Doug McClure, Boyish Western Actor, Dead at 59
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Doug McClure, who rode his way from teen-age bronco busting to starring roles in such small-screen westerns as ``The Virginian,″ ``The Overland Trail″ and ``The Men From Shiloh″ has died. He was 59.
McClure died of cancer Sunday night at his suburban Sherman Oaks home, said McClure’s friend and colleague, Dennis Morga.
McClure began riding horses at age 8. As a teen-ager, he spent summers on a Nevada cattle ranch, where he was a bronco-buster in occasional rodeos. So his role as Trampas in ``The Virginian″ came as a natural.
``I’m back where I want to be,″ he told an interviewer in 1962. ``I like doing outdoor shows. I’m out in the fresh air instead of being cooped up in a stage all day.″
The blond, boyish actor joined the cast of ``The Virginian″ that year after making his name as William Bendix’s sidekick in the short-lived NBC series ``The Overland Trail″ in 1960, and appearing in ``Checkmate,″ a private-eye series set in San Francisco.
``The Virginian,″ McClure said, ``gives you a chance to get a little color in the characterization. In a detective show, most of the dialogue is along the lines of `Where were you on the night of Jan. 12?‴
``The Virginian″ was an ambitious, big-budget NBC project, the first filmed series with 90-minute episodes. McClure played the role of the villain from the Owen Wister novel and the three movie versions. Trampas was rehabilitated in the series as a happy-go-lucky young cowpoke.
``Virginian″ co-star James Drury was on hand last Dec. 16, when McClure received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star helped him feel better after fighting lung cancer for a year, he said.
``It gave me the incentive to get well, and I am well,″ he declared.
McClure continued acting in an episode of TV’s ``Kung Fu″ in Toronto and with a theatrical film called ``One West Waikiki.″ But on Jan. 8, he collapsed from an apparent stroke on the set in Hawaii, and doctors discovered the cancer had spread.
A muscular 6-foot-1 who quarterbacked his high school football team, McClure studied drama at Santa Monica City College and the University of California, Los Angeles, modeling and doing TV commercials on the side.
His first acting job came in a syndicated series, ``Men of Annapolis.″ Movies followed: ``The Enemy Below,″ ``Gidget,″ ``The Unforgiven.″
Signed by Universal, McClure began his long career in TV. During vacations he appeared in such movies as ``Shenandoah,″ ``Beau Geste,″ ``Nobody’s Perfect″ and ``Backtrack.″
In 1972-73, McClure appeared in a high-tech spy series ``Search,″ then he went to London and did some theater. He returned to TV in 1975 for the one-season Western ``Barbary Coast,″ co-starring with William Shatner.
He continued making guest appearances on TV, notably in the 1977 classic ``Roots.″ His other film credits include ``Cannonball Run II,″ ``52 Pickup,″ ``Omega Syndrome,″ ``Dark Before Dawn,″ ``Tapeheads.″
Survivors include his wife, Diane, children Tane and Valerie McClure; his mother, Clara Clapp, and a brother, Reed. Funeral services were pending.