Barbara Stanwyck did many of her own stunts on ''The Big Valley''

"To tell the truth, I think I'm a very frustrated stuntwoman."

Stunt doubles play an important role on a television set, able to step in when the actor they're imitating can not. However, some actors feel that if they're playing a character, that means that they must be the character for every scene, even if those scenes involve high-intensity moves and pratfalls. 

This was the case for Barbara Stanwyck, who already had a storied career before she began on The Big Valley, a show that was created specifically for her. Arthur Gardner, the show's producer, spoke to The Independent Star-News about developing the series. He said, "Barbara was the foundation, and then Richard Long and Peter Breck were such naturals for The Big Valley."

With a series created just for her, Stanwyck was able to wear Victoria Barkley like a second-skin and become the matriarch. Of the part, she said, "It's a vital, dynamic role, and Victoria is a frankly mature woman who is almost as active as her children." 

So active was the character that there were multiple stunts throughout the series that might have required the crew to call in a stunt double for Stanwyck. The actress, however, wouldn't have it. Executive co-producer Jules V. Levy said, She [Stanwyck] insists on doing her own stunts, including riding and falls, and we are all concerned." Still, it seems that there was no room for argument as Levy continued, "It really doesn't do us much good to protest because Barbara is determined."

The article doesn't specifically state whether Stanwyck did every single one of her character's stunts, but it seems that if Stanwyck had the opportunity to, she'd take it. The actress reasoned, "I just didn't want to play the part of a darling old lady with a lavender blanket over my knees. To tell the truth, I think I'm a very frustrated stuntwoman."

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12 Comments

BuckeyeBeth 7 months ago
Am I missing the link to the original article so I can read it in full? Can I please request the MeTV writers of these quizzes to please make every effort to link the original article? It would really be awesome to read them.

I do know Barbara Stanwyck insisted on doing a lot of her own stunts. I also know of the story that has been long circulated that the wig she had to wear in season one (the one that made her look like she had long hair tucked up a bit in back) and apparently despised saved her from a potentially serious injury on the set. In the S1E9 “Earthquake” episode during the scene which the church starts coming down around Victoria one of the “wooden beams” actually came down on her head and the blow was cushioned by the wig. If I remember correctly it actually knocked her out for a few moments.
ASperos 7 months ago
I love The Big Valley!!! I think the Barkleys are wonderful people!!!!!
harlow1313 7 months ago
I like this show, for some reason. It has a few quirky episodes, as well is standard Western fare.

I think it has a lot to do with the theme song.

A couple of other themes that for me enhance the program: "The Office" (Both British and American), and WKRP.
MrsPhilHarris harlow1313 7 months ago
I don’t mind it. I get out of Nick always getting mad about something. Sometimes on Saturday I kind of watch it when I’m eating lunch.
harlow1313 MrsPhilHarris 7 months ago
They have a few unexpected guest stars: Marty Allen, Buddy Hackett, and Lou Rawls.

One of my favorite episodes casts The Professor as a very evil man. I really think he does a fine job as an arrogant villain.
BuckeyeBeth harlow1313 7 months ago
The Big Valley was my favorite childhood western. I remember the Big Valley was played daily in the mornings starting when I was in kindergarten. A few years later Bonanza started being played in the afternoons. My older brother enjoyed Bonanza better but I always was a The Big Valley fan. I think I really liked the fact that they were a family that stood together (little Joe on Bonanza always seem to be scheming against his siblings) and also my little five-year-old heart had a massive crush on 1st season blonde Heath lol
harlow1313 BuckeyeBeth 7 months ago
Heath is kind-of-a funny character, handsome, wounded, sensitive, but still a man who a man can like.

Nick is another character study, basically a sensitive strutting badass. All of the Barkley boys are sensitive.

And the two gals get to show their strength and dignity.

Only poor Silas gets no glory, quietly caring for the mentally deranged Eugene, who is kept in the attic.
MrsPhilHarris harlow1313 7 months ago
I don’t recall him on the show. 🤔 I will keep my eyes peeled. 👀
LoveMETV22 7 months ago
Guess Barbara Stanwyck is no different than "some" other actors that prefer to perform their own stunts. Would hope actors that make that choice, get training from individuals that specialize in that type of work. Would think producers have some say in what stunts actors are allowed/not allowed to do.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 7 months ago
Robert Conrad used to say, Ross Martin was the actor, and he was the Stuntman. He performed with about 5 regular stuntmen, who the Production redressed and costumed as the background characters. Then when action was required, Conrad knew he was secure performing with partners he could trust. And yes, there was one serious mishap but Conrad survived anyway.
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