The Big Valley

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The Big Valley
Big Valley cast photo 2.jpg
The Big Valley cast
Clockwise from bottom: Heath, Jarrod, Audra, Victoria, Nick
Genre Western
Created by A.I. Bezzerides
Louis F. Edelman
Starring Barbara Stanwyck
Richard Long
Lee Majors
Linda Evans
Peter Breck
Country of origin United States.
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 112
Running time 45–48 minutes
Production company(s) Levee-Gardner-Laven Productions
Four Star Television
Original channel ABC
Audio format Monaural
Original run September 15, 1965 (1965-09-15) – May 19, 1969 (1969-05-19)
Sierra Railway Engine #3 at the old Jamestown, California Depot, for the filming of the pilot episode of The Big Valley, 1964.

The Big Valley is an American western television series which ran on ABC from September 15, 1965, to May 19, 1969. The show stars Barbara Stanwyck, as the widow of a wealthy nineteenth century California rancher. It was created by A.I. Bezzerides and Louis F. Edelman, and produced by Levy-Gardner-Laven for Four Star Television.

Historical background[edit]

The TV series was based loosely on the Hill Ranch, which was located at the western edge of Calaveras County, not far from Stockton.[citation needed] One episode placed the Barkley Ranch a few hours' ride from town, while another has Jarrod riding past a Calaveras County sign on his way to the TV series' ranch.[citation needed] The Hill Ranch existed from 1855 until 1931, including almost 30,000 acres; and the Mokelumne River ran through it.[citation needed] The source is from an episode in which Heath is on trial in a ghost town with another man (played by Leslie Nielsen) and tells the judge how much land they have. Lawson Hill ran the ranch until he was murdered in 1861. His wife Euphemia (aka "Auntie Hill") then became the matriarch. During their marriage they had four children, one daughter and three sons.[citation needed] Today, the location of the ranch is covered by the waters of Lake Camanche. A California state historical marker standing at Camanche South Shore Park mentions the historic ranch. The set used to film the exterior of the Barkley Mansion stood on the backlot of Republic Studios from 1947 until 1975.[citation needed]

In the first episode, "Palms of Glory," the grave of Thomas Barkley (1813–1870) is shown after it is commented that he fought the railroad six years ago, establishing that the show was initially set no later than 1876. At the beginning of the same episode, Jarrod Barkley and the other actor on the train indirectly say that the year is 1876.[citation needed]

In "The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner," Jubal states to Victoria Barkley that he has been gone 30 years since his wife Margaret Tanner's death, her grave marker showing that she had passed away in 1854; this appears to indicate that the series starts in 1884. However, in another episode, a newly dug grave has a marker with the year 1878, so the best that can be said is that the events of the series take place sometime in the late 1870s or early 1880s. The dug grave appears at the beginning of the episode "The Long Ride," in which a friend of Audra Barkley was killed, and where the grave clearly shows 1878, which would make her 23 at the date of death based on the grave showing 1855 as the year of birth. In the episode "They Called Her Delilah," the telegram Jarrod received from Julia is dated April 27, 1878.[1]



