Variety, January 3, 1972
Coroner’s investigation continued today into the death of actor Peter Duel, 31, who police believe shot himself in the head in his Hollywood Hills home early Friday morning. The nude body of the television star, who appeared opposite Ben Murphy in Universal’s Alias Smith and Jones series on ABC-TV, was found beneath the Christmas tree by Dianne Ray, who was visiting him.
Following memorial services at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine here yesterday, the body was flown to Penfield, N.Y. for burial.
Police are calling the death a probable suicide, following questioning of Miss Ray, who said she had gone to Duel’s home Thursday evening and retired while Duel was watching a basketball game. She said he had been drinking heavily, that he went into the bedroom at about 1:25 a.m., took a gun and left the room, telling her, “I’ll see you later.” A short time after, Miss Ray said she heard a shot and went into the living room where she found him on the floor, the gun at his feet.
Police first thought two shots had been fired, but it was later determined Duel had fired one last month at a telegram informing him he had not been elected to Screen Actors Guild board. He was a member of the SAG slate challenging the regulars.
Duel reportedly was despondent over heavy drinking. Last June he was placed on probation for felony drunken driving after pleading guilty.
Executive producer Roy Huggins of Alias Smith & Jones said the death came as a shock to him and added he believed it was accidental. Universal TV president Sid Sheingberg said everyone at Universal was “terribly disturbed,” that Duel was a personal friend.
Sheinberg added that Universal had a commitment with ABC for the series, had been in touch with the web. The studio will recast the Duel role to finish production. They will have to reshoot four days of one segment.
Filming was cancelled Friday morning, but resumed in the afternoon with Murphy working in scenes not involving his costar. Universal TV Senior Vice President Frank Price said the studio hoped to have the new lead set in time for resumption of production today.
Duel’s first series was Love on a Rooftop, in which he starred with Judy Carne. The actor’s real name was Peter Deuel. His brother, Geoff, is an actor, sister Pamela, a singer.
Duel, who played character of Hannibal Heyes for ABC series, was born in Rochester, where his father was a doctor. He attended St. Lawrence U., planned to become a medic, but switched to acting after working college theatre production.
He trained at American Theatre Wing in N.Y., was in “Electra” off Broadway, on the national tour of Take Her, She’s Mine, and when that legiter came to Hollywood he remained to work in TV. He had a recurring role in the Gidget series, later was in Love on a Rooftop.
Universal signed him to a term pact, and he worked in Cannon for Cordoba and Generation, among others. He was a bachelor.