by Tom Green, Gannett News Service; Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, January 17, 1971
Hollywood — It had been rainy for days in Southern California and when a break in weather came, they rushed the cast and crew of ABC’s new mid-season entry, Alias Smith and Jones, out to the muddy back lot at Universal Studios.
They’ve been doing a lot of rushing with the new western. The show goes on the air as a replacement for Matt Lincoln this Thursday and by just a couple of days before Christmas only one episode had been completed.
Lunch had been cut to half-an-hour and Pete Duel, who’s in the new show with Ben Murphy, was obviously feeling the strain of the last few weeks.
It’s a strain that doesn’t seem to be helped any by his own admission that he doesn’t want to be in Alias Smith & Jones. But Duel is under contract to Universal Studios and only a lawsuit had any chance of keeping him out of it and he stopped short of taking that step.
“I’d be doing movies right now if I wasn’t doing this series,” he said. “I’m just tired out. I’m enjoying the routine of getting up at 5 a.m. But we’re behind and I’m tired. We were late starting on shooting. Alias Smith & Jones is supposed to be a comedy or at least light comedy western in the Butch Cassidy or Maverick mold. We were told not to say anything about Butch Cassidy, but the similarities are so obvious.”
Duel and Murphy play two highwaymen/bank robbers who decide to get out of the crook business if they can get amnesty from the governor. A judge gives them a year’s trial. But nobody knows about the arrangement except the governor and a sheriff who used to ride with their gang.
So they go about trying to keep themselves out of trouble.
“It’s supposed to be humorous. But this is TV and any similarity to a class motion picture is purely coincidental.”
The series is a spin-off from a made-for-television movie that ABC aired early in January.
“They make everything as a potential series now, don’t they? If they were going to remake Ben Hur, they’d do it as a potential series. It’s very sound. Financially it must be very sound.”
Duel admits he enjoyed doing the movie-pilot for the show.
“The guy I play is pretty bright, romantic, carefree. The other man is a little straighter. He’s a gunfighter. I open safes and play cards and he shoots people and draws fast. Although he won’t shoot anybody on the series.”
Duel says he would rather be doing something dramatic. This fall he has done guest appearances on seven dramatic series with episodes of Marcus Welby. M.D. and The Name of the Game.
On Name of the Game he will appear for the first time with his brother, Geoffrey Deuel. Deuel is the family name. The brothers grew up in Penfield. Pete recently changed the spelling of his last name to the more common Duel.
Alias Smith & Jones is the third series that Duel has done for ABC. He was the young husband to Judy Carne in Love on a Rooftop and also appeared as the brother in-law in Gidget.
Duel dismisses any suggestion that Alias Smith & Jones will be good for him because of the national exposure he will receive.
“Why do I need a good following if independent producers in Hollywood are willing to put me in movies? I don’t care if they know who I am in Ohio. I spent two years after Love on a Rooftop and Gidget trying to learn to act.
“Ben and I are in every damn shot. We don’t have time for anything. I’m so tired, I’m confused. My ears are ringing. Ben is dingy. He’s starting to show up late … It’s been so cold and by 11 a.m. I start to drag. By 4 p.m., I can’t do anything.”
Duel was leaving the next day for four days of rest in Rochester with his family, Dr. and Mrs. Ellsworth S. Deuel. There was talk that when he got back they were going to start shooting two shows simultaneously.
“Yeah, that’s probably next.”