  • Victoria Barkley, portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck, was the widow of Thomas Barkley. She was the head of the wealthy, influential Barkley family who lived in 19th century Stockton in California's Central Valley. She was the main character of the series. Victoria Barkley was the owner and head of the Barkley ranch. In fact, Stanwyck's refusal to portray Barkley as fragile was controversial at the time. Barkley's husband had been killed six years prior to the beginning of the series. Victoria Barkley loved and was proud of all her children, including her late husband's illegitimate son, Heath, whom she would refer to as "my son." Stanwyck, who went from the refined, elegant lady of the manor to a jean-clad cowgirl as tough as any cowboy, appeared in the most episodes for a total of 103 of the 112 episodes. Her episodes were often surprisingly hard hitting, seeing her character either locked away in a lunatic asylum to prevent her testifying as eyewitness at a murder trial ("Down Shadow Street"), or taken prisoner in a prison wagon to replace a dead female convict ("Four Days to Furnace Hill"), or trapped underground following a cave-in ("Earthquake").
  • Jarrod Thomas Barkley, the eldest son, was a respected attorney. Richard Long played the role of the educated, refined and calmer of the Barkley sons who handled all of the family's legal and business affairs. While Jarrod preferred the law to settle disputes, he was known to resort to frontier justice and violence when necessary. He was briefly married in one episode ("Days of Wrath") only to see his new wife murdered, with a bullet intended for him. An enraged Jarrod lost his calm, genteel mannerisms, then relentlessly tracked down the killer. He was in the midst of killing him with his bare hands before he was stopped by Nick and Heath. Long appeared in 96 of the 112 episodes.
  • Nicholas "Nick" Jonathan Barkley, the hot-tempered brawling younger son who managed the family ranch, was portrayed by Peter Breck. Well known for his black leather vests, large black hat and black leather gloves, as well as his loud and brawling demeanor, he was notorious for getting into fist fights. At times, he would fight with his brothers as well, though underneath the gruff surface he was warm and caring, had a fun-loving carefree side and a great sense of humor, and loved his family deeply. Breck appeared in 101 of the 112 episodes.
  • Audra Barkley, played by Linda Evans, was Victoria's only daughter. Audra was somewhat self-absorbed, bold, and forward. Far from demure, she performed daring stunts and rode astride, like her brothers. Audra, like Nick and Eugene, was initially leery of Heath's story that he was her father's son. Early on, she unsuccessfully attempted to seduce Heath so as to expose him as a fraud. Later, however, Audra and Heath became very close as a real brother-and-sister bond developed between them. She also had a caring side, displayed by tending to children from the local orphanage. A few episodes dealt with her romances, one notable episode being "My Son My Son" in which Robert Walker Jr. guests as a suitor who proves to be mentally unstable. During the show's final two seasons, Evans' appearances were reduced because she wanted to spend more time with her husband John Derek.
  • Heath Barkley was the illegitimate son of Victoria's late husband, and he literally had to fight his way into the Barkley home. Lee Majors portrayed even-tempered but rough and tumble Heath, who was often angry and aggressive throughout the early episodes due to his belief that Tom Barkley had abandoned his real mother after she became pregnant. In truth, Tom Barkley never knew about Heath, as Heath's mother had never told him, and never told Heath until she was on her deathbed. Heath gradually gained acceptance from the rest of the Barkley clan as the first season progressed until he became as much a "Barkley" as the rest of the family, and his love for them became equal. Heath came to call Victoria "Mother" when speaking to her directly and about her with his siblings. Although Nick was initially leery of Heath and felt he had to test Heath's mettle, Heath proved himself worthy of Nick's acceptance, and eventually Nick seemed to grow even closer to Heath than he was to Jarrod, perhaps in a sense due to Heath having more in common with him than Jarrod did. In the series' season-two premiere, one of a few episodes inexplicably taken out of the show's initial syndication runs, Heath met Charlie Sawyer (comic Buddy Hackett in a rare dramatic turn), a con man who claimed to be his actual father (the final moments show him admitting he did romance Heath's mother, but left her years before she gave birth). In the same episode, Beah Richards returns as Hannah, the black quasi-nanny who helped raise Heath after his mother's death. Majors, who was initially very blond-haired but gradually got darker as the show continued, appeared in 95 of the 112 episodes.


  • The youngest Barkley son was Eugene, a medical student studying at Berkeley, played by Charles Briles. Like his older brothers, he was known to have a temper as seen in the Season 1 episode "Boots with My Father's Name". He was seen sporadically in only eight first season episodes and then episode 21, on a return from college. Then he was written out. Only once was his name ever mentioned again.
  • More Barkley family lore: In one episode, when Victoria is absent, it is explained that she is visiting her unnamed sister in Denver. In the episode "Image of Yesterday," it is revealed she almost married a dreamer named David Wincup (Dan O'Herlihy) before settling down with her husband.
  • The regular cast was rounded out by Napoleon Whiting, as Silas, the Barkleys' majordomo. In several episodes, his character was called on to help the show comment on the trauma of slavery ("Joshua Watson"), life for blacks post-Civil War ("The Buffalo Man") and finding meaning in his own work for the family ("Miranda").


Season 1: 1965-66[edit]

Ep Title Airdate
1 1 "Palms of Glory" September 15, 1965
2 2 "Forty Rifles" September 22, 1965
3 3 "Boots with My Father's Name" September 29, 1965
4 4 "Young Marauders" October 6, 1965
5 5 "The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner" October 13, 1965
6 6 "Heritage" October 20, 1965
7 7 Winner Lose All" October 27, 1965
8 8 "My Son, My Son" November 3, 1965
9 9 "Earthquake!" November 10, 1965
10 10 "Murdered Party" November 17, 1965
11 11 "Way To Kill A Killer" November 24, 1965
12 12 "Night of the Wolf" December 1, 1965
13 13 "The Guilt of Matt Bentell" December 8, 1965
14 14 "Brawlers" December 15, 1965
15 15 "Judgment in Heaven" December 22, 1965
16 16 "Invaders" December 29, 1965
17 17 "By Fires Unseen" January 5, 1966
18 18 "Time To Kill" January 19, 1966
19 19 "Teacher of Outlaws" February 2, 1966
20 20 "Under A Dark Star" February 9, 1966
21 21 "Barbary Red" February 16, 1966
22 22 "Death Merchant" February 23, 1966
23 23 "Fallen Hawk March 2, 1966
24 24 "Hazard" March 9, 1966
25 25 "Into the Widow's Web" March 23, 1966
26 26 "By Force and Violence" March 30, 1966
27 27 "River Monarch" April 6, 1966
28 28 "Midas Man" April 13, 1966
29 29 "Tunnel of Gold" April 20, 1966
30 30 "Last Train To the Fair" April 27, 1966

