by Tim Brooks
Ballantine Books, New York
1987, p. 244
Deuel, Peter--actor

b: 1940, Rochester, N.Y. d: Dec 31, 1971

Gidget (com)............................John Cooper (1965-66)
Love on a Rooftop (com).........David Willis (1966-67)
Alias Smith and Jones (wes)....Joshua Smith/Hannibal Heyes (1971-72)

Peter Deuel is one of Hollywood's saddest stories. He was a handsome young actor, much in demand, and in the midst of a successful series; yet one night he raised a .38-caliber pistol to his head and put a bullet through his temple. Why?

Deuel had begun getting roles almost as soon as he launched his career, appearing in such mid-1960s series as Combat, Twelve O'Clock High, The Fugitive, The Big Valley, and Gidget (a regular, as Sally Field's young brother-in-law). A major break came in 1966 with his own well-received, though short-lived, situation comedy, Love on a Rooftop. Then came his first feature-film roles and the popular ABC series Alias Smith and Jones.

Deuel (he later changed it to Duel for simplicity) had high expectations--perhaps too high for the TV career in which he found himself. He thought the scripts were garbage, had a reputation for fighting with directors, and was angered when his efforts to change the system by running for office in the Screen Actors Guild were rebuffed (he lost). Usually clad in jeans, he was a political activist working for McCarthy in '68 and cared about ecology--he was a true child of the '60s. Thousand of young hopefuls would have given their eyeteeth for his success, but Deuel always wanted more, both as an actor and as a person.

Still, he did not appear suicidal and was deeply involved with Alias Smith and Jones. He had just finished filming an episode, and on the fatal night had read the script for the next and watched an episode of his show. He was with a girlfriend who later said nothing seemed wrong, although he had been drinking and hated the show he saw. Late at night she heard a gunshot from the next room, and ran in to find him sprawled on the floor. Despite all evidence to the contrary, many feel to this day that it must have been a terrible accident--or murder.

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