Peter Breck, perhaps best known for playing Nick in the popular Western TV series The Big Valley, passed on 6 February 2012 at the age of 82.
Peter Breck was born on 13 March 1929 in Rochester, New York. His father was jazz musician Joseph "Jobie" Breck. His parents were often on the road when Mr. Breck was very young, so he lived with his grandparents in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Eventually his parents divorced and Peter Breck went to Rochester, New York to live with his mother and her new husband. Following his graduation from high school Mr. Breck served in the United States Navy on the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. After his demobilisation Mr. Breck attended the University of Houston where he majored in English and Drama. While still attending the University of Houston he apprenticed at Houston's Alley Theatre.
Peter Breck made his television debut in an episode of Sheriff of Cochise. In the Fifties he guest starred on such shows as The Grey Ghost, The Court of Last Resort, Tombstone Territory, Highway Patrol, Wagon Train, Have Gun--Will Travel, U.S. Marshal, Zane Grey Theatre, The Restless Gun, Sea Hunt, and Sugarfoot. He played the lead role in Black Saddle. During the Fifties he appeared in such films as Thunder Road (1958), I Want to Live (1958), The Wild and the Innocent (1959), and The Beatniks (1960).
In the Sixties Mr. Breck appeared on such television shows as Bronco, The Roaring Twenties, Hawaiian Eye, Surfside 6, Lawman, The Gallant Men, Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip, Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits, Perry Mason, Bonanza, and The Virginian. He had a recurring role on Maverick as Doc Holiday. In 1965 he began a four year run as Nick Barkley on The Big Valley. He appeared in such films as Portrait of a Mobster (1961), Lad: A Dog (1962), The Crawling Hand (1963), Shock Corridor (1963), and The Glory Guys (1965).
From the Seventies into the Naughts, Mr. Breck appeared on such television shows as Alias Smith & Jones, Mission: Impossible, McMillan & Wife, S.W.A.T., The Six Million Dollar Man, Vega$, Masquerade, The Fall Guy, the Nineties revival of The Outer Limits, and John Doe. He appeared in such films as Benji (1974), The Sword and The Sorcerer (1982), Highway 61 (1992), Decoy (1995), Lulu (1996), Enemy Action(1999), and Jiminy Glick in Lalawood (2004). Throughout the Seventies he appeared on stage. In later years he wrote a column for Wildest Westerns magazine.
Peter Breck spent the majority of his career playing in Western television series. The reason was quite simply that he was very good at it. Whether playing a hero or a villain, Mr. Breck was very convincing riding a horse and carrying a six gun. The fact that he spent the majority of his career in one genre should not be taken to mean that Peter Breck was not talented or versatile. He played a wide variety of characters on television Westerns and he always played them with an energy and depth not always seen in oaters on the small screen. Indeed, the three roles for which he was best known were very different from each other. On Maverick he played a smooth talking if rather dangerous Doc Holiday. On Black Saddle he played Clay Culhane, a gunslinger turned lawyer who preferred to solve problems with his legal knowledge than his guns. On The Big Valley he played Victoria Barkley's second oldest son, Nick Barkley, who had a bit of a temper and rather enjoyed a good fight. He was convincing in all of these roles, even though each one was different from the other. What is more, in his older years Peter Breck often attended Western TV show conventions where he talked about his experiences in the small screen horse operas. From all reports he was a true gentleman who always had time and a kind word for his fans. Peter Breck was that rare combination: a singular talent who was also a perfect gentleman.