There’s a quote that I feel would best start today’s tribute to one of my favorite underrated actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Richard Long (December 17th, 1927 – December 21st, 1974): “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
I stated this because the classic film and television world lost an indelibly brilliant legend much too soon; I’d also like to add that he was so immensely gifted, talented and wonderful on screen. In a film/TV career that’s lasted close to 3 decades (1946-74), Long’s starred in films and television appearances which have become beloved treasures by countless fans of his work. Some of those gems include, but not limited to: Tomorrow Is Forever, The Stranger, Criss Cross, All I Desire, Cult of the Cobra, House on Haunted Hill, the made for TV film Death Cruise (the latter being his final featured appearance) as well as the classic television shows Nanny and the Professor, The Big Valley, Kraft Suspense Theater, The Twilight Zone, 77 Sunset Strip, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, Bourbon Street Beat, Maverick, Lawman, Sugarfoot, The Millionaire, Have Gun-Will Travel, Wagon Train, Alcoa Theatre, Suspicion, Screen Director’s Playhouse, The United States Steel Hour, Climax! & Matinee Theatre just to name some
I’ve been a huge fan of Richard Long ever since he starred in The Big Valley and honestly his character as Jarrod Barkley is just one of the many reasons why the series has become one of my personal favorites to view during The Golden Age in Television; Long was an underrated but masterful talent who deserved so much more credit than what was given to him. Even though my passion for Richard Long began while viewing The Big Valley, my love for him and his career pretty much started when I saw The Stranger with Orson Welles and Loretta Young (it aired on a television channel called MAVTV); at the time, I had no idea that a young Richard Long would be gracing my presence onscreen playing Young’s brother Noah who becomes hesitant at first but later befriends and helps Edward G. Robinson’s character capture Welles
After seeing the film on more than one occasion, I finally realized that I needed to see more of his work so I delved into his other films: House on Haunted Hill, which has become an instant horror classic for me to view on Halloween as well as Cult of the Cobra, the brilliant classic film noir Criss Cross and culminating with Death Cruise (which is more of an acquired taste yet still very much enjoyable to watch); I need to view more of his other television appearances like 77 Sunset Strip for instance. This wonderfully brilliant television series also starred Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. another amazingly gifted individual who emulated captivating performances onscreen like Long did…I’m a huge fan of his work as well! Long achieved considerable success on television, including the Warner Brothers detective series set in New Orleans, Bourbon Street Beat (1959–1960) with Andrew Duggan, Van Williams, and Arlene Howell
He also appeared on episodes of Hey, Jeannie!, The Twilight Zone, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Tenderfoot (1964) for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. He played the recurring villainous role of gambler/con artist “Gentleman Jack Darby” in four episodes of the ABC/WB western series, Maverick beginning in 1958, including the most remembered “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres” installment. His character appeared only with Jack Kelly, never with other cast members James Garner and Roger Moore. Gentleman Jack Darby was created by Maverick producer Roy Huggins as a replacement for “Dandy Jim Buckley,” played by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., after Zimbalist had moved on from Maverick to his own series, 77 Sunset Strip
Five months before he was cast in Bourbon Street Beat, Long appeared as U.S. Army Captain Clayton Raymond in the episode “The Vultures” (April 26th, 1959) in another ABC/WB series, Sugarfoot, with Will Hutchins in the title role. Raymond faces court martial for desertion at a western fort prior to a deadly Indian attack. Fledgling lawyer Sugarfoot defends Raymond, who refuses to explain the incident in question, which also involves Isabel Starkey (Faith Domergue), the wife of the fort commander, Colonel Starkey (Alan Marshal). Philip Ober is cast as General Humphrey, who is determined to find the truth of the matter. In 1963, Long guest starred in the episode “Hear No Evil” of ABC’s Going My Way, a drama series starring Gene Kelly about a Catholic priest in New York City loosely based on the 1944 Bing Crosby movie. That same year, he was cast as Eddie Breech in the episode “Blood Bargain” of CBS’s The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
In 1965, at the age of thirty-eight, Long began his role as attorney Jarrod Barkley, the oldest son to rancher Victoria Barkley (Barbara Stanwyck), in 112 episodes of The Big Valley, the last of the major Four Star Television series, a Western which ran on ABC from 1965–1969. The series was set in the 1870s. Long also directed several episodes of The Big Valley and then in 1953, Long had costarred with Stanwyck in the film All I Desire. In 1970–71, he and Juliet Mills starred in the ABC sitcom Nanny and the Professor. In 1973 he starred alongside Julie Harris in the short-lived series, Thicker than Water. He finished a television movie called Death Cruise, which would be his last work before his death. On December 21st, 1974 Richard Long passed away from a heart attack; he was only 47 years old. His untimely death reminded me a lot of how I lost my father at a young age and even though the classic film world lost the incredible brilliance of what Long selflessly stood for, his life’s work will forever be remembered to this very day through those who loved who he was! Being a classic film lover really does have its advantages: for one thing, there are those who genuinely understand and appreciate equally just how I feel about Richard Long; sure, many may remember other great actors and actresses from The Big Valley like Peter Breck, Linda Evans and Lee Majors for one but for me Richard Long will always be my number one favorite from the TV series
I guess in a way, he represented something much greater in my life today; interestingly, Long served in the U.S. Army for two years during the Korean War, where he was posted to Fort Ord, California, alongside actors Martin Milner, David Janssen, and Clint Eastwood as well as being stationed in Tokyo, Japan. In the end, I’m incredibly grateful to know that Richard Long’s films continue to grace the lives of those who remember him still; there was indeed something wonderful about Long and his enduring film/television legacy. This particular post from my Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series was long overdue but in the end well worth the wait; I’ve chatted about his film work in other groups on Facebook as well because Long was such a remarkable, beloved, wonderful and awe-inspiring human being who deeply cared about not only his craft but family as well. Richard Long was, and always will be, a personal favorite actor of mine who meant the world to me in more ways than one even if he wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award!