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Monday, February 6, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Doug Mcclure, Youthful-Looking Actor Who Played Cowboy Roles

AP

LOS ANGELES - Doug McClure, the blond, boyish cowboy star of the television shows "The Virginian," "The Overland Trail" and "The Men From Shiloh," died of cancer last night. He was 59.

McClure died at his suburban Sherman Oaks home with family and friends by his side, said McClure's friend and colleague, Dennis Morga.

After struggling a year with lung cancer, McClure appeared last Dec. 16 on Hollywood Boulevard for installation of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Getting the star helped him feel better, he told well-wishers, who included his "Virginian" co-star James Drury.

"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," shot in Hawaii.

But on Jan. 8, the actor collapsed from an apparent stroke on the "Waikiki" set and was flown to Los Angeles for hospitalization.

Doctors discovered the cancer had spread to his liver and bones, Morga said.

"Doug was one of the kindest people I have ever known, and a real gentleman," said Morga, who recently produced several marketing videos that McClure appeared in and directed. "He was a true professional - always prepared on the set and easy and fun to work with. I'll miss him very much."

Big break came in 1960

McClure's career took off in 1960 when he was cast as William Bendix's sidekick in the NBC series "The Overland Trail." The show lasted only a half-season, and he immediately started on "Checkmate," a private-eye series set in San Francisco.

In 1962, the actor joined the cast of "The Virginian," an ambitious, big-budget NBC project that was the first filmed series with 90-minute episodes. McClure played the role of Trampas, the villain in the Owen Wister novel and the three movie versions. Trampas was rehabilitated in the series as a happy-go-lucky young cowpoke.

McClure told an interviewer in 1962:

"I'm back where I want to be. I like doing outdoor shows. I'm out in the fresh air instead of being cooped up in a stage all day, and this show 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?"'

McClure fitted easily into the Western atmosphere. He had been riding horseback since the age of 8 in his hometown of Glendale, Calif. As a teenager he spent summers on a Nevada cattle ranch and was a bronco-buster in occasional rodeos.

A muscular 6 feet 1, he quarterbacked the football team at University High School in West Los Angeles, swam the 100 meters and played basketball guard.

A role in a high school play drew him to the acting profession, and he studied drama at Santa Monica City College and the University of California, Los Angeles, while modeling and doing TV commercials.

His first acting job came in a syndicated series, "Men of Annapolis." Movies followed: "The Enemy Below," "Gidget," "The Unforgiven."

Signed to a contract by Universal, McClure began his long career in TV series. During vacations he was cast in such movies as "Shenandoah," "Beau Geste," "Nobody's Perfect" and "Backtrack."

Played in spinoff after `The Virginian'

After eight successful years of "The Virginian," NBC introduced a spinoff, "The Men From Shiloh." It lasted one season. In 1972-73, McClure appeared in a high-tech spy series "Search." Meanwhile, he moved to the Central California resort town of Pebble Beach.

"I had this feeling everybody thought I was dead," he 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 I wasn't around."

McClure returned to TV series 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."

In 1988, McClure appeared in a syndicated comedy series, "Out of This World." He told an interviewer: "I've got a lovely wife, a cute house, I plan to get another in Carmel (Calif.) and I paint. If the networks decided to cast another Western, I'm ready."

In addition to his wife, Diane, McClure is survived by two children from previous marriages, Tane and Valerie McClure; his mother, Clara Clapp, and a brother, Reed.

Funeral services were pending.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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