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"Last Grave At Socorro Creek"
Original NBC Broadcast - 22 January 1969
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Executive Producer Norman MacDonnell
Produced by David Levinson
Teleplay by Stanford Whitmore and David Levinson
Story by Nathaniel Tanchuck
Directed by Leo Penn
(shown on the ride-in)
John McIntire as Clay Grainger
Doug McClure as Trampas
David Hartman as David Sutton
Sara Lane as Elizabeth Grainger
James Drury as The Virginian
Steve Ihnat [as Four-Eyes]
Lonny Chapman [as Carl Luther]
Ellen McRae [as Kate Burden]
Kevin Coughlin [as Dan Burden]
Complete ending credits:
Larry Ward as Bill Burden
James Wainwright as Jack Withers
Jocelyn Brando....Mrs. Owens
Mills Watson......Sam Blount
David Fresco......Hotel Clerk
Ed Prentiss.......Dave Owens
Music Score, Bernard Herrmann
Theme, Percy Faith
Director of Photography, Enzo A. Martinelli
Art Director...........George Patrick
Film Editor............J. Howard Terill
Assistant Director.....Mel A. Bishop
Set Decorations........John McCarthy and Perry Murdock
Color Coordinator......Robert Brower
Editorial Supervision....Richard Belding
Musical Supervision.....Stanley Wilson
Costumes by..............Helen Colvig
Hair Stylist.............Larry Germain
The Title "THE VIRGINIAN" by permission of EMKA, LTD.
The Virginian arrives in Socorro Creek too late to testify on behalf of an
old friend, who was lynched the night before for murdering a prominent
citizen. While investigating both the lynching and the murder, he is met
with resistance, especially by the friend's son, who insists on avenging
his father himself. [apm]
Three men on horseback see another rider in the distance, and are concerned
that he is looking through a spyglass. They ride ahead to investigate,
rifle at the ready, but as they get closer one of them shouts "I know this man!"
and he rides up to shake the Virginian's hand with whoops of joy. "Nice to
see you, Bill" the foreman says, smiling broadly. "Still pushing beef?" his
friend asks. "Still pushing beef, but now I'm the foreman!" the Virginian announces proudly.
Bill Burden introduces the foreman to his companions, Dave Owens and Sam
Blount, explaining that they're nervous because they are carrying $20,000
from the sale of a combined herd. When Blount chastises Bill for revealing
their precious cargo to the Virginian, Bill tells them that his friend is
the last person in the world who would try and rob them, adding "even if he
did, you and Dave wouldn't be the men to stop him." Then Burden says that
he plans to take his share, sell his ranch and find good horse country,
because "horses are the future." The Virginian tells them they are in good
horse country right now, and that he himself is scouting for a herd for
Shiloh. So Bill impulsively asks to join him, and Owens gives his blessing,
riding off with Blount. After they leave, Bill reveals to the Virginian
that Owens and another man named Luther are prominent citizens of Socorro
Creek and are both bidding on his spread.
While they're looking over a herd they've found, Bill tells the Virginian
about his son Danny, and his wife, Kate, who is "pretty as ever" and says
he moved the family around a lot in search of his fortune. The foreman
empathizes with him, saying "I've been there, too. But this country - is
good for a man! At least, it has been for me." Bill feels moving to the
Medicine Bow area will be good for him, too, and he rides off. "See you
in two weeks!" he calls out to his friend, oblivious to the troubled look
on the Virginian's face.
That night the Virginian is lying on his cot, drink in hand, when Trampas
knocks on the door. "Come in" the foreman calls out, and his top hand
(and best friend) jokingly announces "I thought I'd win some of your money
in a poker game tonight - interested?" As he reaches into the foreman's
locker to help himself to a drink, he laughingly relates the story of a
pretty redhead at the saloon who "forgot" to tell her suitor that she's
married. When her husband arrived from St. Louis, Trampas jokes "I haven't
heard so much hollerin' and shoutin' since the last time I asked for a
day off!" But the Virginian isn't amused and seems deeply lost in thought.
Concern quickly replaces Trampas' smile, but before he can say anything,
Clay Grainger knocks on the door and walks into the room, asking if he's
interrupting the two men. "Not at all!" the Virginian replies as he sits up,
and he offers his employer a drink. Clay tells the Virginian that two cattle
buyers are coming the next day who have a reputation of being tough to deal
with. When he mentions their names, the Virginian tells him he's dealt with
them before, and that he got to know them pretty well. "I want you to be there,"
Clay tells the foreman, and bids the two good night.
