DECISION was a summer replacement series that ran during 1958. It featured one off episodes of various pilots that the networks hoped to run in the fall. They used this as a sounding board with the viewing public. This particular episode is a take on the novel, THE VIRGINIAN by Owen Wister. There had been four different film versions done before this, 1914, 1923, 1929 and 1946. The 1929 version with Gary Cooper is the most well-known.
In this take we have James Drury playing the title character. Drury is a former Confederate Officer who rode with J.E.B. Stuart's unit during the late war. He has taken a job out west on the Shiloh Ranch in Wyoming Territory. He arrives just after there has been 6 men murdered by a load of dynamite. The men had been working on a rail spur to the Shiloh ranch.
The owner of the ranch, Robert Burton, puts Drury right to work finding out who killed the men. Also in the mix here is owner's son, Steve Joyce, the ranch foreman, Andrew Duggan and the ranch cook, Jeanette Nolan.
Drury roots around poking his nose in where some, Duggan in particular, would rather he did not. It turns out Duggan runs a crooked card game and the owner's son, Joyce, is in deep to Duggan. He has even signed over his part of the ranch to Duggan. Joyce has been trying to earn enough cash so that he can go to medical school out east.
Drury soon puts the lad right about Duggan who has been using marked cards to cheat Joyce. They are then joined by Burton who it seems knew nothing about his boy's gambling. All hell soon breaks loose with guns yarded and lead flying. The owner, Burton collects a slug in the shoulder. Drury, who of course is quite handy with a pistol, cuts down Duggan and his men. Look close and you will see future "Bonanza" star, Dan Blocker as one of Duggan's thugs.
Burton decides to let the boy go to school and installs Drury as the new man in charge.
This one has that filmed, edited and ready to go inside a week look to it. The network then took their time deciding whether to put the series into production.
It would be 1962 before the series itself hit the airwaves. "The Virginian" was the first 90 minute western and was a huge hit. Drury would be the sole holdover from this episode. (Jeanette Nolan would join later in the run as a semi regular)
The series ran for 249 episodes between 1962 and 1971. It was, along with "Bonanza" and "Cheyenne" a staple at our house.
Worth a look if you are a fan of the series.
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