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Peter Breck

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Joseph Peter Breck is an American prolific character actor of stage, who has played roles on television and in film. The rugged, dark-haired Breck gained fame as Doc Holiday on the series "Maverick", but is best known for his role as Victoria Barkley's hot-tempered, middle son Nick in the popular 1960s Western, The Big Valley.


 Early career
After US Navy service on the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) he studied drama at the University of Houston. Breck made his debut in a film produced by Bert Freed that was eventually released under the title The Beatniks. As well as performing in live theatre, Breck had several guest-starring roles on a number of popular series, such as Sea Hunt, several episodes of Wagon Train, Have Gun – Will Travel, Perry Mason, and Gunsmoke. In 1956, he and David Janssen appeared in John Bromfield's syndicated series Sheriff of Cochise in the episode "The Turkey Farmers". He appeared in another syndicated series too in the episode "The Deserter" of the American Civil War drama Gray Ghost, with Tod Andrews in the title role.

When Robert Mitchum saw him in George Bernard Shaw's play The Man of Destiny in Washington, D.C. he offered Breck a role as a rival driver in 1958's Thunder Road. Mitchum set Breck up in Los Angeles and as Breck did not have his own car, Mitchum lent him his own Jaguar. Mitchum introduced Breck to Dick Powell who contracted him to Four Star Productions where he appeared in Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater. He also appeared with fellow guest star Diane Brewster in the 1958 episode "The Lady Gambler" of the ABC western series Tombstone Territory, starring Pat Conway and Richard Eastham. In 1958 Breck also appeared in an episode of Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford.

In the 1959–1960 season, he starred as a gunfighter-turned-lawyer lead in the NBC western Black Saddle, with secondary roles for Russell Johnson, J. Pat O'Malley, and Walter Burke.

Breck was later a contract star with Warner Brothers Television where he appeared as Doc Holliday on the series Maverick, a part that had been played twice earlier in the series by Gerald Mohr and by Adam West on Lawman . Breck appeared in several other Warners series of the time such as Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip, The Roaring Twenties, The Gallant Men, and a 1969 episode of The Donald O'Connor Show.

The first movie in which Breck was the top-billed star was Lad, A Dog . The next year, he played the leading roles in both Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor and the science-fiction horror film The Crawling Hand. During this time, he also appeared on episodes of several more TV shows, such as The Outer Limits, The Restless Gun, Bonanza, Perry Mason, and The Virginian.

 The Big Valley
From 1965 to 1969, Breck starred in the ABC Western series The Big Valley, where he played Nick Barkley, ramrod of the Barkley ranch and son to Barbara Stanwyck's character Victoria Barkley. The second of four children, Nick was the hotheaded, short-tempered brother. Always spoiling for a fight and frequently wearing leather gloves, Breck's character took the slightest offense to the Barkley name personally and quickly made his displeasure known, as often with his fists as with his vociferous shouts. Often this proved to be a mistake and only through the calming influence of his mother and cooler-headed brothers, Jarrod , Eugene , and half-brother Heath , would a difficult situation be rectified. Breck, having been a Barbara Stanwyck fan since the 1940s, as a teenager, also developed a wonderful on- and off-screen chemistry with her, practicing longer lines and even being a ranch foreman on the set. After the show was canceled, he stayed close to her until her death.

 After The Big Valley
Most of his roles in the 1970s and 1980s were more TV guest-starring performances, on series such as Alias Smith and Jones, Mission: Impossible, McMillan & Wife, S.W.A.T., The Six Million Dollar Man , The Incredible Hulk, and The Dukes of Hazzard, as well as roles as himself on Fantasy Island, and The Fall Guy which also starred former television "brother" Lee Majors.

In the mid-1980s, Breck moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with his wife Diane and their son Christoper. He was asked by a casting director to teach one class a week to young actors on film technique. That one-a-week class became a full time acting school - The Breck Academy - which he ran for ten years. In 1990, Breck appeared in the Canadian cult film Terminal City Ricochet.

Before then, on January 20, 1990, while teaching at a drama school, he received word that his beloved TV mother/friend, Barbara Stanwyck, had died. Barbara Stanwyck requested no funeral nor memorial.

In 1996, he appeared in an episode of the new version of The Outer Limits.

His most recent TV performance was on an episode of John Doe in 2002. In recent years, most of his film performances have been in undistributed films that are shown only at film festivals.

In June 2010, Breck's wife Diane announced on his official website that the actor has been suffering from dementia and can no longer sign autographs for fans, although he still reads and enjoys their letters. Despite this diagnosis, she says he is still physically healthy and doesn't require medication.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Peter Breck", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.