Rochester Times Union, December 31, 1971
Peter Duel, 31, Rochester-born star of television’s Alias Smith and Jones, was found shot to death early today in his Hollywood Hills home, police reported. Coroner’s officials said the young actor was shot in the head.
Police said Duel’s body was discovered at 1:30 p.m. after an anonymous phone call to authorities [actually, the call wasn’t anonymous]. The body was on the living room floor. Duel had been shot with a .38-caliber weapon, they said.
Police reported they were questioning two persons. Both were guests in the Duel home, and one was reportedly a girlfriend, Dianne Ray.
Los Angeles police said the death is an apparent suicide, but they haven’t ruled out the possibility of homicide.
Duel was the son of Dr. and Mrs. Ellsworth S. Deuel, 1790 Penfield. The actor had dropped the first “e” in his name for professional reasons. He graduated from Penfield High School in 1957.
Duel played the role of Hannibal Heyes, alias Thaddeus Jones [sic], in the ABC Network western series, opposite actor Ben Murphy.
The 6-foot-tall [Pete wasn’t six feet tall] dark-haired bachelor first became interested in drama as a student at St. Lawrence University, where he majored in English, drama, and psychology.
The Deuel family has had a long line of physicians, but his father urged him to try acting.
Dr. Deuel saw his son perform in a college production of The Rose Tattoo, and said to him [paraphrased], “Peter, why don’t you go to New York now and stop wasting your time and my money?”
In New York, he successfully auditioned for the American Theater Wing and spent two years studying and appearing in plays. This led to summer stock and an occasional television appearance.
He performed in the national company of Take Her, She’s Mine, with Tom Ewell. Part of the tour included Hollywood, to which he decided to return after the run.
He moved there in 1963.
Duel said at the time, “I suddenly realized that you could be in 10 Broadway hits in a row and remain relatively unknown to the majority of the public, whereas a few choice television exposures could really chain-reaction your career. And television means Hollywood.”
He got his first break with a role in the film Wounded in Action. This was followed by bigger and better roles in television shows such as Combat, The Fugitive, The Name of the Game, The Virginian, and the Bold Ones.
He later appeared as the brother-in-law in the Gidget series and then starred in Love on a Rooftop.
Then came Alias…
I was a child of 13 when I first found the child in me knowing of puppy love over Pete Duel. I was devastated when I found out from the news media that he had died of a head wound.
As an adult woman of near 60 now I’m watching Alias Smith and Jones and reminisce of the days I found this child in me in love with Pete.