by Earl Leaf; ‘TEEN, April 1972
The last person to interview Peter Duel before his untimely death with his own gun was ‘TEEN’s bright-eyed swellebrity editor Maureen Donaldson, who spent a delightful afternoon with him at work and play. Pete didn’t seem despondent or emotionally disturbed, she says, but after all, he was a very convincing actor with a finely-honed gift for pretending. Even his fiancee Dianne Ray didn’t know how seriously disturbed he was.
He had often sounded off in hot anger about the fatigue, frustrations, boredom, and pressures of working 12 hours a day on the Alias Smith & Jones series. Some people say this turned him to booze and cracked him up.
Maybe so, but Ben Murphy, his TV partner, thrived on the same routine.
“Any television series is a big fat drag to any actor,” Pete used to gripe. Not so, say TVets Jim Arness, Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, Doris Day, and the Bonanza bunch who surely ought to know whether ’tis or ‘taint.
All the same, the long hours on location, constantly commuting long distances in traffic, the boring hours wasted hanging around between sequences, the hard work in extreme heat or cold, and other real hardships can take its toll. Pete couldn’t cope. Others find a way.
Fred MacMurray did. He had the shooting schedules on My Three Sons rearranged so that all his scenes are made together, out of sequence, thereby cutting his work week to two days, three at most.
Glenn Ford’s Cades County contract gives him a day off between shows or a week after three segments, and limits his daily grind from nine to six.
“This arrangement has been a godsend, enabling me to make it through the week,” he grinned. “Two essentials for any actor doing a series are physical stamina and a sense of humor. And the atmosphere on the set must be relaxed; that is, no temperament, no hysteria, no screamers. We’ve fired two screamers — assistant directors who yelled at the crew and got everyone uptight.”