by J.R. Vega
Lecturas, May 26, 1972

Replaces the original actor, Pete Duel, who took his own life a few months ago.

Everyone knows only too well about the sad news of the tragic death of Pete Duel, the dynamic actor, whom Spanish TV audiences continue to follow weekly as the easy-going 'Hannibal Heyes' of the entertaining and popular series "Alias Smith and Jones". The world-wide distribution of this series, the constant demands for new episodes, have forced its producers to seek a substitute for the deceased actor, which will allow the series to go on for many more weeks. The difficult choice of the new principal actor fell upon Roger Davis, a young actor unknown in Spain, but already very popular in the U.S. Roger, who just finished shooting the first episode of the series without Pete Duel, going under the title "The Biggest Game in the West" is the new performer in the role of Hannibal Heyes, the amusing central character in 'Alias Smith and Jones.'

A finalist with Pete Duel.

When the producers of 'Alias Smith and Jones' started to audition young actors, with solid backgrounds to take on the role of "Heyes" in this series, from all the actors they auditioned, very quickly two favourite candidates emerged. One, Pete, was already very popular and had an appreciable artistic history to his credit. The other, Roger Davis was practically a novice actor. Having already selected another new face for the other role in the series - Ben Murphy - the producers didn't want to run any risks, for the role of Heyes was the central focus of the series and, as such was the one which would have to bear the major responsibility for carrying the show. This was one of the reasons for which Pete Duel was finally chosen, while they conferred on Roger Davis the less acknowledged role, the voice of the narrator, who, on the English version of the series introduces the characters while the opening scenes are being shown.

The tragic fate of the much admired star brought about the selection of Roger, the new Hannibal Heyes, a great personal friend and admirer of Peter Duel, who now meets with one of the most difficult jobs which an actor could come across at the beginning of what promises to be a dedicated path to stardom.

Popular in the States.

Complete unknown in Spain and the rest of the world, with the exception of the United States, Roger is nevertheless, very popular on North American TV, thanks to his continued work in the past year on the daily programme from the ABC network, entitled 'Dark Shadows', a horror series, which has attracted an enormous audience in recent times, during which Roger was one of the staple characters.
An actor with a solid academic background, Roger has had a short but brilliant artistic career since he joined Universal among the new actors taken under contract by this production company. In that time, Roger has made sporadic appearances in numerous series before successfully gaining one of the starring roles in the aforementioned 'Dark Shadows'.

"It is very sad for me" the young actor said recently " to have obtained this role because of such unfortunate circumstances; doubly unfortunate, when you take into account the fact that Pete was one of my best friends. On the other hand professionally, I am going to run up against an enormous problem; the problem that the public will judge my work by comparing it with Pete's. I think it's going to be very hard, because the audience are already very familiar with Pete's mannerisms, his way of doing it - a way, which it would be useless for me to imitate, because it was too personal, to be susceptible to imitation. I intend to do it as best I can in my own way, hoping that little by little, the public is going to accept me. I hope to make it work and allow the series to run for many weeks to come. This will be my homage to the friend and actor, who, as long as the series continues, will be present in the minds of those who knew the great actor and the great person that he was."

These heartfelt words from the young artist completed the portrait , which we already had of the young deceased actor, whose final portrayal of Heyes took place in the episode "Jailbreak at Junction City", in which that great actor, George Montgomery also appeared as a guest star; he appears in our shots of the episode with both the young principle actors. George spoke words of praise for both the two young actors, for whom he prophesied a hopeful future. At that time, no one could foresee the tragedy which was enveloping the frustrated young actor, a tragedy, which, in paradox to his destiny, has come to mean an opportunity for another young actor, who knows the circumstances and , as he continues the role through his own performances, is the first to lament Pete's passing.

Left: A first glimpse of Roger Davis. Although unknown in Spain, he is a very popular figure in the United States.
Right: Pete Duel was increasing his fame considerably thanks to his role in 'Alias Smith and Jones', when he took his own life.

Back to Articles List