This week we received the news, actor and friend James Drury passed away peacefully in his home. He was 12 days shy of his 86th birthday. He joins his wife of forty years, Carlanne, who passed away last August. To the fans of vintage Westerns, this is a great loss, not completely unexpected, but a huge loss to all of us who grew up watching him gallop across our living room TVs.
The Virginian television show was much more than ‘a tv show’ — it was a feature movie but it appeared every single week! Each episode was 79 minutes and 20 seconds long and Mr. Drury appeared in all 249 episodes. Often multiple episodes were filmed at once. It took amazing skill as an actor to keep straight which lines to say on which set, much less figuring out which set he was on at the moment!
Actually, I could go on and on and on about The Virignian, the cast, the show, and of course, Jim Drury. But it would be a dis-service to our friend to not talk about all of his other work. (You can pick up any news feed and find out intimate information about The Virginian). His film career began in 1955 appearing in many popular tomes. In 1956 he played “Ray Reno” in Love Me Tender starring Elvis. Within five years, Drury was the star of his own show. That means he was better than good, he was excellent, a true pro. Throughout the 1960s and into 70s he worked steadily. He was star of the brief but good, “Firehouse” in 1974. In the late 70s and 80s, when Westerns were considered passe, he appeared only occasionally. He made a few appearances in the 1990s and his last was as Grandpa in Billy and the Bandit, with his old Virginian ranch hand ‘Steve’ (aka Gary Clarke) as the director (to be released).
To see what sort of man James Drury was, one need only read the comments on social media. He touched thousands of lives and was always humble. He never forgot the fans, he was always kind and friendly. Many a person’s life was enriched by the roles he played, and by the man he was. We can all strive to be the kind of person Drury exemplified.
Heaven is having one hell of a party now and in his memory we’ll hold a memorial at the 2020 Cowboy Way Jubilee. Join us. Share your comments and photos, or email them to us at Cowboywayfest@gmail.com to be included in the memorial service. The memorial for Mr. Drury @ the Jubilee will be Saturday, July 25th @ 7pm in Barracks 6 (Q&A area).
As an old cowboy always say, “Ride in the Light.”