Peter Breck ate his way out of a Warner Bros. contract

Warner Bros. wouldn't let him act, so he took matters into his own stomach.

Peter Breck is best remembered by MeTV viewers as Nicholas Barkley, the hot-tempered son of Barbara Stanwyck's Victoria on The Big Valley. Before that show, though, he was already a veteran of television westerns. He showed up in everything: Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Have Gun—Will Travel, Bonanza, and The Virginian made him comfortable in a cowboy hat and boots. But, there was more to it than just typecasting.

From 1959 to 1960, Breck was gunfighter-turned-lawyer Clay Calhune in ABC's Black Saddle. When that series ended, though, he found himself stuck. Breck was severely underemployed, but not for lack of effort. He would've loved to work more, but the decision ultimately wasn't his. During that period in his life, Breck lived within the studio system, and his once-enviable contract with Warner Bros. turned out to be a curse more than it was a gift. 

"I was doing some Surfside 6 appearances and I played Doc Holliday on Maverick for about a year," said Breck in a 1966 interview with The Kansas City Star. "I wanted to do a series or movies or anything, but I couldn't get out of the contract. They had me doing guest appearances on nearly all of their series."

If, somehow, Breck managed to appear in some other studio's project, he and the producers would've been on the line for some pretty steep fines. The legal issues could've potentially jammed up the entire production. So, what's an actor to do, when the company he's contracted with won't let him act as much as he'd like?

"So I went on an all-food dietI ate, and I ate until I weighed about 190 pounds. Then one day they called me in and said "Pass," and that was the end of my Warner Bros. contract." 

Before he accepted the role as Nick Barkley in The Big Valley, Breck was offered the chance to star in The Fugitive. Ultimately, though, David Janssen won the role and spent that series chasing the One-Armed Man instead of Breck.

"I'm glad that David got it," said Breck of The Fugitive. "He's doing a tremendous job. I don't know how he does it. He carries that role every week, and, even when they've got a guest star, he's in every scene. These people who talk about David's drinking problem should try to follow him around every day." 

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19 Comments

395778 1 month ago
I am Happy with the Me - tv Team thank you for coming up with the idea of old school shows .Well I guess I can say , back in the day ...... Uh !!!
395778 1 month ago
I Love The Big Valley also and all of the Barkly.
and I love MS.Stanwyck her voice became a very familar sound because of the many on screen movies she played in .
When Nick had a seen and came looking for his family , o boy you have to have some right answers for him or it was on and POPING !!!
YOU know come to think of it , the Family seems were 💪 STRONG .
The man took the lead in his family and provide for his family and loved itand when dad walked thru the door
Oh how happy to see him unless you have done something wrong .
Snickers 7 months ago
I thought James Gardner was on Maverick. I have been watching old episodes of the show on H&I and the only actors are Rodger Moore and some guy named Jack Kelly. Have not seen Gardner appear in one episode so far.
Snickers 7 months ago
Back in the day movie actors went through the same thing. You signed a contract with the studio and than had to act in whatever they gave you.
GOOSEYGOOSE9 7 months ago
Jack Webb fired from Warner bros television division on December 26,1963 replaced permanently by jack webb’s old friend william Conrad December 27,1963
cperrynaples 8 months ago
Jack Warner was an evil man! He forced Clint Walker to stay on Cheyenne and James Garner had to go to court in order to leave Maverick!
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LoveMETV22 harlow1313 8 months ago
LOL! seeing the hands are used up, to put the shoe on the other foot. A contract is a contract whether it's in the best interest of a Network/ Production Company/Studio or an Actor/Actress
can be debated till the cows come home, that's why there's a strike in progress.

Your right on the "hard to figure" part When all the parties involved in the current strike figure that out things will move on, hopefully in an equitable fashion.
harlow1313 LoveMETV22 8 months ago
I am sorry, but since Wiseguy's death, I try to fill-in.

>"Your (sic) right on the "hard to figure...""< You're, or You are.

Blessed be the memory of the Wiseguy.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 8 months ago
No need to be sorry. Thanks for the correction on the (your/you're)! Appreciated!
What's the extra " < before You're for?, it doesn't look right.

However WG is still around, he added a suffix to his handle. He usually makes rounds every few weeks.

Unlike stephaniestavr5 and Moriyah, he is still with us. Wouldn't be surprised if he posted in the next few days.
harlow1313 LoveMETV22 8 months ago
Wiseguy has risen!

" < - It's a habit I developed on other sites. I sometimes poke at dogmatic claims on topics like religion and politics. I started to clearly add quotes because the original comments I react to often end up removed.

We are such a tribal nation that on other sites, commenters quickly become infuriated. It is great practice for a stoic like me. Also, I am a bit of a contrarian.

Lastly, it is a small way I can entertain my small brain.
LoveMETV22 8 months ago
Interesting strategy to get released from his contract with Warner Bros. A+ for creativity.
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 7 months ago
BTW, the Big Mac didn't exist in the early '60's when this happened! It became big in the late '60's!
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 7 months ago
" BTW, the Big Mac didn't exist in the early '60's when this happened!"
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Your right. The Big Mac debuted the same year:
"They nearly axed Gunsmoke in 1967." LOL!
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