Peter Breck who portrayed the hot tempered & tough cowboy Nick Barkley on the popular TV western “The Big Valley” passed away at age 82 (Feb. 2012). Newspapers, magazines & bloggers are writing their 2012 ‘Year in Review’ articles on the deaths of famous artists, writers, musicians, athletes & performers. I choose to write about actor – Peter Breck because of his lasting & most popular role on “The Big Valley” (ABC-TV 1965-69). Nick was everyone’s older, protective but loving brother. His many TV fans will always remember him that way. He often reminds me of my older brother. He will be missed.
According to the Internet movie database (IMDB) the synopsis of “The Big Valley” is right here – “Victoria Barkley heads her adult – brood on the ‘Barkley’ ranch in California’s San Joaquin Valley – near Stockton – in the 1870s. Heath is the illegitimate son of Victoria’s husband Tom (who is dead at the time of the series). Bank robbers – horse thieves – revolutionaries and land grabbers keep the Barkley’s hopping.” — Here is the TV show’s full cast – Richard Long as ‘Jarrod Barkley’ – Peter Breck as ‘Nick Barkley’ – Lee Majors as ‘Heath Barkley’ – Linda Evans as ‘Audra Barkley’ & Miss Barbara Stanwyck as ‘Victoria Barkley.’
Below are 5 of my favorite TV episodes that showcased the talents of actor – Peter Breck as Nick Barkley on “The Big Valley.” Each episode synopsis comes from the official website of IMDB.
“Night of the Wolf” – Nick is bitten by a rabid wolf, an attack only Heath witnesses. Thinking he is going to die – Nick leaves the ranch and Stockton without any explanation to his family. His journey leads him to re-examine his life and attitudes – and the kindness of a woman and her son give him hope for the future.”
“The Iron Box” – Nick and Heath – on their way home with a prize bull – are accused of stealing the animal and are sentenced to a brutal work camp – without a trial.”
“Court Martial” – A retired Civil War era Union general is tried for war crimes by ex-Confederates at the Barkley ranch while the family is held captive.
“Explosion” Part 1 – A forest fire is heading toward Stockton. The Barkley’s and other wealthy landowners plan to hire a fire-stopper. – “Explosion” Part 2 -The forest fire continues to advance toward Stockton. With no one else able to help, Jarrod, Nick and Heath prepare to meet the fire with nitroglycerin.
“Hide the Children” – After falsely accusing a Gypsy vineyard worker of theft and injuring him in a fight – Nick reluctantly agrees to accompany the man’s wife, daughter and mother-in-law on a journey to the daughter’s arranged marriage. Along the way – harassed by local townspeople – Nick finds himself mistaken for a Gypsy and learns what it’s like to be one of them. He also discovers some truths about Gypsies – the people who hate them simply because of prejudice and his own bigotry.”