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Peter Breck

Peter Breck Shock CorridorActor Peter Breck (right, in Shock Corridor), best known for his role as the short-tempered Nick Barkley in the 1960s television series The Big Valley, died Monday, Feb. 6, in Vancouver. Breck, who had been suffering from dementia, was 82.

Though mostly a TV actor (Black Saddle, Maverick, The Fall Guy), Breck also appeared in about 20 movies. The most notable among those was probably Samuel Fuller's thriller Shock Corridor (1963), in which he plays a journalist who commits himself to a mental institution in order to solve a murder. Additionally, Breck was featured in Joe Camp's blockbuster Benji (1974), about a stray dog who rescues two kidnapped children.

Breck's other features were minor fare. Those included Herbert L. Strock's The Crawling Hand (1963), about the hand of a dead astronaut that spends its time strangling the living, plus Highway 61 (1991), Decoy (1995), Lulu (1996), and Jiminy Glick in Lalawood (2004).

Breck is the third The Big Valley lead to have passed on. Richard Long died of a heart attack at age 47 in 1974. Barbara Stanwyck, whose film career had begun in 1927, died in 1990. Lee Majors, 73 next April, and Linda Evans, 70 next November, are still alive.

Directed by Daniel Adams, a big-screen version of The Big Valley is expected to hit theaters some time in 2012. The Big Valley movie features Jason Alan Smith (as Nick Barkley), Sarah Paxton, Richard Dreyfuss, Aidan Quinn, Bruce Dern, Josh Stewart, John Savage, Travis Fimmel, Buck Taylor, and Lee Majors. Jessica Lange, who took over from the previously announced Susan Sarandon, will play the old Barbara Stanwyck role.

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