Archive for the ‘The TV show Big Valley’ Category

Peter Breck enjoying a laugh on the set of Big Valley.  Image provided by

I would first like to say “thank you” to Diane Breck for sending me the 2 recipes that appear on this post, which were sent to me last year before Mr. Peter Brecks passing this February. The first recipe tomato soup cake was something that Peter really liked to make, and while Mr. breck liked to make that first recipe it was the second recipe of BEEF BOURGUIGNON that he very much enjoyed having his wife Diane make.

I first started writing to Peter and his wife Diane about 4 or 5 years ago, and i wanted to let her and peter know how much of a fan i was of him and of Big Valley growing up as a child. So i would write them from time to time over the years and then i thought since i now had a blog that maybe i could create a post honoring Mr. Peter Breck and also one of the TV shows he was so very famous for, sadly i am now doing this after his passing and I’m really sorry for not posting this late last year when i was supposed to.

                                                                                                                                                           Some of us could debate all day which show was the better show Bonanza or Big Valley,  the show with the best TV theme ever produced to me would go to Peters show though. When you heard that music at the start of big Valley you knew you were about to watch something really special, and Nick Barkley (Peter Breaks character) was my hands down favorite person on that show. Nick Barkley would symbolize  what i would call “controlled rage”, yes he could have a bit of a temper but at the same time he was intelligent and was also able to reason things out in time. So while the Barkley’s were generally nice people in nature the west was not built only by being nice, it was done with sweat and determination, and you had to hold your ground and be tough. And to me that’s what Peter Breck’s character was, and my gut tells me that Peter Breck the actor was a really good human being and a class act outside of Hollywood as well, and he leaves behind a very positive foot-print. Richard  

The Big Valley: is an American western television series which ran on ABC from September 15, 1965, to May 19, 1969, which starred Barbara Stanwyck, as a California widowed mother. It was created by A.I. Bezzerides and Louis F. Edelman. The producer was Levy-Gardner-Laven.

Historical background

The TV series was based loosely on the Hill Ranch located at the western edge of Calaveras County, not far from Stockton (one episode places 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, exceeded 1,000 acres, and had the Mokelumne River running through it. 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.

Nick Barkley: Hot-tempered brawling son, who managed the family ranch, was portrayed by Peter Breck. Well-known for his black leather vests, large black hat and black leather gloves, as well as his loud and brawling demeanor, he was notorious for getting into fist fights. At times, he would fight with his brothers as well, though underneath the gruff surface Nick was warm and caring, had a fun-loving carefree side, a wonderful sense of humor, and he loved his family deeply and would give his own life for any one or all of them. Breck appeared in 101 of the 112 episodes.

Peter Brecks Early career : After US Navy service on the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) he studied drama at the University of Houston. Breck made his debut in a film produced by Bert Freed that was eventually released under the title The Beatniks. As well as performing in live theatre, Breck had several guest-starring roles on a number of popular series, such as Sea Hunt, several episodes of Wagon Train, Have Gun – Will Travel, Perry Mason, and Gunsmoke. In 1956, he and David Janssen appeared in John Bromfield’s syndicated series Sheriff of Cochise in the episode “The Turkey Farmers”. He appeared in another syndicated series too in the episode “The Deserter” of the American Civil War drama Gray Ghost, with Tod Andrews in the title role.

When Robert Mitchum saw him in George Bernard Shaw’s play The Man of Destiny in Washington, D.C. he offered Breck a role as a rival driver in 1958’s Thunder Road. Mitchum set Breck up in Los Angeles and as Breck did not have his own car, Mitchum lent him his own Jaguar.[1] Mitchum introduced Breck to Dick Powell who contracted him to Four Star Productions where he appeared in Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater. He also appeared with fellow guest star Diane Brewster in the 1958 episode “The Lady Gambler” of the ABC western series Tombstone Territory, starring Pat Conway and Richard Eastham. In 1958 Breck also appeared in an episode of Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford.

