by Melissa Downs
Movie Stars, January 1972
Ben Murphy, star of Alias Smith and Jones, looks like a movie star, but that's where all similarities end. For rather than acting like a brash young egotist in search of an audience, Ben is an extremely sensitive being who's just trying to live life to the fullest. And one way he does that is by earning his living as an actor. It's as simple as that.

To call Ben unpretentious is to raise the understatement to its highest degree. Dressed in blue jeans and a casual crepe shirt, his hair mussed up, his rimless glasses secured by an elastic band, he is more reminiscent of an eager young college student than a fast-rising star.

The college student attitude makes a lot of sense, actually. Ben holds two Bachelor's degrees--one in political science and one in theater arts--and has done extensive graduate work at various universities, in the fields of theater arts and physical education. Among the schools he's attended are Loyola University in New Orleans, the University of the Americas in Mexico City, University of Illinois, Pasadena Playhouse, Loyola University in Chicago, the University of Southern California and San Fernando Valley State College. Ben is always trying to learn new things--about acting, about people, about whatever is happening at the moment--whether he's in school or not. Unfortunately, his work on the show has curtailed a lot of his reading, but he says, "I have lots of books that I buy knowing I'll read them someday when I have more time."

Not that this half of Alias Smith and Jones (he's Jones, by the way) is always serious. When he is serious, he's very intense, but when he just wants to have a good time, he's super-lighthearted. One thing Ben is very serious about is health. He doesn't smoke, stays away from--and was never involved with--the Los Angeles drug subculture, and sips an occasional beer. When he travels, he carries a complete supply of heavy-duty vitamins with him, and he even goes so far as to eschew coffee drinking most of the time.

Health means physical fitness, and that's one subject Ben is certainly enthusiastic about. He swims (in the pool at his apartment building), skis, rides horses and plays tennis. But when he does something, he does it one hundred percent; that is, he's not content to play tennis once every other week--when he's into tennis, he wants to play every day. And even when he's not actively engaged in a sport, Ben makes sure he gets plenty of exercise. Jogging for at least a mile each day, he's a familiar sight in his Universal City neighborhood.

But an active body is of little value without an active mind to back it up. One has only to receive the scrutiny of Ben's blue-eyed gaze to realize that there are many complex thinking processes going on. Not that he's an impractical dreamer, though. As a matter of fact, he's a very practical young man.

Like many contemporary young people who have made it big in the Hollywood scene, Ben has little interest in material possessions just for the sake of possessing them. His clothes are comfortable rather than elegant and costly. He lives in a far from fabulously furnished two-room apartment and drives an old Chevy, a gift from his mother, who along with his dad, still owns a clothing store in Hinsdale, Illinois, where Ben, who was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, was raised.

The money he earns from the series, personal appearance tours et al is being socked away in hopes of someday buying a ranch of his own, and also for a future trip to Europe, his first voyage overseas. When told that he doesn't live like a star, Ben quietly replies, "I live the only way I want to live. It's not a bad way at all."

Just because he doesn't fit the superstar image that so many actors have carefully cultivated for themselves doesn't mean that Ben isn't a dedicated actor. He really enjoys doing the series and takes his craft seriously. He has no aspirations to star on Broadway, though he wouldn't mind doing a movie in the future or even some summer stock during a hiatus from the show.

But for the time being, Ben is perfectly content right where he is. He gets along famously with co-star Peter Duel and the rest of the crew. Perhaps one of the reasons Ben and Pete hit it off so well is because they're the same astrological sign. Ben's a double Pisces (Sun in Pisces, Pisces rising) with his moon in Scorpio (very sexy). He has the Piscean traits of great creativity and sincerity, along with a bit of the sign's typical changeability thrown in for variety.

As far as the filmtown social scene, frantic and frenetic, goes, Ben just doesn't make it at all. Oh, he dates and, as might be expected, has more than enough girls eager to share his time, but when he does go out, he avoids the extravagant parties and fast-paced nightlife, preferring more relaxed atmospheres and more intimate gatherings.

Typical of Ben's un-starlike attitude towards success and life in general is the fact that when he recently visited New York City for two days, he spent his one evening on the town not with a sleek high-fashion model or famous actress, but with one of his fans who lives in Manhattan. And you know what? He really had a great time.

So, if your taste in actors runs more to the sublime than to the flamboyant, Ben Murphy is just what you're looking for. He's walking proof that sincerity, warmth, and intelligence are far from being dead in Hollywood. In spite of the character he plays on his popular show, Ben will never need an alias of his own. He can always get by just fine--just by being himself!

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