Why must the show go on? To keep the audience pouring money into the box office or tuning in on the TV set, that's why. As an example of how financial considerations are at the heart of the matter, we bring you now the case of the late Pete Duel and his replacement, Roger Davis.
Roger is a tall, intelligent, soft-spoken, good-looking actor. He's in a tough spot and he knows it. He took over for Duel, the tremendously popular--on-screen and off--actor who co-starred with Ben Murphy in ABC's ALIAS SMITH AND JONES until his death early in January.
Davis hadn't been too well-known to the public until he stepped in for Duel. He'd been around the business about 10 years. He'd done some good things, but he was far from famous.
And yet, within the business, he was well-known for his huge success as a voice-over commercial announcer. He is reputed to have earned nearly a quarter of a million dollars last year, as the voice-of such products as Close-Up toothpaste.
The day Duel died of a gunshot wound Davis was in Denver doing a radio commercial. After he finished, he decided to go to Aspen for a few days of skiing. The plane arrived early Saturday morning and a couple of policemen got on. Davis's first thought was that there was some hijacking attempt, but the police wanted him.
There was an emergency, he was told. And they then told him about Duel and that he was wanted back in Hollywood.
Davis says he later found out what happened. The news of Duel's death had reached the studio early Saturday morning. Around 6 a.m., the Universal executives had met and talked to their counterparts in New York. Some wanted to cancel the show immediately but it was doing pretty well so they decided instead of canceling, they would find a replacement.
George Peppard was considered but, for one reason or another, ruled out. Then they decided on Davis. They knew him. He'd done a couple of TV movies for the studio, and besides, he was already doing the voice-over intros for the show.
By Monday morning Davis was on the set. It was, he says, a trying morning. In the first place, he had known Duel well; they had done the TV movie, "The Young Country," together.
But, of course, the worst part was moving into an established company, replacing a popular actor who had died so tragically. Davis says everybody was very subdued.
"They had all liked Pete," he says. "They were glad the show was continuing--after all, it meant their jobs--but it wasn't the same obviously."
Gradually, the usual camaraderie that marks a movie or TV set returned. Ben Murphy, his costar, looked up at him one day that first week--Davis is considerably taller than Duel--and said, "I guess I'll have to get me some lifts."
Now he's accepted. He's happy about that, because he thinks the part he's playing--Hannibal Heyes--is a good one. He thinks the show will continue, because he feels if the network had wanted to drop it, the perfect time would have been when Pete died.
"I like to think," he says,
"that Pete's death was accidental. The case still hasn't
closed, you know. If he had problems, he kept them to himself.
In fact, his standin told me that he had left Pete at 11:30 that
night and Pete's last words were to remind him to get to the set
early Monday morning, because they had some tough things to shoot."
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