CTVA - The Virginian 6.08 [157] "Bitter Autumn" 1-Nov-1967

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6.08 [157]
"Bitter Autumn"

NBC Broadcast - 1 November 1967

Universal City Studios, Inc.
Executive Producer Norman Macdonnell
Produced by Joel Rogosin
Teleplay by David & Andy Lewis / Story by Ken Finley
Directed by Don McDougall

(shown on the ride-in)
Charles Bickford as John Grainger (not in this episode)
(*note:  Bickford was gravely ill.  He died 9Nov67 but remained on the
ride-in up to and including episode 6.16)
Doug McClure as Trampas
Clu Gulager as Emmett Ryker
Don Quine as Stacey Grainger (not in this episode)
Sara Lane as Elizabeth Grainger
James Drury as The Virginian

Special Guest Star
John McIntire [Clay Grainger] (first appearance)
Guest Stars
John Anderson [Sam McLain]
Richard X. Slattery [Kyle Jackson]
Jeanette Nolan [Holly Grainger] (first appearance)
Steve Carlson [Willy Jackson]

Full ending credits:
Virginia Gregg as Hattie McLain
And Introducing Shelly Novack as Stone
Craig Hundley  . . .  Johnny McLain
Dabbs Greer  . . .  Harger
John Bryant  . . .  Dr. Spalding (most usually credited as Spaulding)
Russell Thorson  . . .  The Judge (Mr. Thorson had portrayed recurring
character Sheriff Evans in several episodes during the first season)
Tol Avery  . . .  Prosecuting Attorney
Austin Green  . . .  Defense Attorney
Associate Producer David Levinson
Music Score Ralph Ferraro
Theme Percy Faith
Director of Photography Walter Strenge, A.S.C.
Art Director  . . .  John T. McCormack
Film Editor  . . .  Richard G. Wray, A.C.E.
Unit Manager  . . .  Ben Bishop
Assistant Director  . . .  Kenny Williams
Set Decorators  . . .  John McCarthy
                                James M. Walters, Sr.
Sound  . . .  Frank H. Wilkinson
Color Coordinator  . . .  Robert Brower
Editorial Supervision  . . .  Richard Belding
Musical Supervision  . . .  Stanley Wilson
Costume Supervision  . . .  Vincent Dee
Makeup  . . .  Bud Westmore
Hair Stylist  . . .  Larry Germain
The Title "THE VIRGINIAN" by permission of EMKA, LTD.

Series regular characters appearing in this episode:  John and Holly
Grainger (first appearance), Elizabeth Grainger, the Virginian, Ryker (as
Deputy), Trampas, and Dr. Spaulding

This episode introduces John McIntire to the regular cast as John Grainger's
brother Clay and Jeanette Nolan as Clay's wife Holly (McIntire and Nolan
were also husband and wife in "real life").

