Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Big Valley's Lost Son

One of my favorite shows, when I was a kid was “The Big Valley”. The Big Valley was an American western television series which ran on ABC from September 15, 1965, to May 19, 1969, which starred Barbara Stanwyck, as Victoria Barkley, the mother of several grown children, played by Richard Long, Peter Breck, Linda Evans, and Lee Majors. However, I never knew until recently that there was another actor that played yet another son in the series.

The youngest Barkley son was Eugene, a medical student studying at Berkeley, played by Charles Briles. He was seen sporadically in only seven first season episodes and then written out. Only once was his name ever mentioned again.

Charles Briles was drafted but the army gave him a deferment long enough for him to complete the first season. However, his unit did all their training in California and was never shipped to Vietnam. By the time he got out of the army the series “The Big Valley” had been cancelled.

He sure got a bumb deal. He actually never deployed to Viet Nam, but his army service interrupted a potentially great career. The others went on to fame and fortune. However, it wasn’t all happy ever after for the others.

Richard Long, went on to play a professor in “Nanny and the Professor” and died 3 years after the show ended, just 4 days before Christmas in 1974 of a heart attack at the young age of 47. Peter Breck has Dementia (Alzheimers). Lee Majors lost wife Farrah Fawcett to “friend” Ryan O’neal, who he had asked to keep her company when he was away (stupid). Stanwyck got cheated on by her husband, Robert Taylor, but she got him in the wallet during the divorce, but died years later from special effects smoke and a lifelong cigarette habit. She was also beaten and robbed in her Hollywood home some years before her death. Linda Evans went on with life fairly well, although she did marry John Dereck, who was also married to Ursula Andress, and Bo Dereck. Don’t know what all these beauties saw in him. He’s dead now too.

Great show; and I still love the re-runs.


  1. The character of Eugene appeared in EIGHT episodes of the series during its first year. However, I have to admit that he only got more than a few moments of screen time on only three episodes out of the eight. The episode that cast a brilliant (if doomed) light on Gene's potential as a character in the series was WAY TO KILL A KILLER, wherein Gene is instrumental in defusing a potential armed conflict between the Barkley family and a band of visiting cattlemen from Mexico. I always thought that the producers of the program really blew their chance at making the series even better by writing out Mr. Briles' character.

  2. oh...and Mr. Breck died in February of 2012. Just lettin' ya know...