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Actor Peter Breck dead at 82

  |   Feb. 12, 2012 at 2:51 PM
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Actor Peter Breck, best known as the hot-headed Nick Barkley in the 1960s TV show "The Big Valley," has died in Canada after a long illness.

Breck was 82. He died of complications from dementia Monday in Vancouver, British Coumbia, his wife Diana said.

Joseph Peter Breck was born in Rochester, N.Y., to a jazz musician father who was frequently on the road. He went to live with his grandparents in Haverhill, Mass., where he grew up and began his acting career after a stint in the U.S. Navy, The New York Times reported

The actor's rough good looks kept him working onstage and in television for decades beginning in 1956. Breck's part in 1958's Robert Mitchum action picture "Thunder Road," though uncredited, earned him Mitchum's friendship -- and his advice to move from the East Coast to Los Angeles.

By the 1960s, Breck had racked up a string of credits, mostly in Westerns such as "Maverick," playing Doc Holliday opposite James Garner in the title role. In 1965, Breck won his breakout role opposite Barbara Stanwyck in "The Big Valley." The show aired until 1969.

Breck left Hollywood in the 1980s for Vancouver, where he started an acting school. Breck and his wife had one son, Christopher, who died of leukemia in his 20s, the newspaper said.

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