With John away on business his brother Clay (McIntire) waits at Shiloh for
Kyle Jackson (Slattery) to arrive with his  herd of cattle from Texas.
Instead of the 400 head Clay had consigned Jackson is making a gamble to bring twice
that amount to Wyoming hoping to cash in on the "deal of a lifetime" by selling
the others to another stock buyer so he can get enough money to purchase a
piece of land back in Texas, but Trampas suspects the animals might be infected with
blackleg fever.  Clay is also expecting his friends the McLains to make one
of their biannual horse selling trips to the ranch.  Sam McLain (Anderson) had been a
famous lawman in Texas but gave up his job to move his wife and son to what
he deemed to be a safer environment in Wyoming.  With the "single-minded" Sam intent on
training another colt Hattie (Gregg) and Johnny (Hundley) bring the horses
to Shiloh on their way to Medicine Bow.  After supper with the
Graingers Hattie tells the disbelieving Jackson, who'd just been told about the
possibility of disease in his herd, bad luck had happened to him he had no
way to expect but she's known Clay for a long time and knows he can be
trusted to help because he cares about people.  Holly
Grainger (Nolan) wants Hattie to extend her visit and spend the night.
Hattie, however, has shopping to do in town and is anxious to get back to
the husband she loves.  Besides, she had promised Johnny they'd sleep in a
real hotel room that night.  In Medicine Bow Kyle's brothers, unaware of his
predicament, are enjoying an after-the-drive celebration in the saloon when
Harger (Greer), a disgruntled storekeeper, brings Ryker in, accusing the
boys of being trouble makers and demanding they pay for a broken window.
The drunken Stone (Novack) and Willy (Carlson) promise to make good after
they sell their cattle then leave the bar.  While out in the street they decide to
do some target practicing.  As Willy shoots at a hitching post Johnny and
his mother arrive in town.  The bullet ricochets, and Hattie is mortally
wounded.  Ryker notifies the Graingers about their friend's grave condition,
and Clay rides to fetch Sam while Holly goes to town to be with the dying
woman.  Hattie asks Holly to keep Johnny at Shiloh until his
father comes for him.  "Bad luck hit all over all at once," and Hattie dies
before Sam can get to her side.  Clay invites the numbed man to come out to
the ranch but instead Sam sits across from the sheriff's office, not even
attending Hattie's funeral, vowing to stay there until after the trial--his
mind now set on seeing "justice" done to his wife's killer.  Ryker
releases Stone from jail because Kyle has enough problems without being
shorthanded but keeps Willy in custody.  The cattle are quarantined pending
results of tests for disease, and Harger tells Clay some of the people in
Medicine Bow blame him for all the ill that's occurred.  Stone encourages
Kyle to ignore the quarantine and ask the other stock buyer to take the
whole herd because, although Clay has promised to buy the cows that escape
infection, the Jacksons are having to "pay" two of their head for every
wagon load of hay brought out from Shiloh to feed the isolated animals.
Clay and some of the Shiloh hands arrive when the Jacksons are cutting the fence, and when Kyle
tells him the other buyer doesn't care if the cattle might be diseased Clay
reminds him that some of the sick steers could get loose on the way to the loading pens and
infect the neighboring ranchers' herds--"Things have happened that none of
us looked for.  Accidents, we can't help that, but deliberate injustice from
people to people..."  Angrily Kyle tells him he was just trying to get his
cattle away from the area and whatever happens now is "on" Clay.  Clay is in
a quandary feeling it is his fault that one of his oldest friends is waiting
to destroy another man as well as himself and his young son.  He also feels
responsible for bringing in cattle that my spread blackleg fever and now, after
reviewing the hay requirements for winter, he has to tell Jackson he can no
longer supply feed for the quarantined herd.  As Liz looks forward to the
return of her Grandfather and Stacey Holly tries to assure her by that time
things should be back to normal:  "Life has a way of moving us along like a
tree branch in a river.  Sometimes it gets caught in a whirlpool but then
breaks through and life goes on."  Days pass and Johnny still waits for Sam.
The disappointed boy tells Trampas his father must have only loved his
mother and doesn't care for him or else he would have come by now.  The
verdict at the trial is that Hattie's death had been an accident, and Willy
is sentenced to only three months in prison.  Fearing that McLain will try
to avenge his wife's death, Ryker takes Willy out to Shiloh hoping to
safely transfer him to the other authorities the next day.  The test results
come back, and the Virginian brings the bad news that the herd is indeed
infected with blackleg fever.  Discouraged because they'd driven their
cattle so far just to "give them away" Kyle decides not to wait out the month
to see which, if any, of the animals will live and determines to turn them
loose then break Willy out of jail.  While the Shiloh cowboys are on the
range trying to round up the steers Ryker brings Willy to the ranch.  Kyle
and Stone, finding an empty jail cell, threatens Harger to tell them the
whereabouts of their brother.  Harger only knows he'd seen Ryker and Willy
riding North.  As Clay is putting Willy in a backroom the other Jacksons
show up demanding he release their brother.  Kyle argues the loose cattle
are no longer his responsibility because, having had to "barter" them away
for feed and supplies, he doesn't feel he has any steers left which
rightfully belong to him anyway.  All he does have left is Willy, and he
and Stone are going to take him home with them.  But Willy, distraught over
having killed a woman and ready to face the punishment for his negligence,
refuses to go with them.  At this time McLain shows up intent on killing the
young man.  Stone draws his pistol on McLain, but the ex-marshal beats him
to the shot.  Clay asks Sam if it would repair everything to gun down Willy
and says, "Hattie died.  You wrapped yourself in anger too hurt to cry" and
now would do anything to feed that anger, even at the sacrifice of his own
son.  Getting no response from his stoic friend Clay agrees for Sam to "do
what you have to do" and goes back inside the house.  Willy is readying
himself for a showdown, but Clay sends Johnny out to his father instead.
When his son comes down the stairs McLain is finally able to cry as he hugs
his boy saying, "I didn't know how to tell you, but there was an accident
and your mother is dead."  Later at the cemetery Sam, who's now able to
accept Hattie's death, asks Clay about the
Jacksons.  Clay comments that Kyle and his men were headed
back home and that he had taken over the sick herd, planning to pay the
Texans for any cattle that survived--it wouldn't be much, but maybe there would be
enough for the Jacksons to start again.  McLain, with Johnny in tow, agrees "I guess
that's the way, isn't it.  Start again."

