well-known was the version that starred Gary Cooper and Walter Huston in 1929.
Here's a interesting sidelight to the original pilot.
All About the Show
The Virginian first aired in 1962 and ended in 1971. And here's an interesting fact - it was the first 90-minute Western series on TV! Actually it was more like a weekly movie feature.
There weren't any gimmicks to this show. It was one of the leading "adult Westerns" and relied mostly on its strong cast and guest stars to provide solid performances which they did very well for the 9 years that it was on TV.
James Drury played the part of The Virginian, who never revealed his real name! He was a mysterious fellow of few words who was always around forcing law and order on eveyone who needed it. The show was set in the Wyoming Territory in the 1890's.
All the action took place on or around the Shiloh Ranch which had various owners during the run of the show. But the guy who never changed was (yep, my favorite!) Trampas (played by Doug McClure) - the Shiloh's wild, young cowhand.
Only James Drury and Doug McClure were in the show all 9 years. Because of the nature of this Western drama, there was a long list of characters that changed over the years. These included -
Judge Henry Garth - played by Lee J. Cobb from 1962 - 1966
Steve - played by Gary Clarke from 1962 - 1964
Molly Wood - played by Pippa Scott from 1962 - 1963
Betsy Garth - played by Roberta Shore from 1962 - 1965
Randy Benton - played by Randy Boone from 1964 - 1966
Emmett Ryker - played by Clu Gulager from 1964 - 1966 & then again from 1967 - 1968
Belden - played by L.Q. Jones from 1964 - 1967
Jennifer Garth - played by Diane Roter from 1965 - 1966
John Grainger - played by Charles Bickford from 1966 - 1967
Stacy Grainger - played by Don Quine from 1966 - 1968
Elizabeth Grainger - played by Sara Lane from 1966 - 1970
Sheriff Mark Abbott - played by Ross Elliott from 1966 - 1970
Clay Grainger - played by John McIntire from 1967 - 1970
Holly Grainger - played by Jeanette Nolan from 1967 - 1970
David Sutton - played by David Hartman from 1968 - 1969
Jim Horn - played by Tim Matheson from 1969 - 1970
Col. Alan MacKenzie - played by Stewart Granger from 1970 - 1971
Roy Tate - played by Lee Majors from 1970 - 1971
Parker - played by John McLiam from 1970 - 1971