Sunday, September 1, 2019

Upcoming: An Interview With 'The Virginian,' Part 2

This last Sunday, the Western Magazine Digest (WMD) published part one of An Interview with The Virginian, written by Christopher Robinson, a WMD author. Response to part one was very good, to say the least. Hundreds of avid western television fans flocked to the website to read the first installment of a two-part story the likes which is rarely told. Christopher Robinson did an exquisite job of capturing the bravado and unique style of The Virginian himself, James Drury.

In part 1, James Drury, The Virginian, provided insights into his varied acting career. This is a brief discussion of part 2 of An Interview with The Virginian, yet to be published on WMD on September 8th, 2019.

"I started out when I was eight years old in children theatres in New York City. My mother took me down at Christmastime to a place where they cast me in a Christmas play about King Herod and the Christ Child, and I played King Herod," says Drury. "But I didn’t want to get on stage. My mother just booted me onto the stage to start out. I got out and at the end of the thing, people clapped and I thought, ‘Well, if they’re gonna clap at something like this… I’d better find out more about it.’ So I started studying."

One of the things that surprised me when I read through the interview was that Drury had trained to be a versatile actor, and without any thought of working in western films. And yet, somehow, by some quirk of fate, he ended up on our television sets in what became one of the longest running westerns of its time: The Virginian.

This reminded me of the fact that so many of us ignore the obvious, often striving to attain those things that we don't have. In this case, Drury, who had a good deal of experience doing ranch work, hadn't thought much about acting in westerns, seeking out other venues for his acting aspirations.

"I wasn’t conscious of it, but I had been raised on a series of ranches in Oregon and had been around horses and stock all of my life and had my first horse when I was twelve. That horse taught me to ride, pretty much. Luckily, I had all that ammo in my briefcase. As far as the motion pictures go, I did one picture for MGM in that first year with Lana Turner called Diane," says Drury.

On The TV Western and Movie Fan Page on Facebook, member Chuck W. Johnson commented, "and not one costume leather hat....and maroon shirt...," and I have to admit, I had never thought about the lack of variety in the Virginian's attire. In part 2, the issue of wardrobe comes up and Drury briefly addresses it.

After the ninth year of The Virginian series, Drury was once again cast into another series called, if you'll recall, Firehouse, which I had all but forgotten and probably for the very reasons cited by Drury in his response to author Robinson's question.

Robinson asks, "Firehouse was a series that came later. Another active, rugged role. Were they typecasting you because of the Virginian role?"

Drury replies, "Well, they had to have a captain, a leader. It was a bad show. The writing was uninspired. The producers wanted three disasters in twenty-one minutes. So we’re doing a disaster and running to the next one and the next one… So that ‘family feel’ you talked about, where everybody’s working together, you don’t have that. You couldn’t see us. We had masks on for those compressed air tanks. We’re howling through the masks, 'Put out that fire!' You never got a sense of camaraderie or connection. Whereas a show like Chicago Fire, which is on now, those people are a family. You get to know each of them. They all have something to contribute. You never saw that on Firehouse. We were too busy putting out dumb fires."

That made me chuckle when I read it. In fact, the entire part 2 of James Drury's interview was very informative, interesting, and it filled in many gaps. If you haven't read part 1 yet, you should do that now, before part 2 comes out next Sunday, September 8th. To read it: click here. See you at the debut of part 2.

Al Colombo

Also, visit The Virginian Official Website!

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