'Big Valley' star Peter Breck dies at 82

Feb. 10, 2012 at 5:56 PM ET

Peter Breck, who played a hot-headed son of California ranch owner Barbara Stanwyck on the 1960s TV Western "The Big Valley," died Monday in Vancouver after a long illness. He was 82.

His wife announced his death on the website The Big Valley Writing Desk.

Before the 1965-1969 ABC series, the dark-haired, rugged-looking Breck had worked as a regular on two other TV Westerns: "Maverick," as Doc Holliday opposite James Garner, and "Black Saddle," on which he played a gunman turned lawyer opposite future "Gilligan’s Island" actor Russell Johnson.

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A native of Haverhill, Mass., and the son of a jazz musician, Breck scored a contract at Warner Bros. and appeared in dozens of shows from the mid-1950s to the early 2000s, including "The Virginian," "Hawaiian Eye," "Perry Mason," "Lawman," "Branded," "Gunsmoke," "Fantasy Island," "The Fall Guy" and "John Doe."

His film work included roles in "Thunder Road" (1958), "I Want to Live!" (1958), "The Beatniks" (1960), "Portrait of a Mobster" (1961), "Lad: A Dog" (1962), Samuel Fuller’s "Shock Corridor" (1963) and "Benji" (1974).

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On "Big Valley," Breck played Nick Barkley, who lost his temper easily and was often spoiling for a fight. Nick was the brother of the characters played by Richard Long, Charles Briles and Linda Evans and the half-brother to Lee Majors. He stayed close with Stanwyck after the show finished production.

In the mid-1980s, Breck moved to Vancouver, worked in theater and opened an acting school. His wife of 51 years, Diane, wrote on his website that he was suffering from dementia and had been hospitalized since Jan. 10.

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