The Virginian remains sitting up after Mr. Grainger leaves and begins studying
a bullwhip near his bed, lapsing back into silence. Trampas asks what's bothering
his friend. The foreman looks up, then looks away, and looks up again, not sure
how much to tell his friend. "I ... ran into an old friend of mine today, over
on the open range ... a fellow named Bill Burden." he begins, hesitantly. He
tells Trampas they rode together 9 or 10 years ago on some big cattle drives.
Bill pulled out because he missed his son who was living with relatives since
his first wife died giving birth. "What did you do?" Trampas asks and the
Virginian tells him he was restless then and only knew that he "didn't want to
be working for somebody crazy about giving orders just to be giving 'em." He
and Bill wrote back and forth, then Bill married again and moved to Dodge City,
Kansas. He invited the Virginian to visit them, and as the Southerner reminisces
about his arrival "in the middle of a snowstorm with a nickel in my jeans" his
eyes light up and his face softens. He tells Trampas that Bill's second wife,
Kate, was "very kind" and they had a nice boy, Danny. "Did he know how you felt
about her?" Trampas asks the foreman. "Sometimes you see an awful lot, Trampas."
"No, not really, you just don't hide it too well." "There's nothing to hide, it's
not that anything happened." the Virginian shrugs. "But you're afraid it might
if you see her again," Trampas says. "Yeah" the Virginian replies, softly and with
a tremble in his voice. He agrees with Trampas that he will steer clear of Bill's
family if and when they "come up this way."
That same night, out on the range, a man awakens Dave Owens, who is sleeping soundly
with his gun in hand. "You!" Owens calls out, as his eyes begin to focus, but he
is instantly shot dead while struggling to aim his revolver. The killer, a man with
glasses, pulls the saddlebags containing the $20,000 out from under Owens' head.
Smiling, he looks up to see two other men coming at a run. One of the men is Sam
Blount, Owens' companion, who protests to the killer that they had only planned to
hit Owens over the head. "He woke up," the bespectacled man replies simply. He then
coldly shoots Blount in the arm to make the ambush "look good" and barks to the
third man "Withers, tie the man up so he don't bleed to death and can make it back
to town to tell the whole story."
Back in Socorro Creek, a lynch mob is gathered in the sheriff's office, but there's
no sheriff because the town doesn't have one. The nearsighted killer is inciting
them to hang the man who is charged with killing Dave Owens - it is the Virginian's
friend Bill Burden! In the nick of time, the town's other leading citizen, Mr.
Luther, arrives and orders the men to disperse. As the men file out, Burden's son
Danny pushes his way in to see his father. Bill tells him the Virginian can vouch
for his whereabouts and urges the boy to fetch his friend from Medicine Bow.
At Shiloh, Danny pleads with the Virginian to leave for Socorro Creek immediately,
but the foreman tells the young man he can't leave until the following morning,
because his boss needs him to be present at a cattle sale. He promises he will get
to Socorro Creek in time for the trial on Tuesday, but Danny leaves in disgust,
accusing the Virginian of exaggerated feelings of importance and misplaced priorities.
The next day, the Virginian rides hard for Socorro Creek as promised. When he arrives,
he's greeted by Owens' real killer, who introduces himself as Four Eyes and offers
to bring the Virginian to see Bill Burden. The foreman thinks he's being brought
to the jail, but instead he is led to the location where Burden's body is hanging
since the night before. Noticeably angered by the sight, the Virginian sets his jaw
and insists they cut his friend down. A sizeable crowd has gathered behind the
Virginian, but according to Four Eyes, no one wants to cut down the body of a
"murderin' thief." "Bill Burden is going to get a right burial...and then I'm gonna
find the man who did this," the Virginian announces grimly. Suddenly, Four Eyes
draws his gun and shoots the rope, causing Burden's body to fall to the ground.
"What d'ya think about that?" says the man named Withers, challenge in his voice.
"I don't think about it at all - I don't do trick shooting," answers the Virginian.
