Country of origin United States.
No. of seasons 4
Theme song The Big Valley Theme Song
Original language(s) English
First episode date 15 September 1965
|Created by A.I. BezzeridesLouis F. Edelman|
Starring Barbara StanwyckRichard LongLee MajorsLinda EvansPeter Breck
Nominations Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Cast Barbara Stanwyck, Peter Breck, Linda Evans, Lee Majors, Richard Long
Palms of glory 1
The Big Valley is an American western television series which ran on ABC from September 15, 1965, to May 19, 1969, starring Barbara Stanwyck, as the widow of a wealthy 19th-century California rancher and Richard Long, Lee Majors, Peter Breck and Linda Evans as her family. The show was created by A.I. Bezzerides and Louis F. Edelman and produced by Levy-Gardner-Laven for Four Star Television.
- Palms of glory 1
- Historical background
- Guest stars
- Awards and nominations
- Comic book
- DVD releases
The TV series was based loosely on the Hill Ranch, which was 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, included almost 30,000 acres; and the Mokelumne River ran through it. 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. 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.
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 1874. At the beginning of the same episode, Jarrod Barkley and the other actor on the train indirectly say that the year is 1876.
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 died 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.
In addition to the Barkley family members, the episode plots typically revolved around morally conflicted protagonists and antagonists, a common theme in the mythology of the American West in the 19th Century.
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. 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 favourite 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!" 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."
Awards and nominations
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).
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. Another episode references "yellow journalism", at least a decade before the term was coined.
In episode #70, "Explosion!", a child in the orphanage is holding a Raggedy Ann doll decades before Raggedy Ann was introduced in 1915.
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.
The theme music was composed by George Duning, who also scored the pilot and four episodes; Lalo Schifrin, Elmer Bernstein and Joseph Mullendore also scored episodes. Paul Henreid, of Casablanca fame, directed a number of episodes.
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.
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 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 been issued as TV movies on DVD as a box set, along with seasons one and two.
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.
On January 8, 2014, it was announced that Timeless Media Group (TMG) had acquired the rights to the series. They have subsequently released seasons 2 & 3 on DVD. The fourth and final season was released on October 28, 2014.
In Germany, all four seasons have been released as individual season sets, plus a complete four season box set in region 2 PAL format.