It's fairly well-known that the Barkley family mansion on the TV series "The Big Valley" was located on the old Republic backlot in Studio City, Calif. But I recently uncovered a few tidbits about the sets used for the show that I don't think have been publicized much, if at all.
Here's another look at the Barkley family home on "The Big Valley." This screen shot comes from the episode "Under a Dark Star," which premiered Feb. 9, 1966, during the show's first season. The building on the Republic lot that served as the Barkley mansion tends to be referred to somewhat generically as "The Mansion," or the Mansion set.
"The Mansion," on the Republic backlot in Studio City
This shot of the Mansion is unrelated to "The Big Valley" or any other production, as far as I know, but has been circulated as something of a reference shot of Republic's Mansion set. The photo also appears in Tinsley E. Yarbrough's quintessential book "Those Great Western Movie Locations." Tinsley suggests the mansion was originally built for the 1949 John Wayne movie "The Fighting Kentuckian."
"The Big Valley" — closing credits
Here's the shot of the mansion that appears while the closing credits roll at the end of episodes of "The Big Valley." The one-hour series aired for four seasons and 112 episodes on ABC, from 1965-1969, and was part of a wave of TV Westerns including "Bonanza," 'Gunsmoke" and "The Virginian" that helped transition the genre from its primary role in the 1950s as children's entertainment into a well-regarded adult dramatic format.
The Barkley family barn, as seen on "The Big Valley"
The Barkley family's red barn, seen in a number of episodes, was also located on the Republic backlot. The barn was part of the Duchess Ranch set, which happened to be adjacent to the Mansion set. This shot comes from the episode "The Fallen Hawk," which premiered March 2, 1966.
"Santa Fe Passage" (Republic, 1955)
The Mansion set occasionally snuck into the shot in productions that featured the Duchess Ranch set, as in this example from the John Payne-Rod Cameron Western "Santa Fe Passage."
Additions and upgrades to the Duchess Ranch barn for "The Big Valley"
Even though the barn as it appears in "The Big Valley" is seen from close to the same angle used in "Santa Fe Passage," its appearance is markedly different in the two productions. For "The Big Valley," along with a new red paint job, the barn had a number of additions built on — such as the new covered entry area highlighted here. A freshly painted new corral area was also set up.
"The Golden Stallion" (Republic, 1949) — Duchess Ranch
The same set was featured in countless productions over the years, usually looking more like a typical dusty old Western ranch set — as it does here in the Roy Rogers and Trigger showcase "The Golden Stallion."
"The Big Valley" — gate to be replicated in Oak Park
The new corral area seen in "The Big Valley" was used to help establish the setting where the producers wanted viewers to believe the Barkley family compound was located, which is seen in the shot below.
"The Big Valley" — the replica gate, from the episode "Image of Yesterday"
The episode containing this screen shot of a replica corral gate — presumably meant to represent the gate back on the Republic lot — premiered Jan. 9, 1967, during season two. This gate appears in a number of episodes, with characters riding through it as they arrive at or depart from the Barkley compound.
The location of the gate is clearly meant to define the setting surrounding the Barkley family home on "The Big Valley." However, in the real world, the gate was located miles away in what is now the suburbs of Oak Park, Calif., specifically Lindero Canyon. It appears that the only part of the "Big Valley" set that stood in this location was the replica of the gate.
This shot from "Wagonload of Dreams" was taped near where the replica gate was set up. You may detect commonality in the background hills between this photo and those featuring the gate set. (See the next photo, for example.) This episode first aired Jan. 2, 1967, one week before "Image of Yesterday," and may well have been filmed during the same shoot.
"The Big Valley" — "Cage of Eagles"
The gate and background hills appear again in the episode "Cage of Eagles," which aired later in season two, premiering April 24, 1967. I wonder how long that gate would have stayed in place out there — or whether they kept putting it up and taking it down. More'n likely, they just kept recycling the same footage.
"Branded" TV show (1966) — same bluffs in the background
Lindero Canyon being a bit off the radar, tracking down the location of the "Big Valley" gate set took some doing. But the locale did play host to some filming activity, especially in the mid-1960s — this "Branded" shot being another example.
Google Earth photo: Hiking trail in Oak Park
A photo I found posted on Google Earth, taken by a hiker along a trail in the Lindero Canyon area, captures the same bluffs seen in "Branded" and "The Big Valley," albeit from a different angle.
"Gunsmoke" (1965) — the Miss Kitty dropoff point
The Oak Park shooting location first came to my attention as part of a search by Michael D, one of the readers of this blog. Michael is a "Gunsmoke" fan and mentioned that he had been searching for the remote location seen above, where Miss Kitty gets dropped off by the stagecoach in the episode "Gold Mine."
Amanda Blake as Kitty, stranded at the clump of rocks
In the "Gunsmoke" episode, Miss Kitty is dropped off by the stagecoach and left at the clump of rocks, where it's pertinent to the theme of the episode that she was stranded in the middle of nowhere. The episode premiered on Christmas Day in 1965 as part of "Gunsmoke's" 11th season.
Off the Beaten Path is a series of posts that are not specifically focused on the Iverson Movie Ranch. Typically they're about filming locations in Southern California. Past subjects have included Corriganville, Bell Ranch, Pioneertown and Mulholland Drive, to name a few. You can go directly to the Off the Beaten Path posts by looking up the term "Off the Beaten Path" in the long index of labels at the right of the page, or by clicking here (recommended!).