Here’s What Happened to Richard Long, Star of ‘The Big Valley’ and ‘Nanny and the Professor’

There are some actors who capture our imagination with their performances, but are suddenly gone without much warning. The Courtship of Eddie’s Father star Bill Bixby was one of them, and another was Richard Long, part of The Big Valley cast and the second half of the title Nanny and the Professor. Discovered as a teenager, the ups and downs of his journey in life and as an actor would come to a shocking end at the age of only 47. And it was a life that seemed to have been filled with as much pain as there was joy.

He was born December 17, 1927, in Chicago, Illinois, the fifth of six children born to commercial artist Sherman D. Long and his wife, Dale McCord Long. In 1944 the family made the move to Hollywood, where Richard spent his senior year at Hollywood High School. As he once reflected, “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.”

richard-long
20th Century-Fox Television

In 1946, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted that Richard got his film start more or less by accident. “Jack Murton,” the paper offered, “a member of International’s casting department, thumbed a ride one day from a couple of Hollywood High School boys. In the course of casual conversation, he learned that the school would have a stage play within a few days and that a kid by the name of Dick Long had set the drama instructors abuzz in one of the leading roles. Murton, on the watch for a youthful actor to play a would-be flier in his studio’s production of the Gwen Bristow novel Tomorrow is Forever, sent for Long just to have a look at him. After seeing him, Murton arranged for producers David Lewis and Irving Pichel to listen to him read some lines. Lewis and Pichel had him before the test cameras the following day and it wasn’t long after William Goetz, the studio head, saw the resulting ‘rushes’ that Long was signed to a film contract.

“The high school play that Long was in,” they added, “was called Louisiana Susie and it was his first attempt at acting except for the time, when he was only 12, he appeared as the school teacher in Tom Sawyer in a Chicago Church.”

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