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February 15, 2012

Peter Breck, Former Big Valley Star

Breck is best known for the role of Nick Barkley, son of Barbara Stanwyck's ranching matriarch.

Peter Breck an actor best known for playing the son of Barbara Stanwyck on the 1960s television series The Big Valley, died February 6, 2012, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was 82.

According to news reports, the cause was complications of dementia.

The news was announced by Breck’s wife, Diane, on the website The Big Valley Writing Desk.

Born Joseph Peter Breck on March 29, 1929, in Haverhill, Massachusetts, he was the son of a jazz musician who worked with such notables as Fats Waller, Bix Beiderbecke and Billie Holiday. His parents divorced, his mother remarried Al Weber, a newspaperman who worked as sports editor of the Rochester Times Union.

Upon graduation from high school in Rochester, Breck joined the U.S. Navy. Following his military service he attended the University of Houston, where he studied English and drama. While still a student, he began appearing in Houston stage productions and sometimes sang in local clubs.

He later performed at the Arena Theatre in Washington, D.C., where he was reportedly seen by Hollywood star Robert Mitchum, who helped him score a role in the 1958 feature film Thunder Road, which Mitchum starred in, produced and co-wrote. The production brought him to California.

Breck found occasional work in films such as The Beatniks, I Want to Live and Shock Corridor.

He also began working steadily in television, including a lead in the western series Black Saddle and a regular role as lawman Doc Holliday in Maverick. In addition, over the next four decades, he was seen in episodes of Perry Mason, The Roaring ’20s, Sugarfoot, Hawaiian Eye, Surfside 6, 77 Sunset Strip, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Outer Limits, Mission: Impossible, Vega$, The Six Million Dollar Man, S.W.A.T., Fantasy Island and many others,

On The Big Valley, which aired from 1965-1969, Breck played Nick Barkley, son of Stanwyck and brother of Richard Long, Linda Evans and half-brother of Lee Majors.

As steady television work abated, Breck returned to the theater in the United States and Canada. Over time, he and his wife, former dancer Diana Bourne, settled in Vancouver, where, for a time, he ran an acting school.

He also took occasional movie and television parts, including the big-screen comedy Jiminy Glick in Lalawood, starring Martin Short.

Survivors include his wife.

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