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‘The Big Valley’s’ Richard Long - Life, Career, and Death at 47

Junie Sihlangu
Jun 13, 2020
08:00 P.M.
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Richard Long might not have lived long, but he managed to have a career that spanned through 28 years. In this piece, we get to know more about him, including his early years and career.

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Actor Richard Long was best known for his roles as a series regular. However, the star also earned his stripes while serving in the US army before continuing to pursue fame in the world of show business.

Some people might recognize him as the star of ABC-produced shows like "The Big Valley," "Nanny and the Professor," and many others. Richard got into Hollywood at a very young age.

Suzan Ball recovers in hospital after having her leg amputated, in 1954 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Suzan Ball recovers in hospital after having her leg amputated, in 1954 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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LONG'S BACKGROUND

On December 17, 1927, the future star was born in Chicago, Illinois. His parents were commercial artist Sherman D. Long and his wife, Dale McCord Long, who would have a total of six children.

The future actor was baby number five. Richard and his family moved to Hollywood in 1944, before the star attended Hollywood High School for his senior year.

Richard Long posing for photos on September 15, 1970, in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Santi Visalli/Getty Images

Richard Long posing for photos on September 15, 1970, in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Santi Visalli/Getty Images

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He once confessed that he'd never had any intention of becoming an actor. The star took senior drama class at school as a "snap course" because he required credit for his English subject, confessing:

“I had no intention of becoming an actor. I took a senior drama class, because it was a snap course and I needed the credit for my English requirement.”

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FINDING FAME

According to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in 1946, Richard began his acting career by accident. One day, Jack Murton, a member of International's casting department, got a ride from some Hollywood High School boys.

He learned the school would be staging a play in a few days with one child, Dick Long, holding one of the lead roles. It happened that Murton was looking for a youthful actor to play a role in a studio production.

Richard Long and Jim Backus on a TV set on September 15, 1970, in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Santi Visalli/Getty Images

Richard Long and Jim Backus on a TV set on September 15, 1970, in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Santi Visalli/Getty Images

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After Murton saw Richard, he arranged for producers Irving Pichel and David Lewis to hear him read some lines. The producers brought the young star in before test cameras the following day.

It didn't take long before the studio head, William Goetz, saw the resulting work and signed a film contract for the teenager. Richard ended up making his big-screen debut in 1946's "Tomorrow is Forever."

American actress and model Mara Corday, circa 1955 | Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

American actress and model Mara Corday, circa 1955 | Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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SOME OF RICHARD'S OTHER ACTING CREDITS

That same year, Richard starred in "The Stranger" and also got to star alongside Lew Ayres and the famous Olivia de Havilland in "The Dark Mirror." He later featured in movies like "The Egg and I" and "Ma and Pa Kettle."

In 1948, he appeared in "Tap Roots," and the following year, he was in "The Life of Riley" and "Criss Cross." Richard carried on raking in the roles in 1950's "Kansas Raiders" and 1951's "Air Cadet."

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BEING DRAFTED

When Richard was in his 40s, and not long after "Air Cadet," he was enlisted in the US Army. In the two years, he was drafted, the actor rose in the ranks by becoming a private first class.

Even though he was a soldier, he never stopped performing in some form or another. In the Tokyo Special Services, he served as a radio actor and disc jockey (DJ) for programs the troops listened to.

Suzan Ball shortly before her death from cancer circa 1955 | Photo: Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Suzan Ball shortly before her death from cancer circa 1955 | Photo: Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images

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ACTING AGAIN AND MARRIAGES

In 1952, the star was honorably discharged and went on to appear in "Back at the Front" that same year and "Make Like a Thief" in 1964. He also featured in a dozen more films after the army.

The San Francisco Examiner revealed he was set to wed Mary Briggs the same year he was discharged. Not much else was said about that before it was revealed Richard was dating actress Suzan Ball.

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On April 11, 1954, the couple were married and stayed together until her death on August 5, 1955. The actor and actress never had any children together, and he married a second wife, Mara Corday, on January 26, 1957.

Together they had three children, Carey, Gregory, and Valerie. Richard's marriage to Corday was a tumulous one, and she once confessed that she'd divorced him ten times in their first year of marriage.

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RICHARD'S ILLNESS & DEATH

In 1961, the Ventura County Star-Free Press revealed that the star was in the hospital to treat a heart ailment. At the time, the actor was being sued for divorce by his wife, Corday.

When the actor was younger, he contracted pneumonia, which weakened his heart and caused his first heart attack in the 1950s. In 1974, Richard suffered another heart attack after allegedly having many more before then.

He ended up having a month-long stay at Los Angeles' Tarzana Medical Center. Sadly, Richard died on December 21, 1947, from a heart ailment just four days after turning 47.

Despite the clashes the star had with Corday, the pair remained together until his death. His last film role was in "Death Cruise," which came out the same year of his passing.

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