Every single episode of this fantastic western series should be available on video! I’ve met many people who, like myself, are devoted fans of this classic show which originally aired from 1965-1969. There were 112 hour-long episodes of this western filmed and it remains my very favourite show of all-time. As Victoria Barkley, Barbara Stanwyck is nothing less than sensational in her acting technique; as the widow Barkley, she is a curious combination of being both tough and gracious – but above all, Stanwyck was an incredibly NATURAL actress; she won an Emmy for her portrayal in 1966 (she was nominated the remaining three years of the show’s run, plus she won other awards such as the Photoplay Medal) and her playing of the proud matriarch has practically made her Victoria Barkley a cult figure. Richard Long is fine as Jarrod, the level-headed eldest lawyer son – while never a great actor by any means, Long had an intensely likeable personna about him. Nick, the tough, egotistical son is played with neccesary verve by Peter Breck and Audra as played by astonishingly beautiful Linda Evans made many a male baby-boomer swoon (I was one of them!). NIGHT OF THE WOLF is a classic episode which lingers in the memory: Nick gets bitten by a rabid wolf and tries to find his lost love, golden-haired Jeannie before he dies; he finds she died from typhoid. Nancy Olson and Ronny Howard play the widowed mother and son who take Nick in and the conclusion is both happy and sad. Stanwyck was such a striking presence in this show (which was envied by many of her peers and was a huge personal triumph) that entire episodes are literally showcases for her acting talent. The youngest son, Eugene (played by the now-forgotton Charles Briles) was mysteriously written out of the show after the first season. The public’s very favourite character, however was HEATH (the half-breed b——- from Strawberry) as played by Lee Majors! The rest of the cast was actually peeved and annoyed due to the fact that more stories centered around Heath, and Majors received more fan mail than any other cast member! The guest stars in this terrific western included Julie Harris, Susan Oliver, Colleen Dewhurst (she was terrific), Milton Berle(!), Robert Goulet(!), Pernell Roberts, Cloris Leachman, Buddy Hackett, Adam West, Virginia Christine, among many others. James Gregory worked well with Stanwyck and he was a frequent co-star. The stories were excellently written, the characters were colourful and genuine. The beautifully colourful scenery, the musical score by George Duning (which included the pretty little theme heard at the beginning of many an episode entitled A FUTURE LEFT BEHIND) are all first-rate. If someone doesn’t do a book on THE BIG VALLEY….. maybe I WILL!!
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The only reason why I don’t buy “Legend Of A General” is because I already have it on tape! If I didn’t, you better believe I’d snatch it up in a second! “The Big Valley” is my absolute favortie tv western of all time! (“Dr. Quinn” comes in at a close second.)
For one thing, being from California & living just an hour away from Stockton, I liked the show’s locale! Most other westerns take place in Texas, or Arizona, or New Mexico, or Nevada (“Bonanza”), but “The Big Valley” takes place near my home! It was also the first western I ever saw (I first saw it on re-runs when I was nine.) I also found the Barkleys more believable than the Cartwrights. (Ben Cartwright was widowed three times,. for godsakes!) The over-the-top stories with the moral/social lessons are solid (How many times has Lee Majors’ “Heath” been falsely arrested by a corrupt sheriff?) & the action-scenes are well-staged. (My favorite was the episode where Nick helps out a boxer. The fight scenes were expertly done!) The characters were also well-defined (except of course, Linda Evans’ “Audra”, who isn’t given much to do, except look pretty.)
If you haven’t seen “The Big Valley” & you like westerns, buy this tape! The story concerns the Barkleys helping out an old friend of theirs, an exiled Mexican general, who is being sought after by a corrupt political opponent. (The Barkleys seem to have been involved with every historical figure of the Old West! And like other wealthy tv western families, they care more about what’s right than about their vast land & financial holdings! After all, Barbara Stanwyck’s “Victoria Barkeley” takes in Lee Major’s “Heath” character as a member of the family, even though he is the illigitamate son of her husband & his mistress! If only REAL wealthy ranchers of the Old West were like that!) You may not get an accurate California history lesson by watching “The Big Valley” (the most inaccurate was the episode “Light Foot” with Joe Don Baker as a Modoc Indian, even though the Modocs were nowhere near Stockton!), but you’ll get a solid family-drama with great dialogue & fast-paced action!
Like Lee Majors as “Heath” would say, “Boy howdy!”
“The Big Valley” has been my favorite TV show for over thirty years. Although I had seen it from time to time when it was running in prime time, it was’nt until 1973, when it was shown locally, that I really got into it. Barbara Stanwyck was one of those rare golden age actresses who grew more beautiful with the passage of time. As Victoria Barkley, she was playing a woman close to her heart, and mine. Linda Evans, Richard Long, Peter Breck and Lee Majors were perfect support. And those guest stars! to name a few, Anne Baxter, Susan Strasberg, James Whitmore, Julie Harris, Andrew Duggan, John Anderson, Jeanne Cooper, Diane Baker, James Gregory….. I want so much to have the complete series on DVD. I have’nt even seen the episodes in their complete and original form, thanks to the butchering they endured for more commercials. In any form, however, this show is the BEST! [phillindholm]