Pete Duel, actor, had proposed a goal for himself. When he arrived, when his name was appearing at an international level, after film failures, of tapes little aired, television series of small account Pete felt nothing. Or he grieved to feel awareness of his success. Or because it was not what he had hoped of himself. Or for something much more simple that escapes us and that he guarded in solitude, thus only living through his books and favorite records.
One of the fundamental pieces of "Los Dos Mosqueteros" or "Alias Smith and Jones" ceased to exist, in spite of the strength of the production, of the foreseen and unforeseen sales, of the simultaneous broadcasts by strong and weak American and European television networks. Pete disappeared when his mind was continuing to work on celluloid, when no one yet knew why Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry--known rogues, highwaymen, train-and-bank robbers--had changed their names, sadly famous, for those of Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones.
(The newspaper obituary read thus: He was 31 years old. With Ben Murphy he formed the protagonist pair of the two cowboys, Smith and Jones. His burial was attended by more than a thousand "fans." Ben Murphy was so affected by his death that he was not able to participate in the funeral. Pete Duel's fiancée, Diane Ray, receiving the body at the grave, in the Pacific Palisades [California] cemetery, read a poem entitled "Love.")
On 31 December 1972, the anniversary of Pete Duel's death, Televisión Española broadcast, within the program omnibus "Tarde para todos", the first chapter of the series. It had been some time since "Los Dos Mosqueteros" had said goodbye to the television audience. The "suspense" had been maintained, but that Sunday the ending arrived strangely combined: Judge Fulton and the governor--man of modern ideas--decide to help the boys to remake their life leaving them in freedom, with the condition the during a prudent time--while the series lasts-- they don't get into messes.. If all goes well the new Amnesty Law will apply to them, with which they will obtain the honorable title of decent citizens.
In seventy-five minutes the outline remained clear. Seventy-five minutes that welcomed the brunette figure of Pete Duel, of Joshua Smith, of Hannibal Heyes for the last time, when through past episodes, we already know the face and act of the so-called "third musketeer", Roger Davis, substituted for Pete.
We already have a new shipment of chapters. Televisión Española initiated their broadcast last Sunday ("Tarde para todos") with the title "The Most Dangerous Game In The West [The Biggest Game In The West]", substituting in the scheduling for the "shows" of Dick Van Dyke and James Stewart. Ben Murphy and Roger Davis return to the same scenarios, with the contract under their arm, equal to a good quantity of dollars to extenuate the twinges of raids and horseback mountings. The American producers have an exact vision of what the youth of their country need. They know how to create heroes with new additions. "Los Dos Mosqueteros" is a product of this type. In a "western" (Davis: "It has been my favorite genre since I was a kid ___eso [CJC's Note: There's a splotch over the first part of the word in my copy of the article.] , when they offered me the role, I was able to accept it in an instant, without having fear of cheating"), with transformed airs, sparkling, up to date, to rely on some characters more than in the development of an anecdote. Once studied the market offers the product that the market demands. And the market asks for easy heroes, agreeable, struggling gladly for regeneration, without excessive weight on the part of the law, with a framework sufficiently ample in order to enter and leave, in order to resolve the episode, the trick that the scenario draws up for that episode. "The theme of the sympathetic bandit'--according to Cuadrado y F. Larrondo-- is continually hackneyed in film, and, naturally, it should not be less so for television. Only that it is necessary to watch over the forms on the small television screen, for many and various reasons. The violence of the setting in the scene will be consciously diminished and camouflaged following the guideline of the pilot. The creator and producer of the series, Roy Huggins, explains: "The series deals with characters of the West and in the West, but in reality it is not a "western", but rather adventures full of humor that unfold in "saloons" between bandits and gunfighters." Exactly: to susti_ir [CJC's Note: Another splotch.] the violence for the dialogue, the "strong tone", for the intelligence; the bombastic appearance, for the smile between impudent and ingenuous.
When Ben Murphy played guest star roles in big North American series, when Ben gave life to Joe Sample--assistant to Farrell (Robert Stack)--in the series "Name of the Game", when Murphy performed in films as important as "The Graduate" or "Your, Mine and Ours" the character of Kid Curry-Thaddeus Jones was not in his mind, but, yes, he had the immense desire to arrive at the top. This man, a Newman-Brando-O'Neill, passed through five universities before coming to obtain a degree in Political Science. Bad student, good reader, he found his true profession: actor. The producers at Universal Studios--one of the most powerful networks in the United States--have known how to extract profit: physical and dramatically; of qualities, in inverse order, tremendously important to the time to leave a cinematographic footprint.
But the executive arm of "Los Dos Mosqueteros" (in the original version: "Alias Smith & Jones"), an incredible good shot, is an introverted man in his real life. All the money that up to now he has earned with the series he has invested to buy himself a luxurious apartment near the television studios, that he has furnished himself with all class of comforts. When Ben arrives home he feels so well that he doesn't want to know anything from the outside. His best society is constituted of 3,000 volumes of works of literature, theater, poetry and novels. He is a big reader--with more knowledge than in the University--and an avid student of oriental philosophies and of all the religious movements of the Far East. "I scarcely know anything. Compared with any university student of California, I am a true ignoramus," but women all think the opposite: "Ben is cultured, passionate, independent and with great qualities of all types." Ben devotes himself to karate in order to keep in shape.
Before initiating the run, before rehearsals,
when the scripts were still fresh, Universal called together actors
of a meter and so many centimeters in height, with similar face,
with such age. To the audition went 50 aspirants for Smith and
Jones. At the end of exhaustive tests, the role of Jones went
to Ben Murphy. Another thing was to find the ideal Smith: not
able to be interpreted by just any actor, it deals with the central
character; it needed some physical, not vulgar, qualities and
some artistic talents above normal. The two final candidates were
actors of experience and strong formation: Pete Duel and Roger
Davis. [CJC's Note: To the best
of my knowledge, this is NOT true. According to Roger's own statements,
he did not even initially test for a role in AS&J.] Pete was chosen, Davis being hired as "speaker"
(his voice is the one that one hears in the original version:
the voice-presenter of the characters while they are appearing
on the credits). But to Roger his opportunity has arrived. His
name already figures in the billing. Solely because he has to
stand in, since inasmuch as to be a substitute has its problems.
More so when one is a substitue for a dead man who had left a
wake of sympathy and mystery. Business is business. Nobody is
indispensable. Sadly certain. LOURDES MATEOS.
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