The KRO is showing reruns of the once so popular Western-series "Alias Smith and Jones". Not to be confused with "Alas Smith and Jones", the comedy-series that Veronica is showing at the moment. The enormous success of the cowboy-series hasn't exactly brought its leading actors, Pete Duel and Ben Murphy any luck. Duel shot himself in the head after one season, was replaced, and Murphy went down the usual Hollywood star road: alcohol, divorce, disillusion and you name it.
The KRO aired the show for the first time in 1976, and at that time Murphy and Duel's replacement, who was on the show for some time, had already been taken from the American screen. "Alias Smith and Jones" is based on actual facts. The men really existed, and they were part of, during the second half of the last century, the colorful and for many prosperous Wild West. Even though Smith and Jones never obtained the fame that for example Jesse James and the Daltons had, they did, more than fore mentioned gunslingers, get the sympathy of the nation. And even of lawmen, who never seemed to catch up with the smart en slick duo. Even Pinkerton-detectives, the best sleuths of their time, were powerless. Smith and Jones were bank and train robbers, but they never used any violence and nobody was ever killed or injured during their well-planned robberies.
Smith and Jones were more or less two Lucky Luke's, being on the wrong side of the law. According to American historians they could have easily gotten jobs as sheriffs or other. They were intelligent and handy with guns, although they hardly ever used them. A historian reports: Smith and Jones were looking for adventure. They wanted to get rich fast and lead luxurious lives. The duo was often seen guests at the more expensive establishments of the larger cities, though few knew their true identities. But they learned early on that hard work was not going to lead to luxury and so they chose for a life of crime. But they remained to be "gentlemen"-thieves.
After the enormous success of the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Universal Studios thought that it could be a good story line for a television series, and it was decided that that would be "Alias Smith and Jones". Ben Murphy, the blond hero, got the part because he showed a striking resemblance to Paul Newman; only the clear blue eyes were missing. The other part went to Pete Duel, who was a little shorter, but who seemed to have a more cunning appearance than the rugged Murphy. The series was a huge success in America almost immediately. And Duel and Murphy became instant stars. Duel couldn't face life any more after one season of "Alias Smith and Jones". His current relationship was suffering from major problems, so he turned to drinking and shot a bullet through his head.
Murphy, shocked with the loss of his friend, decided to continue his role in the series. This after some pressure from the studio who was desperately searching for a replacement for Duel. "I've witnessed the downfall of Pete from up close. Everybody could see that he was slowly but surely losing the passion for life. But as a friend I was hoping that he would eventually get out of his depression. Pete was in his good days a fine friend and a great actor. I have nothing but good memories from that time. Despite the arguments, most of them were because of the strain. The last few months of his life it was hard to talk to him, especially about his problems, which he tried to solve by himself. When that didn't work out Pete killed himself.
Standing at the grave of his friend Murphy didn't realize yet that he would be confronted with a similar fate. Murphy: "At first I was enjoying my success, but I soon found out that I was surrounded by very few friends. So I started drinking more and more often. When the series ended, my self-confidence hit an all-time low and I wasn't offered any new parts. Universal paid me well for doing nothing but that didn't satisfy me. When my contract ended I quit acting and became a tennis-pro."
But acting is in the blood. After his
two-year marriage was over, Murphy auditioned for "The A-Team".
"I didn't get the part and I was terribly disappointed. But watching those episodes I'm glad it turned out that way. I don't want to play a cartoon-character. A small part in "The Winds of War" brought him back into the race. I am obviously a late bloomer. I'm thinking about getting married again and starting a family. And if Hollywood turns away from me once more - I'm doing a series called "Lottery" at the moment and it's not making the top 10 - I'll take up my profession as a tennis-pro again. There are more important things in life than acting and success."