"Neither do I!" Four Eyes retorts, and walks away as the Virginian unties Bill's
The Virginian rides out to Bill's ranch where a disheveled Kate is excited to see
him. She calls to Danny and begins to prepare coffee. As she's talking about the
upcoming trial, she becomes alarmed by the look on the Virginian's face. Surprised
no one told them, he delivers the sad news that Bill was lynched the night before.
Danny is beside himself with grief and anger, and storms out of the house. Kate
calls after him to come back, but the Virginian explains that Danny doesn't want
her to see him cry, and that she needs to cry too. "Crying means you care about
something" is her curious response. The Virginian tells her he's going to stay
and find out who lynched Bill, but she asks him to let it be. "No, Kate, I can't."
As he's riding back to town, he finds Danny sitting under a tree and tries to
console him, but the boy is still angry with him. He wonders if the Virginian thought
about Bill as much as Bill talked about him. "A whole lot," the Virginian answers,
wistfully. "The time I had with all of you - it never got any better for me than
that," and he tells Danny he's going to find who was responsible for the lynching.
But the boy says he will avenge his father himself, and that if he gets killed the
Virginian will probably be glad to take care of Kate hmself. "Don't push it, son!"
the Virginian sternly answers.
Meanwhile, Four Eyes rides out of town with Blount, so the two can talk privately.
The killer is worried that Blount will talk if the Virginian leans on him. Blount
tries to reassure him he'll stick to their story, but finally agrees to leave,
after he's given "something to live on." Four Eyes looks at him and says "A man
can't starve if he don't need to eat." It slowly dawns on Blount that Four Eyes is
going to kill him.
The Virginian returns to town where he's told by Withers that the hotel is full.
They exchange barbs until Withers issues a thinly veiled threat and is told by the
Virginian that he just might get his chance to prove himself. The foreman proceeds
into the hotel where the desk clerk repeats the story that the rooms are all reserved.
Suddenly, the Virginian pins the clerk to the counter and, turning to Four Eyes,
who came in behind him, demands "With bath!" Four Eyes orders Withers to get the
key, but the man "accidentally" drops it on the floor. As the Virginian cautiously
bends down to pick it up, Withers covers the key with his boot and Four Eyes opens
his jacket in preparation for a showdown. In one fluid motion, the Virginian punches
Withers with a left uppercut to the stomach and draws his gun, aiming it at Four Eyes.
Luther enters the hotel just in time to hear Withers grunt a threat to kill the
Virginian. He warns Withers to be quiet, and approaches the Virginian to introduce
himself, reaching out to shake hands. But the Virginian doesn't extend his hand, so
Luther continues to talk, assuring the foreman he won't need to stay in town because
they have an eyewitness who will testify to Burden's guilt. Four Eyes interrupts to
announce that the "witness," Sam Blount, was found dead in a canyon, giving the
explanation that the man must have gotten feverish from his arm wound and wandered.
The Virginian shakes his head in disbelief, and begins once again to proclaim Bill's
innocence, but Luther cuts him off saying that Burden was "a dreamer, Mister, a
loser, a drinker. And we still think he switched brands off some cattle three years
ago." Visibly shaken by these accusations, the Virginian still won't back down.
The next morning, the Virginian comes out of the hotel and sees Danny leaving town
with his father's body. Once again they argue, Danny telling the Virginian that he
will backshoot whoever lynched his father. "Then you'll be no better than he is,"
the foreman tells him.
As the Virginian is finishing his morning cup of coffee, he is joined by Four Eyes
who orders a whiskey, joking that listening to Danny made him lose his appetite.
He tries to convince the Virginian that Burden wasn't framed, proposing the theory
that Burden could have planned the robbery with Blount. The Virginian tells him
"I don't buy any of it!" and strides out the door.
Kate and Danny are out at Bill's gravesite, where Danny has just finished burying
his father. Kate expresses her fear that he will get himself killed. He tells her
that no matter what happens she'll be rid of him and his father both, since he's
going to leave. "Leave if you want to," she tearfully tells him, "but don't get
killed. I'd rather never see you again than - to have to bury you." Longing to
believe his stepmother loves him, Danny nonetheless drives away in the wagon,
leaving her alone by the grave.
