The quintessential cowboy, for many who grew up in the ’60s, no one could epitomize the all-action life of a cowboy better than James Drury. Famously known as the “True Virginian,” following his outstanding title role in America’s first 90-minute Western Television series, “The Virginian,” which aired on NBC for almost a decade starting in 1962, the talented actor had a great spell in the film industry up until he retired from professional acting. This got him inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in the United States of America.
Details of James Drury Early Life and Education
Born James Child Drury on April 18, 1934, in New York City, he is the only known child of Beatrice Crawford Drury and James Child Drury Sr. Despite being born in New York, Drury spent part of his growing up years in his family’s ranch in Oregon. James’ mum and his maternal grandfather ran the ranch. He and his family moved there when he was just 6 weeks old. This goes a long way to explain his love for horses and outdoor life. Before the early teens, he was already adept at marksmanship and horseback riding, most of which will come in handy during his acting career.
His family shuttled between New York City and Oregon frequently during his childhood days. He enrolled at New York University, where his father, James Sr, was a marketing professor to study drama. He completed his degree at the prestigious University of California after taking extra courses. It is said that James Drury began his acting career at a tender age of eight, going on to make his professional debut at the age of 12, as he acted in a road company’s production of Life with Father.
Highlights of His Acting Career
As someone who’d graduated from college with a major in Drama, there was only one career path for him. He loved the stage life and was bent on pursuing his passion. In 1954, he signed a film contract with Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) to appear in bit parts in films. Afterward, he went to 20th Century Fox, making appearances in “Love Me Tender” in 1956 and “Bernardine” the year after that.
He has been a part of other TV series like “The Rebel,“ “Death Valley Days,” “Private Detective,” and “Richard Diamond.” That’s not all, the actor played various roles in Walt Disney productions, and later played Billy Hammond in the 1962 Western film directed by Sam Peckinpah, “Ride the High Country.” What followed next was his big break as The Virginian on NBC’s American Western television series, The Virginian. This role will go on to change his life. With iceberg-blue eyes and a no-nonsense disposition, he took to this role like fish to water.
Anyone familiar with action movies would know most of the extreme combat scenes were played with the help of a stuntman. On the set of The Virginian, the directors required that Drury participates in most of the fistfights, rather than a stuntman. While this made the scenes more believable, it came with its downsides. On one occasion during a sequenced choreographed fight, the stuntman threw an extra punch that wasn’t in the original plot, James Drury was unprepared, and thus, had to shoot for many days with a lump in his head.
Amazingly, he pulled this off with most viewers been aware of the inconvenience he was going through in those episodes. In his later years, he’d reveal that his maternal grandfather, an Oregon dirt farmer, and rancher John Hezekiah Crawford was the inspiration behind his character and acting style in The Virginian. His performance in The Virginian was so good that it took a while for him to shake off the image of the man in the black hat wherever he went.
His career gradually slowed down in the ’70s. During that period, he appeared in The Men from Shiloh, which ran on NBC between 1970 and 1971, and in the 1974 ABC television drama series Firehouse, where he played Captain Spike Ryerson. James Drury made an appearance in the pilot season of Walker, Texas Ranger as Texas Ranger Captain Tom Price. Though a commercial success, he never appeared long enough to reenact the magic of the iconic cowboy in The Virginian
How Much Did He Make From Acting?
The American born actor has an estimated net worth of over $1 million. The source of his wealth is mainly attributed to his acting career, which spanned decades and other business ventures. Drury also went into the oil and gas business in Houston, Texas, almost at the end of his acting career, but the returns from this venture remain unknown and do not form a part of the estimated net worth.
Facts About James Drury’s Marriages And Children
Drury was married three times in his lifetime. His first marriage, which produced his only known two children was with Cristall Orton. The duo got hitched on February 7th, 1957, and the marriage lasted for only 7 years before they went their separate ways. As usual with other celebrities in the entertainment industry, Drury’s personal life has come under scrutiny following his many relationships and failed marriages. The celebrated actor has been in several relationships, most of which weren’t made public while some came under public view.
A few years down the line, in 1968, he tied the nuptial knot with Phyllis Jacqueline Mitchel. However, after being together for ten years, their marriage ended on January 30th, 1979. James would later get married to a lady named Mary Ann, the same year he ended his marriage to Phyllis. The marriage happened on July 30th, 1979, and they have been together ever since.
One of his children with his first wife, Timothy Drury, is a known instrumentalist, and he has featured alongside top acts. Altogether James Drury has two sons, James and Timothy; one stepdaughter, Rhonda Brown; two stepsons, Frederick Drury and Gary Schero; four grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren.
Drury’s Death and Legacy
James Drury passed away on the 6th of April, 2020, eight months after the death of his wife Carl Ann. James is said to have died of natural causes at the age of 85. Having been inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, James’ iconic performances in The Virginian loomed large over the Cowboy culture of the south and inspired many young actors of that generation.