Note:  Since Charles Bickford was ill during the time of filming, this
script was possibly originally written to have featured his character John
Grainger with a few hurried changes made here and there as Clay and Holly were
substituted.  I base this thought on having an early draft of the script to
episode 6.11 "To Bear Witness" in which John was to have a small part (later
revised for Clay and Holly) and 6.02 "The Deadly Past" in which Trampas replaced John in
the starring role. I also feel this was the case because there was no "formal
introduction" to the new characters as had been done when Morgan Starr
temporarily took over management of Shiloh or John and his
grandchildren became its second owners.  Because this couple was just
"there" without explanation I was left with several unanswered questions:
From what was said I was certain they originally came from Texas, but when?
They were good friends with the McLain family who had also come from Texas,
having known them for years, but it seemed they had also been around these
people for awhile in Wyoming.  So where had Clay been during this time and
why had John never mention him?  Why, all of a sudden, was Clay at Shiloh to
accept the herd, and why had he apparently made the deal to buy Texas cattle
for the ranch in the first place? Bickford's absence was (at least
temporarily) explained as John and Stacey being in Denver on
business.  It would seem to make more sense then for John to have consigned
the herd and Clay to have come to receive it during his brother's time away.
But then, of course, the moral dilemma Clay faced, which was a major factor in
the story, would have been lacking.  Although the "when bad things happen to
good people" theme was well written and McIntire's and Nolan's premier performances
of the caring, responsible people we would better come to know during the
rest of the series was convincing I was left with the uneasy feeling that
something was amiss at Shiloh.  It would have been nice if this couple
could have had an episode devoted to their arrival, but with filming
deadlines to meet there possibly wasn't time to put together this kind of
story and revising a few which had already been submitted was more
feasible.  It's easy for me to be a critic and wonder why someone didn't at
least rewrite the beginning to have Clay and Holly, perhaps enticed by John
to join him in Wyoming, arrive at Shilo after having made the cattle deal
for John while they still lived in Texas.
A brief scene like this with Liz running
out to greet them, asking about their trip, and telling them how happy she
was they had come could have been enough of an introduction to these
wonderful characters and given viewers a sense that they indeed belonged in
decision making roles on the ranch.  But, in their defense, for writers to
try to keep some continuity in a weekly series where episodes often stand on
their own is difficult enough without having to make last
minute changes in previously very well written scripts due to unforeseen
emergencies-- especially those involving major cast members. (bj)

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