James Drury

Active - 1955 - 2000  |   Born - Jan 1, 1933   |   Genres - Western, Action, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of a New York University professor of marketing, American actor James Drury spent his youth dividing his time between Manhattan and Oregon, where his mother ran a ranch. At age 8, Drury made his stage debut as King Herod-- crepe beard and all--in a Christmas production at a Greenwich Village settlement house. Sidelined by polio at age 10, Drury became a voracious reader, often acting out the characters in the books. At NYU, Drury dove full-force into acting, developing his craft to such an extent that in 1954 he was signed by MGM. His film roles were of the "other guy in the room" calibre (Forbidden Planet [1956]), so Drury's contract lapsed, after which he spent time at 20th Century-Fox in support of Pat Boone (Bernardine [1957]) and Elvis Presley (Love Me Tender [1958]). In 1958, Drury was cast by Screen Gems studios in a TV pilot film based on the Owen Wister story The Virginian. It didn't sell, but in 1962 Universal optioned the rights to The Virginian, bringing Drury in along for the ride. He spent the next nine years in The Virginian, during which time Drury's reputation for recalcitrance on the set and reluctance to reveal anything of himself in interviews earned him the soubriquet "The Garbo of the Sagebrush" (a nickname bestowed by Drury's father!) James Drury wasn't seen much after The Virginian, though he did show up on the small screen as the lead in an Emergency clone titled Firehouse, which ran on the ABC network for eight months in 1974.

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