While Kate is pacing alongside the grave, the Virginian rides up. She tells him
that Danny is angry because she can't cry for his father. "Yesterday I noticed
two things: he was dead, and ten years worth of days had gone by." The foreman
is puzzled - when they'd met on the range, Bill talked so proudly of her. She
tells him that Bill was proud of his dreams, but she didn't share them. He asks
what her plans are now, and she thinks maybe she will sell the spread and leave
Socorro Creek. She hopes Danny will come with her and believes he would get over
what happened to his father if only the Virginian would leave. He insists what
he's doing is for Bill and for her, as well as for Danny.
Danny returns to town and goes into the bar demanding a glass of whiskey, but the
bartender won't serve him because he's too young. Then he tells Danny he feels
bad about what happened to his father, and that he and some others want to "make
it up to you and your ma." When he again refuses to serve Danny a drink, the boy
makes a scene and storms out. Choking back tears he goes up to some of the men
in the street, one at a time, demanding of them in turn "Where were you when my
father was lynched?", and "Maybe you put the rope around his neck!", and finally
sobbing "Why didn't anybody try and stop it?!" but the embarrassed townspeople
silently turn and walk away.
The Virginian, under the watchful eye of Four Eyes and Withers, goes to see the
undertaker who is focusing intently on the nails he is hammering into Sam Blount's
coffin. The Virginian says he heard Blount "died of complications" from an arm
wound. "I'm no doctor," the undertaker casually answers, so the Virginian grabs
the man by the collar and gets him to admit that Blount suffered two wounds, one
in the arm and one in the heart. The foreman wants to know why the town would
lynch the man they thought killed Dave Owens, and the undertaker says that Owens
was a good man who had helped a lot of people.
The Virginian leaves town, followed by Withers and Four Eyes, who notice he's on
his way to Luther's ranch. Worried the Virginian will get too close to the truth,
the two confront the foreman on the trail to find out what he learned at the
undertaker's. "Come along and find out - I'm headed for Luther's." Withers wonders
if the Virginian is going to accuse him of killing Blount. "Never entered my mind,"
the Virginian says, "he wasn't shot in the back." It's enough to provoke Withers
to draw down on the Virginian, but the shrewd foreman draws first, skillfully
shooting Withers in the shoulder and sending him flying off his horse. As the
Virginian boldly turns and rides on to Luther's, Four Eyes tells Withers he's "lost
his usefulness" and sends him packing.
The Virginian asks Luther if he planned to buy Burden's place and how he got the
money. He speculates the rancher might have killed Owens to eliminate the competition
for Burden's land, but Luther denies it, saying he owed Owens for helping him just
like a lot of other people did. The Virginian thinks it would have been stupid of
Burden to kill Owens, too, when the man wanted to buy him out. Luther feels they'll
never learn the whole truth and that in a year it will all be forgotten, but the
Virginian probes deeper, asking if Withers or Four Eyes could have been the killer.
"While you're blaming everybody else, do you wanna know what people are saying
about you, because of his widow and boy you're so interested in helping?" "It's what
people say TO me not ABOUT me that matters," the Virginian replies. But Luther
continues, saying that Danny blames him for not coming soon enough to help his
father and that if the foreman continues to investigate the lynching he will be
prodding Danny into doing something that gets the young man killed.
The Virginian rides out to Burden's ranch where he finds Kate saddling a horse,
and tells her he wants Danny "out of this." She agrees, asking him to come with
her and talk some sense into the boy. They find Danny on the range where he's
been target shooting for an hour. "An hour, huh, have you hit the bottle yet?"
the Virginian asks him. The boy shows off by firing three more shots, the last one
carefully aimed, and clips the top off the bottle at last. The foreman asks if he
is still planning to shoot his opponent in the back, and the boy tells him no, it
will be face to face. So the Virginian dismounts and starts rattling off advice:
do it in the center of town so everyone can see what a big man you are; call him
out at sundown with the sun to your back so the light is in his eyes; don't shoot
first since everyone will be watching. Of course, his opponent will make the mistake
of shooting first. "Naturally he'll miss, being so scared and with the sun in his
eyes and all," the Virginian continues, as the boy's anger grows. "Danny he's just
trying to help you!" Kate cries. "That's a laugh!" the boy retorts. Like lightning,
the Virginian draws his gun and shoots the bottle dead center, exploding it into
tiny pieces. "Go on - LAUGH!" he shouts at Danny, who walks away in fear and anger.
