The Big Valley: How Richard Long and Barbara Stanwyck took a gamble on TV success

The winning formula behind the iconic Western series.

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution

Any new venture is a bit of a gamble. Who knows what awaits as we start some fresh journey? Especially when the new experience is a form of employment, you'd be excused for feeling some insecurities. What's scarier than starting a new job?

Richard Long, who played eldest son Jarrod on The Big Valley, spoke with The Times Argus in 1966 about the hazards of launching a television series.

"Going into any new series is like taking your money to Las Vegas," said Long. 

Luckily, this gamble had the odds stacked in its favor. 

"When I first read the script they sent me, I figured this one would sell," Long recalled. He had a family to consider when accepting new gigs and needed to feel confident in each project if he was going to spend his time away. 

Another feather in the show's cap? It starred Barbara Stanwyck as matriarch Victoria Barkley. Not only was Stanwyck in the show, but she was also interested enough in the story to claim a financial stake.

"Barbara had owned the property for years but had to let it go. Naturally, the producers approached her first but nothing had been settled. I knew, though, it would have to be somebody of her stature for Victoria, so I wasn't worried," said Long.

He'd long admired Stanwyck and even worked with the veteran actress in an earlier project.

"I'd worked with [Barbara Stanwyck] in a picture about ten years ago. We get along fine," he added.

So, with the premise and the cast lined up, the only thing left to chance was the writing.

"The characters were already distinct... and I hoped... strong," said Long.

"Jarrod is a lawyer, and though he's a man of action, he's not a gunslinger like the second son. But then 'son' isn't the important word. They're all grown men."

Long's gamble paid off as The Big Valley continues to resonate with its audience today.

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MrsPhilHarris 16 days ago
Not a big western fan but it’s one of a few I will tune into.
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