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
Created byA.I. Bezzerides
Louis F. Edelman
StarringBarbara Stanwyck
Richard Long
Lee Majors
Linda Evans
Peter Breck
Country of originUnited States.
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes112
Running time45–48 minutes
Production company(s)Levee-Gardner-Laven Productions
Four Star Television
Original channelABC
Audio formatMonaural
Original runSeptember 15, 1965 (1965-09-15) – May 19, 1969 (1969-05-19)
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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
Created byA.I. Bezzerides
Louis F. Edelman
StarringBarbara Stanwyck
Richard Long
Lee Majors
Linda Evans
Peter Breck
Country of originUnited States.
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes112
Running time45–48 minutes
Production company(s)Levee-Gardner-Laven Productions
Four Star Television
Original channelABC
Audio formatMonaural
Original runSeptember 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 Leslie Neilson 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 back lot 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]





Season 1: 1965-66[edit]

11"Palms of Glory"September 15, 1965
22"Forty Rifles"September 22, 1965
33"Boots with My Father's Name"September 29, 1965
44"Young Marauders"October 6, 1965
55"The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner"October 13, 1965
66"Heritage"October 20, 1965
77Winner Lose All"October 27, 1965
88"My Son, My Son"November 3, 1965
99"Earthquake!"November 10, 1965
1010"Murdered Party"November 17, 1965
1111"Way To Kill A Killer"November 24, 1965
1212"Night of the Wolf"December 1, 1965
1313"The Guilt of Matt Bentell"December 8, 1965
1414"Brawlers"December 15, 1965
1515"Judgment in Heaven"December 22, 1965
1616"Invaders"December 29, 1965
1717"By Fires Unseen"January 5, 1966
1818"Time To Kill"January 19, 1966
1919"Teacher of Outlaws"February 2, 1966
2020"Under A Dark Star"February 9, 1966
2121"Barbary Red"February 16, 1966
2222"Death Merchant"February 23, 1966
2323"Fallen HawkMarch 2, 1966
2424"Hazard"March 9, 1966
2525"Into the Widow's Web"March 23, 1966
2626"By Force and Violence"March 30, 1966
2727"River Monarch"April 6, 1966
2828"Midas Man"April 13, 1966
2929"Tunnel of Gold"April 20, 1966
3030"Last Train To the Fair"April 27, 1966

Season 2: 1966-67[edit]

131"Lost Treasure"September 12, 1966
232"Legend of A General (Part 1)"September 19, 1966
333"Legend of A General (Part 2)"September 26, 1966
434"Caesar's Wife"October 3, 1966
535"Pursuit"October 10, 1966
636"Martyr"October 17, 1966
737"Target"October 31, 1966
838"Velvet Trap"November 7, 1966
939"Man from Nowhere"November 14, 1966
1040"The Great Safe Robbery"November 21, 1966
1141"The Iron Box"November 28, 1966
1242"Last Stage To Salt Flats"December 5, 1966
1343"Day of Terror"December 12, 1966
1444"Hide the Children"December 19, 1966
1545"Day of the Comet"December 26, 1966
1646"Wagonload of Dreams"January 2, 1967
1747"Image of Yesterday"January 9, 1967
1848"Boy into Man"January 16, 1967
1949"Down Shadow Street"January 23, 1967
2050"Stallion"January 30, 1967
2151"Haunted Gun"February 6, 1967
2252"Price of Victory"February 13, 1967
2353"Brother Love"February 20, 1967
2454"Court Martial"March 6, 1967
2555"Plunder"March 13, 1967
2656"Turn of A Card"March 20, 1967
2757"Showdown in Limbo"March 27, 1967
2858"The Lady of Mesa"April 3, 1967
2959"Days of Grace"April 17, 1967
3060"Cage of Eagles"April 24, 1967

Season 3: 1967-68[edit]

161"Joaquin"September 11, 1967
262"Ambush"September 18, 1967
363"Flock of Trouble"September 25, 1967
464"Time After Midnight"October 2, 1967
565"Night in A Small Town"October 9, 1967
666"Ladykiller"October 16, 1967
767"Guilty"October 30, 1967
868"The Disappearance"November 6, 1967
969"A Noose is Waiting"November 13, 1967
1070"Explosion (Part 1)"November 20, 1967
1171"Explosion (Part 2)"November 27, 1967
1272"Four Days To Furnace Hill"December 4, 1967
1373"Night of the Executioner"December 11, 1967
1474"Journey into Violence"December 18, 1967
1575"The Buffalo Man"December 25, 1967
1676"The Good Thieves"January 1, 1968
1777"Days of Wrath"January 8, 1968
1878"Miranda"January 15, 1968
1979"Shadow of A Giant"January 29, 1968
2080"Fall of A Hero"February 5, 1968
2181"The Emperor of Rice"February 12, 1968
2282"Rimfire"February 19, 1968
2383"Bounty on A Barkley"February 26, 1968
2484"The Devil's Masquerade"March 4, 1968
2585"Run of the Savage"March 11, 1968
2686"The Challenge"March 18, 1968

Season 4: 1968-69[edit]