"I guess I'll just have to beat him to it," the Virginian sighs. Kate tells him it
won't mean anything if he does, but he insists that it will mean something if their
friendship does. "Between us is more than just friendship," she says. "You're wrong
Kate," he answers, "it never was more - it never will be." She says he's partly right
because all those years he wouldn't let it be more, and neither would she. "But never?
The only way you can stop it now is by getting yourself killed. And I don't want that!"
she sobs, throwing herself into his arms and kissing him passionately. He reciprocates,
but after a moment pushes her away telling her "this other thing's got to be settled
first." She wonders aloud what to do after she sells the ranch to Luther as Bill had
planned to do. The Virginian is surprised to hear this; why did Bill tell him that
Owens and Luther were both still bidding if he'd already decided to sell to Luther?
Meanwhile, Luther is in the bar telling Four Eyes to get out of town for a week, but
the gunslick reminds the ranch owner that if it weren't for his help he would probably
have lost Burden's ranch to Owens. Four Eyes' plan to kill Owens and pin it on Burden
got him and Luther everything they wanted, land and the money to buy it. Luther is
worried about the Virginian, but Four Eyes says he will take care of him.
The Virginian rides out to the Owens ranch where he is greeted by Owens' widow and a
nicely aimed shotgun. The ranch is supposed to be auctioned the next day, but she
lets it slip that it's already sold, though she won't say to whom, so the Virginian
leaves. As Luther is riding from town back to his ranch, he's pulled from his horse
by the Virginian's bullwhip. The foreman tells Luther he knows about the land-grab,
and demands to know who else was in on it. Another stinging crack of the whip
convinces Luther to confess that Four Eyes came up with the plan. At first, Burden
also went along with them for a share of the money. But after Owens was killed, Bill
tried to back out, which is why he was lynched. The Virginian tells Luther they
are going back to town to tell everyone the story and "see if you make it to trial."
Before they can get back to town, however, Danny comes into the saloon looking for
Luther, upset that the rancher talked his mother into selling their place. Four Eyes
defends Luther, telling the boy that his father was planning to sell to Luther
anyway and that he himself loaned Luther the money to buy it. Danny tells him that
after he fights Luther, he is going to call out Four Eyes. The bartender tries to
calm Danny down, but the boy insists he will go through the whole town until someone
takes the blame for his father's death. So Four Eyes tells Danny that he is the one
who "put the rope around his neck." Danny calls him out and goes into the street to wait.
As Four Eyes comes out of the saloon he begins to narrate loudly: "There he is, middle
of the street, sun to his back, sure looks like he knows what he's doing, better watch
myself!" He tells Danny he'll give him one shot with the rifle, and coaches him to
come closer. Danny nervously aims the rifle while Four Eyes calmly stands in his
sights. Just in time the Virginian rides in between the two men with Luther in tow.
As Luther begins to confess, the killer draws his gun, but the Virginian knocks Luther
from his horse and drags the man to cover. The Virginian and Four Eyes exchange shots,
then Four Eyes runs up a hill behind the town and into a barn, climbing the ladder to
the loft. The Virginian follows him, and cautiously enters the barn, eyes scanning
first the stalls, then the ladder, then the loft, realizing that his adversary must be
above him with his pistol aimed. Suddenly, Danny enters from the side, but before the
Virginian can warn him, Danny is shot in the leg by Four Eyes. The Virginian seizes
the moment to jump out of the shadows and shoot the killer, who tumbles out of the
loft. He then helps Danny up and the boy begins to wonder about what Luther said about
his father. "Danny, your pa wasn't as strong as some wanted, but he wasn't as weak
as some said......Just like the rest of us." Together they leave the barn, Danny
leaning on his father's friend for help.
At Burden's ranch, Kate comes out to tell the Virginian that Danny's leg will be fine.
"More than his leg needs healing, it'll take time," the Virginian tells her. He
announces he's returning to Shiloh because it's too soon for the two of them, and
Danny needs her now. They embrace and agree that maybe they will get together another
time. As he rides away, Danny limps from the house and tells Kate he didn't mean a
lot of the things he said to the Virginian. "We all say things we don't mean - even
him," she says. Danny remains in the yard watching the Virginian grow small in the
distance, as Kate walks slowly back into the house. [apm]
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Main Contributor for this episode : Alice P. Munzo [apm]