In the 1959–1960 season, he starred as a gunfighter-turned-lawyer lead in the NBC western Black Saddle, with secondary roles for Russell Johnson, J. Pat O’Malley, and Walter Burke.

Breck was later a contract star with Warner Brothers Television where he appeared as Doc Holliday on the series Maverick, a part that had been played twice earlier in the series by Gerald Mohr and by Adam West on Lawman (TV series). Breck appeared in several other Warners series of the time such as Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip, The Roaring Twenties, The Gallant Men, and a 1969 episode of The Donald O’Connor Show.

The first movie in which Breck was the top-billed star was Lad, A Dog (1962).[2] The next year, he played the leading roles in both Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor and the science-fiction horror film The Crawling Hand. During this time, he also appeared on episodes of several more TV shows, such as The Outer Limits, The Restless Gun, Bonanza, Perry Mason, and The Virginian.

The Big Valley: From 1965 to 1969, Breck starred in the ABC Western series The Big Valley, where he played Nick Barkley, ramrod of the Barkley ranch and son to Barbara Stanwyck’s character Victoria Barkley. The second of four children, Nick was the hotheaded, short-tempered brother. Always spoiling for a fight and frequently wearing leather gloves, Breck’s character took the slightest offense to the Barkley name personally and quickly made his displeasure known, as often with his fists as with his vociferous shouts. Often this proved to be a mistake and only through the calming influence of his mother and cooler-headed brothers, Jarrod (Richard Long), Eugene (Charles Briles), and half-brother Heath (Lee Majors), would a difficult situation be rectified. Breck, having been a Barbara Stanwyck fan since the 1940s, as a teenager, also developed a wonderful on- and off-screen chemistry with her, practicing longer lines and even being a ranch foreman on the set. After the show was canceled, he stayed close to her until her death.   Source: Wikipedia

TOMATO SOUP CAKE: That Peter Breck enjoyed making. 


1 – 18 oz. box spice cake mix

2 eggs

1 – 10 ¾ oz. can tomato soup

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 – 8 oz. package cream cheese – softened to room temp.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Grease sides & bottoms of 2 loaf pans – flour lightly

Blend all ingredients – except cream cheese – until moistened

Beat on med. speed for 2 minutes

Pour into loaf pans & bake for 50 min.

Cool – in pans – for 15 min. on wire rack

Remove from pans & let cool completely then spread with cream cheese

Makes approx. 20 servings

BEEF BOURGUIGNON: One of Peter’s favorite dish’s that his wife Diane would make for him.   Serves 8 to 10

4 lbs. trimmed lean sirloin – cut into ½ by 4 inch strips

6 slices bacon – cut into small pieces

2 cloves garlic – crushed

2 lbs. mushrooms – sliced

2 bay leaves – crushed

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. thyme

<1/8 tsp. pepper

½ cup butter

½ cup flour

2 ½ ( 10 ½ oz. ) cans consommé or part burgundy wine.

Fry the bacon pieces in a Dutch oven

Remove bacon & sauté the beef strips in the bacon drippings – stir frequently until beef is evenly browned. You will have to brown a portion at a time.

Add garlic & mushrooms.

Season with bay leaves , parsley , salt , thyme & pepper.

Add bacon bits & remove from heat.

In another pan make a roux with the butter & flour

Cook – stirring constantly – until flour turns a light tan.

Add the consommé or consommé & part burgundy. Stir & cook until slightly thickened.

Add to the beef & mushrooms

Cover & simmer until beef is tender – I usually let mine simmer for a good 3 hours

Diane’s personal notes: In all honesty I use half consomme & half burgundy. It really does have a much better flavor.
I always make mine the day before I will be serving it. After simmering , I let it cool then refrigerate it over night. I put it on again early in the afternoon of the day I will be serving & just let it simmer. The flavors seem to really blend well this way plus the meat is very tender.

I like to serve this dish over riceDiane Breck

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