187"In Silent Battle"September 23, 1968
288"They Called Her Delilah"September 30, 1968
389"Presumed Dead"October 7, 1968
490"Run of the CatOctober 21, 1968
591"Deathtown"October 28, 1968
692"The Jonah"November 11, 1968
793"Hell Hath No Fury"November 18, 1968
894"The Long Ride"November 25, 1968
995"The Profit and the Loss"December 2, 1968
1096"A Stranger Everywhere"December 9, 1968
1197"The Prize"December 16, 1968
1298"Hunter's Moon"December 30, 1968
1399"Top of the Stairs"January 6, 1969
14100"Joshua Watson"January 20, 1969
15101"The Secret"January 27, 1969
16102"The 25 Graves of Midas"February 3, 1969
17103"Lightfoot"February 17, 1969
18104"Alias Nellie Handly"February 24, 1969
19105"Royal Road"March 3, 1969
20106"A Passage of Saints"March 10, 1969
21107"Battle of Mineral Springs"March 24, 1969
22108"The Other Face of Justice"March 31, 1969
23109"Town of No Exit"April 7, 1969
24110"Danger Road"April 21, 1969
25111"Flight from San Miguel"April 28, 1969
26112"Point and Counterpoint"May 19, 1969

Guest stars[edit]

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


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.[2] In Ella Smith's 1973 biography, "Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck," Smith noted that The Big 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 39th in the Nielsen ratings for the week of September 13–19, 1965.

The Big 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, The Big Valley was still a mid-range performer, placing 47th out of just 88 shows during the week of October 28, 1966, which was higher than such shows as That Girl, Daniel Boone, Petticoat Junction, and The Wild, Wild West. Even so, The Big Valley was popular enough to warrant at least three TV Guide covers. It also acted as a launching pad for two projected spin-offs 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 the show's faltering ratings weren't helping to provide his program with a proper lead-in — ultimately led to the drama's demise. In syndication, The Big Valley would prove exceptionally popular in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America.

In the 1980 comedy film Airplane!, the wacky air traffic controller Johnny, played by Stephen Stucker, paid homage to Valley '​s penchant for big drama in one of his many asides. After Lloyd Bridges' character frets about a pilot who cracked under pressure, Johnny says: "It happened to Barbara Stanwyck!" and "Nick, Heath, Jarrod – there's a fire in the barn!"[3] 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."[4]

Awards and nominations[edit]

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[edit]

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


Stanwyck and Evans in character in one of the later seasons.

In the episode entitled "The Jonah" (Season 4, Ep. 6, No. 92), strains of the Emperor Waltz can be heard playing in the background during the dance scene. If the series' story timeline ended in the mid-1880s, then this would not have been possible given this waltz was composed in 1889.[5] Another episode[which?] references "yellow journalism", at least a decade before the term was coined.[citation needed]

In episode #70, "Explosion!", a child in the orphanage is holding a Raggedy Ann doll decades before Raggedy Ann was introduced in 1915.[citation needed]

While sincere attention to period detail was paid to the drama in its first two seasons, the look of the series became more anachronistic with time. The blue or violet eye shadow, matching turtle neck sweaters and chic bolero jackets favored by Victoria and Audra, not to mention their comely hair styles, were more true to the groovy late 1960s than the show's time-setting of the late 1800s.[citation needed]


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[edit]

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.[6] 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.[7][8][9][10]

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[edit]

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the first season on DVD in Region 1 on May 16, 2006.[11] Season 2, Volume 1 was released on January 30, 2007.[11]

On January 8, 2014, it was announced that Timeless Media Group (TMG) had acquired the rights to the series.[12] They have subsequently released seasons 2 & 3 on DVD.[13][14] The fourth and final season will be released on October 28, 2014.[15]

In Germany, all four seasons have been released as individual season sets, plus a complete four season box set in region 2 PAL format.


  1. ^ "They Called Her Delilah." Can be seen on screen.
  2. ^ Westerns on television
  3. ^ "The Best of Johnny from Airplane! from AirplaneFan". 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  4. ^ Solomons, Jason (November 10, 2007). "Bug". The Guardian (London). 
  5. ^ Emperor or Kaiser Waltz, Johann Strauss II, 1889
  6. ^ "The Remake Watch: 'Big Valley' edition". Los Angeles Times. 2009-07-15. Retrieved 2009-07-26. 
  7. ^ Fernandez, Jay A. "Susan Sarandon eyeing 'Big Valley'". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "Movie Director Indicted in $4.7 Million Tax Rebate Fraud Case". The Hollywood Reporter. December 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Courthouse News Service". 2012-07-31. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  11. ^ a b "The Big Valley DVD news: Revised Artwork No Longer Worth $12 Million". Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  12. ^ A Long-Awaited (and Complete) 'Season 2' DVD Set is Coming!
  13. ^ "The Big Valley DVD news: Revised Box Art for The Big Valley - Season 2". 2014-01-31. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  14. ^ 'Season 3' is Now Scheduled: Date, Cost, Package Art
  15. ^ The 4th and 'Final Season' is Scheduled for DVD this Fall

External links[edit]