The 50s and 60s really gave us some of the best western TV shows ever made — Bonanza, Rawhide, The Lone Ranger, the list could go on and on. We're especially fans of the classic NBC series The Virginian, based on the novel The Virginian: Horseman of the Plains by Owen Wister. While we all love the show's lead character played by James Drury, we're partial to Trampas. Actor Doug McClure made the character incredibly memorable, adding some humor and edge to balance out the others at Shiloh Ranch. McClure became a household name playing the good-looking cowboy for 8 years on the beloved western series, so it makes sense that it's the role he's best remembered for.
Douglas Osborne McClure grew up in Glendale, California (a suburb of Los Angeles). He was a major athlete in high school and was even the quarterback of his football team. But a role in a school play gave him the acting bug so he decided to attend Santa Monica City College and UCLA to study drama. He kicked his career off in Hollywood with roles on the TV shows Death Valley Days and Maverick, as well as appearing in the Sandra Dee film Gidget. He went on to star as Jed Sills on the CBS series Checkmate before landing the role of Trampas on The Virginian.
The creators of the western TV series decided to completely change the character of Trampas from how he was depicted in the original novel. Owen Wister had written the character as a villain who ends up getting killed by The Virginian. But producers decided to make him a rowdy ranch hand who's not only fun to watch, but actually has deeper character development than the one-note version in the book. As a result, he became a fan favorite who stayed on the series until it ended.
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According to the Los Angeles Times, McClure always felt he had something special playing the role of Trampas. He even appeared in the show's one-season spinoff, The Men From Shiloh.
McClure said the television series was successful because of "just our love for it, our energy and our joy doing it. I always felt I had a great thing doing Trampas."
Over the years, McClure developed a length filmography, appearing in numerous films including Shenandoah, The Unforgiven, At the Earth's Core, The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, Beau Geste, South Pacific, Backtrack, The Enemy Below, Because They're Young, Firebird 2015 A.D., Cannonball Run II, and 52 Pick-Up. He also continued appearing on television in numerous popular shows — Overland Trail, The Barbary Coast, In the Heat of the Night, Matlock, Magnum, P.I., Out of This World, The Birdmen, and more. Despite a long career, friends described him as carefree, just focused on enjoying his life.
"Doug wasn't a driven actor," longtime friend Paul Dean told the Los Angeles Times. "He saw it as a job that paid well, came easily and allowed him maximum time for the really important things in life—the beach, volleyball, surfing, working out, all sports, enjoying the California where he was born and tennis anywhere, with anyone, at the drop of a racquet."
McClure passed away in Sherman Oaks in 1995 after suffering from lung cancer. He was survived by his fifth wife Diane as well as his two daughters — Tané and Valerie. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well as a star on Newhall's Western Walk of Fame.
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