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The Big Valley's The Midas Man Episode: Tom Tryon & Walker Edmiston Guest Star

The Big Valley's The Midas Man debuted on Wednesday night, April 13, 1966. The ruggedly handsome Tom Tryon plays financier Scott Breckenridge who comes to Stockton during a prolonged drought flashing cash loan offers to desperate ranchers. Regulars Richard Long, Linda Evans, Barbara Stanwyck, Lee Majors and Peter Breck are also joined in the cast by Walker Edmiston, Ken Lynch and Richard O'Brien.

ABC-TV's The Big Valley (1965-69) entertained TV western fans for four seasons on the tube. The 1966 episode "The Midas Man" guest stars Tom Tryon as Scott Breckenridge, a shrewd financier and land speculator who comes to Stockton in order to capitalize on the continuing drought.

The Big Valley's The Midas Man: Cast & Credits

Margaret Armen wrote the teleplay for "The Midas Man," with Arnold Laven directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Jarrod Barkley (Richard Long)
  • Nick Barkley (Peter Breck)
  • Heath Barkley (Lee Majors)
  • Audra Barkley (Linda Evans)
  • Victoria Barkley (Barbara Stanwyck)
  • Scott Breckenridge (Tom Tryon)
  • Titus McKelvy (Walker Edmiston)
  • Ed Mead (Hal Lynch)
  • Jace Holman (Richard O'Brien)

Tom Tryon (1926-1991) - findagrave.com

The Midas Man: Episode Synopsis

Dashing, well-heeled financier Scott Breckenridge comes to the valley to pay a visit to his old friend and lawyer Jarrod Barkley. Breckenridge has a well-deserved reputation as the man with the Midas touch, turning his many investment deals and land speculations into big money.

The San Joaquin Valley is currently in the midst of a prolonged drought, threatening to ruin the local ranchers. The Barkleys, however, are well-diversified, owning mills, timber camps and mines in addition to their 30,000-acre ranch. Not so for ranchers Titus McKelvy, Ed Mead, Jace Holman and others, who depend on cattle for their sole income.

Against the advice of Jarrod, the desperate McKelvy, Mead and Holman take up Breckenridge on his offer to loan them money at 12% interest – double what a bank would charge. As collateral, the trio put up their land. If needed rain comes, they should easily be able to pay off the loans following the sale of their beef. But if the drought continues, Breckenridge stands to gain some $500,000 in valuable real estate through foreclosure.

The sophisticated, well-traveled Breckenridge becomes romantically involved with Audra Barkley. But when Breckenridge proposes that the smitten Audra become his mistress rather than his wife, the relationship sours. Meanwhile, the drought continues, with the deadline for the loans coming due and Breckenridge refusing to extend them for another 30 days despite pleas from Jarrod.

The Midas Man: Air Date & Network Competition

"The Midas Man" was telecast over ABC on Wednesday night, April 13, 1966, in the 9-10 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening when LBJ still occupied the White House was Green Acres/The Dick Van Dyke Show on CBS and Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre on NBC.

The Midas Man: Analysis & Review

Tom Tryon (1926-1991) was a busy actor during the 1960s. Perhaps his most memorable performance came as Stephen Fermoyle in the 1963 religious epic The Cardinal. Tryon, who later gave up acting to become a best-selling novelist (The Other, Crowned Heads), scored his one and only guest appearance in The Big Valley as Scott Breckenridge, an Old West financier with the Midas touch and a way with the ladies. 

Tryon excels in the role. His Scott Breckenridge character dresses in expensive suits and stays at Stockton's ritzy Cattlemen's Hotel. He is obviously educated, erudite and a world traveler, quickly catching the eye of young Audra Barkley, who journeys into Stockton in order to meet Breckenridge under the flimsy guise of an appointment with a dressmaker. 

But Breckenridge proves to be not only a charmer of women, but a hard-nosed businessman as well, loaning money to ranchers during a drought in which he will come out ahead either way. When the badly needed rain doesn't come, Breckenridge is perfectly okay in confiscating their land as per the loan agreement, netting him a cool $500,000 in prime real estate.

Jarrod Barkley goes to bat for the squeezed ranchers, offering his friend Breckenridge mortgages on the Barkley mills if Scott will extend the loans. When that fails, Audra offers herself to Breckenridge, telling the financier that she will go away with him if the loans are extended. At the Barkley mansion Breckenridge accepts Audra's offer, only to refute it in the end and extend the loans to the Barkleys' "friends," the latter of whom were more than willing to believe that the Barkleys and Breckenridge had conspired against them. 

"The Midas Man" ranks as one of The Big Valley's more entertaining episodes. There are no gunfights, brawls or the usual TV western violence in this segment. Instead, the viewer gets a good look at the business side of the Old West in the person of suave financier Scott Breckenridge, one of The Big Valley's more memorable characters.

"The Midas Man" hails from The Big Valley's first season and is episode #28 of 112 in the series. 

Top Image

  • L-r: Peter Breck, Richard Long, Barbara Stanwyck, Linda Evans and Lee Majors in The Big Valley - Four Star Productions

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

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Comments (1)

Good review.  Not only was Tom Tryon superb as Scott Breckinridge, but it showcased Audra Barkley (Linda Evans) as something besides just another feather-brained blonde when she offered herself as collateral against Breckinridge's loans. Such an offer would have been nearly unthinkable at the time, when a woman's reputation was literally the only thing she owned.  This episode was a lot more than standard Western-genre fluff.

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