James Drury’s ‘Virginian’

Every Saturday, The Savvy Screener’s Boomer Box is counting down “The 50 Greatest Television Episodes of the 1960s,” in reverse chronological order, as researched and written by Todd M. Pence. (This series ran originally in the Classic 1960’s TV Facebook group.)

#29: The Virginian: ‘Felicity’s Spring’

[Editor’s note: You can watch “Felicity’s Spring” this Monday, July 12, at noon ET on Grit. For your local Grit channel number, either free over the air via an antenna or on cable/satellite, visit grittv.com/find-us.]

Source: Wikipedia

Few television westerns during the 1960’s were as ambitious as NBC’s The Virginian. Filmed in full color, and adopting a 90-minute format, the show essentially offered a full-length movie to viewers every week, with cinematic production values.

James Drury played the titular character, based on Owen Wister’s classic novel, a man who shared several attributes with Have Gun Will Travel’s Paladin, including an unshakable code of ethics and being known solely by his nom de plume.

On October 14, 1964, the series aired its masterpiece, an episode titled “Felicity’s Spring.” The Virginian falls in love with a local schoolteacher (played by Kathleen Crawford), unaware that she has a terminal illness. A storyline, which when written on paper tends toward the tritely maudlin, is here handled with the most perfect tenderness and sublimity. Drury himself cited the episode as a favorite, while jokingly recalling his inability to get along with co-star Crawford off-set! Mariette Hartley also plays a notable guest role as the sister of Crawford’s character.

(Top image: Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons, processed via Colorize)

About Todd M. Pence

Todd M Pence has been an amateur historian and scholar of American television for the past 35 years. “The 50 Greatest Television Episodes of the 1960” is the product of decades of research, not just in active viewing but in extensive combing of newspaper and magazine archives to read the original reviews of programs at the time they aired. He has also reached out to fellow television researchers to get their opinions. Pence maintains that the decade of the 1960's constituted the zenith of American primetime television drama, and that we will probably never see its like again. His purpose in compiling this list was to preserve this history and to spotlight many exceptional programs which have been forgotten and consigned to the dustbin of history. Pence holds a BA in Journalism from West Virginia University and has worked for the past 20 years in the Fairfax (Virginia) County Public School system

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