James Drury, The Virginian And Forbidden Planet Actor Dies At 85

James Drury Dead Dies at 85

Actor and icon of the Western genre, James Drury, has died at the age of 85, from natural causes. News of The Virginian star's death was shared by his assistant, Karen Lindsey, who posted the following message to Drury's many fans on social media: "THE COWBOY took his last ride.It is with immense sadness that I let you all know that James Drury, our beloved Virginian and dear friend passed away this morning of natural causes, Monday, April 6, 2020. He will be missed so much. It is beyond words. Memorial service to be determined later. --Karen Lindsey, James Drury Assistant"

James Drury was born in NYC, in 1934. He was the son of a NYU professor of marketing, but also spent a lot of time on the Oregon farm his mother owned. His life took a turn when he caught polio at age ten, but he recovered and began professional acting at age 12. Drury went on to attend NYU for drama, finishing his studies at UCLA after landing roles in MGM Studios films, in 1954. He had several bit parts in MGM productions before working for 20th Century Fox in projects like Love Me Tender and Bernardine.

Throughout the late-50s/60s, Drury appeared in numerous TV roles in the Westerns genre, including Gunsmoke, The Texan, The Rifleman, Rawhid, Lawman, Cheyeene, and Wagon Train. However, his biggest and longest-running role was as the titular character of The Virginian, playing a tough foreman of the Shiloh Ranch. That series (a spinoff of a series called Decision) ran from 1962 - 1971 (and 249 episodes - third longest-running series in the genre), and the first 90-minute Western series to air on television. It solidified Drury's status of as a Western icon - and he even got to shine in the genre one last time in the '90s, appearing in cameo for shows like Walker Texas Ranger, and Brisco Country Jr., as well as Mel Gibson and Richard Donner's 1994 movie adaptation of Maverick.

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If it isn't clear by now: fans of Westerns have lost one of their biggest stars today. As Drury's assistant Karen Lindsey noted, the actor died from natural causes, that don't seem related to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

RIP James Drury - We offer our prayers and condolences to his friends and family in this trying time.