Mar 28, 2013

The Big Valley: The Gay Connection

I never saw The Big Valley (1965-69); it was on past my bedtime, or we watched Carol Burnett instead.  But you could hardly miss the commercials crowded with musclemen poured into their slacks -- with obvious gifts beneath the belt -- set to a rousing theme song with an elderly lady saying "Show us what you inherited from your father!  Show us some of Tom Barkley's guts!"

The elderly lady was Victoria Barkley (lesbian actress Barbara Stanwyck, who starred in Double Indemnity with Fred MacMurray), owner of a large California ranch in the 1880s.  She had four sons and a daughter, whose squabbles formed most of the plots.

Barbara Stanwyck and Rock Hudson starred together in several movies during the 1950s, such as All I Desire (1953), and were still close friends.  Coincidentally, most of the other actors in the cast had a Rock Hudson connection.

1. Richard Long (right) played eldest son Jarrod, a calm, sensible attorney.  A friend of Rock Hudson (left) and a regular at gay talent agent Henry Willson's parties, he was long rumored to be gay.  He later played gay-vague on Nanny and the Professor.














2. Peter Breck played hot-headed Nick, who always wore black and was always getting into fistfights.

3. Linda Evans, who played Audra, who would go on to star on Dynasty.  In 1984, she made headlines when she kissed Rock Hudson on camera, and then discovered that he had AIDS (in those days people thought you could contract it by kissing).

4. Youngest son Eugene, studying medicine at Berkeley, appeared in eight first-season episodes and then was written out. He was played by Charles Briles, who starred with Rock Hudson in Send Me No Flowers. 







5. Heath, the illegitimate son of Victoria's late husband, who had to literally fight to be accepted by his half-siblings, was was played by Lee Majors, later the star of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Fall Guy.   Majors was discovered and mentored by Rock Hudson, but upon becoming a big star, cut off all contact.  When Rock was outed as gay, Lee's publicist insisted that the two never knew each other.