- BEN MURPHY: HIS ONLY STARRING ROLE
WAS AS AN INVISIBLE MAN
- by Jean-Jacques Jelot-Blanc
- French magazine, 1983 or 1984
A hero of
some of the most well-known American television series in the
world, Ben Murphy will have been handicapped for his entire life
by an unhealthy shyness. A solitary and anxious man, this ill-at-ease
actor rarely goes to Hollywood and is still waiting for the 'role
of a life-time' to come his way.
Murphy has never had top billing to himself. His name is linked
to some of the legendary series on television, but it's a strange
fact that Ben Murphy has very rarely played the lead role on
the small screen. For example, even though the producers of 'Lottery'
immediately thought of him for the role of Patrick Flaherty,
the banker concerned with handing out the money to the winners,
they also added Eric Rush (the actor Marshall Colt), an employee
of the tax department, responsible for checking that the winners
aren't cheating the State on their taxes.
The pair--for the time-being--have been sent everywhere in the
USA, going through Colorado, Florida and Arkansas, where Ben
Murphy was born on the 6th March 1942. To put it precisely, it
was from Jonesboro that he set out one day, having made a firm
decision to win a place in the Californian sunshine. However,
despite an intelligent brain, a healthy body and natural charm,
this student with a degree in political science suffers from
pathological shyness. His friends from university remember him
as someone who wasn't very sociable. However in 1967, he linked
his destiny to Universal Studios with an eleven year contract.
He would find fame and fortune here, but not as a solo star.
Going it alone
"From my first television appearance in 'The Name of the
Game', I was just one of the newspaper reporters, who mixed with
the starring trio of the series (Gene Barry, Robert Stack, Tony
Franciosa). In 1971, as a reformed outlaw in 'Alias Smith and
Jones', I was in partnerhsip with Peter Duel. What's more, we
were constantly under the scrutiny of a permanently present sheriff.
When finally in 1976, I found myself alone on the screen, the
star of the 'Gemini Man', it was a considerable disappointment....
I was invisible."
This ability, an irritating one for an actor, brought him fame
nevertheless. The public loved the 13 episodes of this 'new invisible
man', a series was liberally inspired by H.G.Wells' novel, where
he plays the role of the special agent Sam Casey, a victim of
a nuclear explosion, in which the radiation alters the molecular
sturcture of his body to render him completely invisible. But
the glory, just like the biological transformation of his body
is of short duration; he is forgotten again just as quickly as
he was discovered. For ten years, he doesn't appear in anything
other than a few minor televison films. Two mini-series, "The
Chisholms", where he plays the role of a western pioneer
and "The Winds of War, where he portrays the oldest son
of Robert Mitchum follow.
Piqued by all this, it is on the tennis court that he enjoys
the solo role that has always been refused him on the stage.
There, alone against his opponent, he handles a racket like a
real professional. Finally... he is the best, he is admired.
"These days, I recognise that it's my shyness which spoilt
everything. In order to get over this, I've had a long course
of therapy. Since that, I've been able to handle the problem
better. Previously, because I lacked confidence, I was often
literally terrified when I auditioned in front of certain producers."
Moreover, it was in order to exorcise this fearful panic that
he agreed to portray some of the proudest heroes of the Wild
West on the television, people like Wild Bill Hickock or Kit
Carson! It is also why he chose to audition for "The A Team".
At the time he had only one aim; to drown himself in the anonymity
of this crack team, this batallion of soldiers, who are proud
of remaining heroes, even though the war is over. But for this
role, they chose Dirk Benedict instead of him.
Just like John Wayne, whom he admires, he much prefers the wind
on the plains and the thick grass of the praires to the parties
of the cinema capital. Just like famous Lucky Luke sings at the
end of each of his stories, "I'm a poor lonesome cowboy"
("Je ne suis qu'un cavalier solitaire")! Perhaps it's
for that reason that he's been celibate for so long (he's a divorcee)
and all of Hollywood avoid him like the plague. The bad-mouthers
affirm that this particular solitary person carries a jinx...
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