Season 2: 1966-67[edit]

Ep Title Airdate
1 31 "Lost Treasure" September 12, 1966
2 32 "Legend of A General (Part 1)" September 19, 1966
3 33 "Legend of A General (Part 2)" September 26, 1966
4 34 "Caesar's Wife" October 3, 1966
5 35 "Pursuit" October 10, 1966
6 36 "Martyr" October 17, 1966
7 37 "Target" October 31, 1966
8 38 "Velvet Trap" November 7, 1966
9 39 "Man from Nowhere" November 14, 1966
10 40 "The Great Safe Robbery" November 21, 1966
11 41 "The Iron Box" November 28, 1966
12 42 "Last Stage To Salt Flats" December 5, 1966
13 43 "Day of Terror" December 12, 1966
14 44 "Hide the Children" December 19, 1966
15 45 "Day of the Comet" December 26, 1966
16 46 "Wagonload of Dreams" January 2, 1967
17 47 "Image of Yesterday" January 9, 1967
18 48 "Boy into Man" January 16, 1967
19 49 "Down Shadow Street" January 23, 1967
20 50 "Stallion" January 30, 1967
21 51 "Haunted Gun" February 6, 1967
22 52 "Price of Victory" February 13, 1967
23 53 "Brother Love" February 20, 1967
24 54 "Court Martial" March 6, 1967
25 55 "Plunder" March 13, 1967
26 56 "Turn of A Card" March 20, 1967
27 57 "Showdown in Limbo" March 27, 1967
28 58 "The Lady of Mesa" April 3, 1967
29 59 "Days of Grace" April 17, 1967
30 60 "Cage of Eagles" April 24, 1967

Season 3: 1967-68[edit]

Ep Title Airdate
1 61 "Joaquin" September 11, 1967
2 62 "Ambush" September 18, 1967
3 63 "Flock of Trouble" September 25, 1967
4 64 "Time After Midnight" October 2, 1967
5 65 "Night in A Small Town" October 9, 1967
6 66 "Ladykiller" October 16, 1967
7 67 "Guilty" October 30, 1967
8 68 "The Disappearance" November 6, 1967
9 69 "A Noose is Waiting" November 13, 1967
10 70 "Explosion (Part 1)" November 20, 1967
11 71 "Explosion (Part 2)" November 27, 1967
12 72 "Four Days To Furnace Hill" December 4, 1967
13 73 "Night of the Executioner" December 11, 1967
14 74 "Journey into Violence" December 18, 1967
15 75 "The Buffalo Man" December 25, 1967
16 76 "The Good Thieves" January 1, 1968
17 77 "Days of Wrath" January 8, 1968
18 78 "Miranda" January 15, 1968
19 79 "Shadow of A Giant" January 29, 1968
20 80 "Fall of A Hero" February 5, 1968
21 81 "The Emperor of Rice" February 12, 1968
22 82 "Rimfire" February 19, 1968
23 83 "Bounty on A Barkley" February 26, 1968
24 84 "The Devil's Masquerade" March 4, 1968
25 85 "Run of the Savage" March 11, 1968
26 86 "The Challenge" March 18, 1968

Season 4: 1968-69[edit]

Ep Title Airdate
1 87 "In Silent Battle" September 23, 1968
2 88 "They Called Her Delilah" September 30, 1968
3 89 "Presumed Dead" October 7, 1968
4 90 "Run of the Cat October 21, 1968
5 91 "Deathtown" October 28, 1968
6 92 "The Jonah" November 11, 1968
7 93 "Hell Hath No Fury" November 18, 1968
8 94 "The Long Ride" November 25, 1968
9 95 "The Profit and the Loss" December 2, 1968
10 96 "A Stranger Everywhere" December 9, 1968
11 97 "The Prize" December 16, 1968
12 98 "Hunter's Moon" December 30, 1968
13 99 "Top of the Stairs" January 6, 1969
14 100 "Joshua Watson" January 20, 1969
15 101 "The Secret" January 27, 1969
16 102 "The 25 Graves of Midas" February 3, 1969
17 103 "Lightfoot" February 17, 1969
18 104 "Alias Nellie Handly" February 24, 1969
19 105 "Royal Road" March 3, 1969
20 106 "A Passage of Saints" March 10, 1969
21 107 "Battle of Mineral Springs" March 24, 1969
22 108 "The Other Face of Justice" March 31, 1969
23 109 "Town of No Exit" April 7, 1969
24 110 "Danger Road" April 21, 1969
25 111 "Flight from San Miguel" April 28, 1969
26 112 "Point and Counterpoint" May 19, 1969

Guest stars[edit]

The Big Valley was well known for its many guest stars. Among others: