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James Drury (1934–2020), star of “The Virginian”

by Linnea Crowther

James Drury was an actor best known for starring as the nameless title character of TV’s “The Virginian” from 1962 to 1971.

TV and movie roles

Drury had early roles in movies including “The Tender Trap” (1955); “Forbidden Planet” (1956); and Elvis Presley’s (1935 – 1977) movie debut, “Love Me Tender” (1956). Before taking his most iconic role, he appeared on TV westerns including “Gunsmoke,” “The Rifleman,” “Rawhide,” and “Wagon Train.” “The Virginian” debuted in 1962, starring Drury as the laconic foreman of the Shiloh Ranch, fighting outlaws and keeping order on the ranch. Drury went on to star in the short-lived 1974 series “Firehouse,” as well as making later TV appearances on “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.”  He also appeared in films including “The Young Warriors” (1967) and the Kenny Rogers (1938 – 2020) TV movie “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw” (1991).

Drury on the lasting appeal of “The Virginian”

“It still holds up. The old westerns were morality plays that showed the triumph of good over evil, and I think that’s important for young people to see onscreen these days because it will inspire them to live their lives that way.” —from a 2019 interview with the Beaver County Times


What people said about him

Full obituary: The Hollywood Reporter

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