With no less than the presidential imprimatur of Theodore Roosevelt on the novel by his good friend Owen Wister, many consider The Virginian to be the first realistic western novel. Before that the rather discredited prose of people like Ned Buntline dominated the field and none of their 'literature' survives today.
This television series takes the basic characters of The Virginian, Trampas, Steve, and Molly Wood from the novel and makes them all friends. The guys are foreman and his two best buddies all working at Shiloh Ranch. They're played by James Drury, Doug McClure, and Gary Clarke. Pippa Scott plays Molly Wood, school teacher in the novel, but in the TV series newspaper editor of the Medicine Bow periodical. The Shiloh ranch is owned by Judge Garth who lives there with his daughter Roberta Shore.
That's how it started but regulars came and went. The Shiloh ranch changed hands first to John McIntire and his real life wife Jeanette Nolan. Later on it went to Stewart Granger and the series changed its name to Men Of Shiloh as the women regulars were all eliminated. And we never learned what The Virginian's real name was or his past as in the novel.
The Virginian had the distinction of being the first 90 minute series on television. It must have been grueling shoot, it's like shooting several feature films in a year. It also had some name guest stars like that other series from Revue Productions Wagon Train.
The Virginian ran for 9 seasons before NBC pulled the plug. But in that time it gave us good and memorable television western shows.
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