Doug McClure, the affable, good-looking sidekick Trampas who imprinted himself in the nation's memory riding the Western television range with "The Virginian" for eight years, has died. He was 59.
McClure, a native of Glendale who last appeared in the 1994 feature film "Maverick" as one of many Western gamblers, died Sunday night at his Sherman Oaks home after a months-long battle with lung cancer.
Last Dec. 16, McClure greeted the placing of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as "the incentive to get well." A memorial floral arrangement adorned the star Monday.
The boyish, blue-eyed, blond actor received a star on Newhall's Western Walk of Fame in 1988.
McClure recently had been working on a movie called "One West Waikiki," filmed in Hawaii. But on Jan. 8 he collapsed on the set and was flown to Los Angeles for hospitalization. At that time, doctors discovered that his cancer had spread.
McClure expressed pride in bridging two generations. Although his fame peaked with "The Virginian," co-starring James Drury, McClure continued to work. Younger viewers have seen him in the 1988 television comedy series "Out of This World" as well as in guest appearances on such shows as the 1977 classic "Roots," and with Drury on the 1991 Kenny Rogers miniseries "The Gambler Returns" and an ABC special titled "How the West Was Fun."
"I had this feeling everybody thought I was dead," McClure said in a 1988 interview. "I didn't quit. I did some films and theater in London. I went to New York. But I had been on television so much, people thought (if I wasn't on television) I wasn't around."
Although he had science fiction and other roles, the Western work came naturally to him. He started riding horses at the age of 8 and spent summers in Nevada, where he did some bronco-busting in rodeos.
McClure went to University High School in West Los Angeles. There he quarterbacked his football team, swam and competed in other sports to earn seven letters. A part in a high school play set him on the road to acting. He studied drama at Santa Monica City College and UCLA while working part-time as a model.
"Doug wasn't a driven actor," said longtime friend and Times writer Paul Dean. "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's comedic skills and talent for impersonation, which were rarely used by Hollywood, entertained Dean, Drury and other close friends, such as Burt Reynolds.
Fiercely competitive, McClure continued his sports interests throughout his life, playing tennis regularly on the pro-celebrity circuit. He continued playing beach volleyball and riding horses until a short time ago.
McClure's first acting job was in a syndicated series, "Men of Annapolis." After a few feature films, including "The Enemy Below," "Gidget" and "The Unforgiven," he was placed under contract by Universal. He began his string of series for television as William Bendix's sidekick in "The Overland Trail" and went on to the equally short-lived "Checkmate," a private-eye series set in San Francisco.
In 1962, he joined "The Virginian" and stayed until it ended eight years later. The series was highly praised for its 90-minute format, serious stories and fine guest stars.
But McClure credited its success to "just our love for it, our energy and our joy doing it. I always felt I had a great thing doing Trampas."
McClure continued into the series' one-season spinoff in 1972, "The Men From Shiloh."
In 1973 he appeared in another one-season spy series called "Search" and in 1975 another single-season series with William Shatner called "Barbary Coast."
Other films along the way included "Shenandoah," "Beau Geste," "Nobody's Perfect," "Backtrack" and "The Land That Time Forgot." He also appeared in "Cannonball Run II," "52 Pickup," "Omega Syndrome," "Dark Before Dawn" and "Tapeheads."
McClure is survived by his wife, Diane; two daughters from previous marriages, Tane and Valerie McClure; his mother, Clara, and a brother, Reed.