Doug McClure was born in 1935 in California. He became an accomplished horse rider in his childhood, which would hold him in good stead for some of his future acting roles. He attended the University of California and did some modelling and commercials before getting a couple of minor and uncredited acting roles in several films.
One of his first screen appearances was in the western The Unforgiven (1960) with Burt Lancaster and Shenandoah (1965) with James Stewart. His first notable acting role around that time was in the T.V detective series Checkmate, which ran for 70 episodes.
In 1962, Doug landed the role of Trampas, the cowhand, in the T.V western series The Virginian, (1962 to 1971) which ran for nine seasons.
He would appear throughout the seventies, in several t.v series and many low budget and made-for-t.v movies. (There’s a full movie on You Tube that he stars in called The Hellhounds of Alaska (1973) which I’m going to take a look at, when I’ve finished writing this)!
Now we’re coming up to my favourite part. It was my love of dinosaurs which brought Doug McClure to my attention.
I remember seeing the monster flick, The Land That Time Forgot‘ in the Easter holidays when I was growing up. I’ve just recently watched it again, twice. (I watch it at least once a year) and I didn’t notice it at the time but there’s a great deal of violence in it, a lot of butt-stroking (striking someone with the butt stoke of a long gun) and a fair amount of punch ups, but no-one really gets hurt, except when they’re being eaten by a dinosaur. This is not your typical children’s movie. It’s set in World War One. When the characters weren’t on the land that time forgot, they were inside a U-boat.
The monster effects are bad, but when you consider that all the dinosaurs were hand puppets, they’re not that bad. You forget about the effects when you’re ten because the characters and the story draw you in, and of course, your own imagination keeps everything authentic.
Keith Barron, who starred alongside him said that Doug was very handy during the fight scenes. He knew exactly where he should be, to meet all the right camera angles and how to throw a punch and make it look real.
Doug originally turned down the lead role in this movie and another actor took his place but Samuel Z. Arkoff of American International Pictures suddenly became co-financers. They would provide the budget and only make the film if McClure was cast. He finally changed his mind and agreed to do the film.
Doug always seemed to be in B movies, and sometimes, looking through his vast catalogue of film and T.V experiences, he isn’t even credited, or is so low down on the list that you don’t see his name, let alone given top billing. He wasn’t pushy or overly ambitious. He just loved to act. I think that’s a testimony to his modesty and his unprententiousness.
Doug was married five times and has two daughters.
He passed away from lung cancer, at age 59.
I always felt that Doug McClure had that rare acting ability, where he could convey so much without saying a word.
He was under rated, under used, fed to the B movie world.
He played the typical romanticized action movie hero, a no nonsense, use-your-fists type of guy who was always in comforting, re-assurance protector mode. Rough and ready but always a gentleman and always honourable. He gained cult status by being that character in those types of movies.
For me, he will always be synonymous with dinosaur movies and the joy they brought to me, and still bring today.