The Big Valley

The Big Valley Information

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

The TV series was based loosely on the Hill Ranch located at the western edge of Calaveras County, not far from Stockton. 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. The Hill Ranch existed from 1855 until 1931, exceeded , and had the Mokelumne River running through it. 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. 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 back-lot of Republic Studios from 1947 until 1975.

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.

In "The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner", Jubal states to Victoria Barkley that he's been gone 30 years since his wife Margaret Tanner's death, her grave showing her passing 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 can be said is that the events of the series take place sometime in the late 1870s or early 1880s.



  • 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 was able to go effortlessly and convincingly 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"). Stanwyck always took her featured lead roles with all the confidence of a Hollywood legend, being both credibly warm and tough where the scripts required.
  • 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. It was a memorable episode in which an enraged Jarrod loses all his calm genteel mannerisms, then relentlessly tracks down the killer. He's in the midst of killing him with his bare hands, before he's 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, 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 even 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 would come 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 would go on to prove himself worthy of even 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. Audra became closer to Heath than either of her other brothers. Majors, who was initially very blond-haired but gradually gets 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 written out. Only once was his name ever mentioned again. In 1965, Briles was drafted by the United States Army, but was given a deferment long enough for him to complete filming the first season. Briles' unit did all their training in California, and he was never shipped to Vietnam. By the time he got out of the army, however, the series had been cancelled.
  • Douglas Kennedy, formerly of Steve Donovan, Western Marshal appeared twenty-three times on The Big Valley as Sheriff Fred Madden.
  • The regular cast was rounded out by Napoleon Whiting, as Silas, the Barkleys' majordomo.


Season 1: 1965-66

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

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

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

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

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

  • Julie Adams
  • Jack Albertson
  • Claude Akins
  • Marty Allen
  • Chris Alcaide
  • John Anderson
  • Richard Anderson
  • R. G. Armstrong
  • Lew Ayres
  • Diane Baker
  • Joe Don Baker
  • Anne Baxter
  • Milton Berle
  • Charles Bronson
  • Joseph Campanella
  • John Carradine
  • Vincent Gardenia
  • Harold Gould
  • Robert Goulet
  • Lee Grant
  • James Gregory
  • Buddy Hackett
  • Kevin Hagen (six times)
  • Julie Harris
  • Ron Howard
  • Dennis Hopper
  • Steve Ihnat
  • Russell Johnson
  • I. Stanford Jolley
  • L.Q. Jones
  • Robert Karnes
  • Dan Kemp
  • George Kennedy
  • Sajid Khan


Despite the show's popularity, the series' ratings never made the top thirty in the yearly ratings charts. The Big Valley was canceled in 1969 as the TV western craze began to fade out to make room for more modern shows. In Ella Smith's 1973 biography, "Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck," Smith noted that Valley had been cancelled by ABC mainly due to a poor time slot. In better times, the series had been enough of a hit to outlive various time slot rivals during its run (mainly on Monday nights at 10 p.m.), including The Jean Arthur Show, Run for Your Life and I Spy. According to Broadcasting magazine (September 27, 1965), its debut episode (actually Wednesday at 9 p.m., where the show aired for half-a-season) placed #39 in the Nielsen ratings for the week of September 13"19, 1965.

Valley was also ranked as one of the top five favorite new shows in viewer TVQ polling (the others were Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, Lost in Space and F Troop). Early into its second season, Valley was still a mid-range performer, placing #47 of 88 shows during the week of October 28, 1966, higher than such shows as That Girl, Daniel Boone, Petticoat Junction, and The Wild, Wild West. Indeed, Valley was popular enough to warrant at least three TV Guide covers. It also acted as a launching pad for two projected spinoffs from special episodes. A 1968 episode guest starring Van Williams was meant to lead to a Rifleman-like series titled Rimfire. A March 1969 episode, The Royal Road, guest-starring heartthrob Sajid Khan as a young rogue, was also hoped to lead to a series. But by that year the rising popularity of CBS's The Carol Burnett Show "? and vocal complaints by Joey Bishop, ABC's late-night talk show host, that Valley's faltering ratings weren't helping to provide his program with a proper lead-in "? ultimately lead to the drama's demise. In syndication, The Big Valley would prove exceptionally popular in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America.

In 1980s smash hit comedy flick Airplane! the wacky air-traffic controller Johnny, played by the late Stephen Stucker, paid homage to "Valley"'s penchant for big drama in one of his many asides. After Lloyd Bridges frets about a pilot who cracked under pressure, Johnny tosses out this hilarious non sequitur: "It happened to Barbara Stanwyck! 'Nick, Heath, Jarrod "? there's a fire in the barn!'" "The Big Valley" has also seeped into the darker cinematic subconscious. In Bug, an acclaimed 2006 thriller starring Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon as drug addicts, their characters spiral into a hallucination that leads them to imagine tiny bugs have invaded their dwelling, with one referring to the little critters as "matriarchal aphids" that act "like Barbara Stanwyck in Big Valley."


In 1966, for her first season as Victoria Barkley, Barbara Stanwyck won the Emmy for lead actress in a drama series. She was nominated two more times (1967 and 1968) for her work in The Big Valley and earned three Golden Globe nominations as Best TV Star for the part as well (1966, 1967, 1968). And, on March 15, 1967, Stanwyck was named favorite TV actress at the Photoplay magazine awards, which aired as a special episode of The Merv Griffin Show (David Janssen of "The Fugitive" was named favorite TV actor). Richard Long helped present Stanwyck her Gold Medal at the event.

The Big Valley was also recognized during its run for its polished production. In 1966 and 1968, the American Cinema Editors (ACE) named Valley the year's Best Edited Television Program (for the episodes 40 Rifles and Disappearance, respectively).

Production notes

While The Big Valley is set primarily in and near the city of Stockton, the filming of the series took place in Southern California.


The theme music was composed by George Duning. Paul Henreid, of Casablanca fame, directed a number of episodes. Four Star Television produced the series.

Wilfred M. Cline, A.S.C., Technicolor Associate Cinematographer on Gone with the Wind (1939), was director of photography of several Big Valley episodes, together with Chas E. Burke, A.S.C.


Comic book

Dell Comics published a short-lived comic book for six issues in 1966-69. (the last issue reprinted the first, and came out two years after issue #5). All issues had photo covers.


Film columnist Patrick Goldstein reported in the Los Angeles Times in July 2009 that filmmakers Daniel Adams and Kate Edelman Johnson were producing a feature film version of The Big Valley with production to begin in April 2010 in New Mexico and Michigan. In 2012, the aforementioned film version of "The Big Valley", which was to have first starred Susan Sarandon and then Jessica Lange in the role of Victoria Barkley, was put on hold indefinitely in after the film's would-be director, Daniel Adams, was indicted for fraud pertaining to two previous films and sued by investors in "Valley" who claimed foul as well.

Several episodes of the original TV series have been combined into concurrent running feature length TV movies, while the notable two part episodes: 'Legend of A General' and 'Explosion !' have also been made into feature length TV Movies. These have also been issued as TV Movies on DVD as a box set, along with seasons one and two.

DVD releases

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the first season on DVD in Region 1 on May 16, 2006. Season 2, Volume 1 was released on January 30, 2007. Season 2, Volume 2 has yet to be released and it is unknown if it ever will be.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Big_Valley" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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