Audra was every cowboy's dream -- a pretty, blonde cowgirl who rode ponies and tangled with horse thieves, while exuding hotness.

With cool baby blue eyes (thanks to her Norwegian heritage), Linda played the Barkley little sister role with verve, not disappearing into the background.

Audra was a talented horse-woman -- she didn't ride side-saddle -- and, like her brothers Jarrod, Nick and Heath, she performed daring stunts.  Her personality was much like her mother's (Barbara Stanwyck). Although her brothers protected her, Audra was no shrinking wallflower. She was a feisty, firey, tempermental young lady.

Linda, however, understood her eye-candy role. "Believe me, I know why I'm on the show," she told an interviewer. Her flowing blonde hair, glittering white teeth, and hour-glass figure made her a stunning sight in the drab 19th century Old West.
"The Big Valley" was one of the last Westerns of the era. Set in the 1870s in California's fertile San Joaquin Valley, the show featured the Barkleys as the richest family in Stockton. The Barkleys owned a 30,000 acre farm with cattle herds, citrus groves, logging camps, and gold mines.

Linda was born in Connecticut to parents who were professional dancers and the family moved to Hollywood when she was a baby. Her career jump started when she accompanied a high school classmate to a Canada Dry commercial audition. The director was so impressed with Linda that he asked her to audition, and she got the part.
She went on to appear in several TV series, including "The Untouchables" and "My Favorite Martian."

Ironically, at age 15 she guest-starred in "Bachelor Father," which starred John Forsythe. Two decades later she would play Forsythe's wife in "Dynasty."

Forsythe said that when he first met Linda, "She was magnificent and very skinny. When she came to play my wife [in "Dynasty"], I said, 'Linda Evans, my, have you grown! You've blossomed in the right places."

Before landing the role of Audra, Linda changed her name from Evanstad to Evans and dyed her dark hair blonde.

Interviewed by Larry King, she said that she read for a movie part and was told by the director it was "worst reading I've seen...but you've got a  quality we really like...and we'd like you to test for a TV pilot," which was "The Big Valley."  She tested with Lee Majors, vying for the role of Heath, and of course, both actors got their parts.

After the four-year run of "The Big Valley," Linda later appeared in Playboy magazine, at the urging of her husband, John Derek.

In 1981 at age 39 she gained fame as oil millionaire wife Krystle Carrington in the 1980s nighttime soap "Dynasty."

"I personally was thrilled that we [herself and co-star Joan Collins] were two older women at that time to be over forty and to have a television series was shocking," she told King. "To be older and to be given these parts was just miraculous."
Linda Evans Audra Barkley "The Bigt Valley"
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LINDA EVANS as Audra Barkley in "The Big Valley"
"Dynasty" was a top 7 program during the height of its popularity, 1982-86 , inclluding a No. 1 Nielsen rating in 1984-85.

Linda said the show's fans were obsessed with the rich lifestyle the characters led.

"To see that [the rich on 'Dynasty'] had problems just like everybody else, to see that they were human and they had pain and suffering and emotions, I thought that was fascinating to them," she said.

Linda said fans became so absorbed with her character that they often addressed her not as Linda, but as Krystle.

"One time I was having dinner with Barbara Stanwyck and someone came over and they said,'Dear, you're not treating your help right. You have to be stronger with them,'" Linda said in the King interview. "This very well dressed elegant woman was telling me how to treat the help."
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