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."