by Sandi Rivers
TV Movie Screen, May 1972
If you're dreaming about becoming Ben Murphy's girlfriend, forget it. The handsome co-star of ABC-TV's Alias Smith And Jones has other things on his mind–namely, getting ahead in the world's toughest business.

Ben's charm and sex appeal, his youthful, fun-loving nature hide a serious, almost ruthless drive for success. And no woman is going to stand in his way. Ben is kind of a Don Juan, going out with scores of different girls, romancing them with ardor and interest, then saying goodbye without regrets.

"I don't get too emotionally involved," he admits coolly, "and I don't fall into a jealous, up-tight syndrome. All of a sudden I wake up one morning and want to see someone. I have friendships with a lot of girls, and I sleep with all my friends."

It's easy to understand why women like Ben. He s not a typical, self-centered actor. Oh, his career is the most important thing to him right now, but he can talk about many things—he s been to eight different colleges and holds a master's degree in international relations.

This intellectual side of him is something women love, especially in Hollywood where so many men are shallow and conceited.

Ben might be a swinger, but he's ruthlessly honest about not becoming involved right now. "Work is my main commitment," he readily admits. "I have no room for any other emotional demands. There are enough problems on the job that have to be solved every day."

He works 12 hours a day, five days a week. When he comes home, it's not to a movie-star palace, but to a $140-a-month, two-room furnished pad in North Hollywood. A health-food freak and avid jogger (he runs three miles every day), Murphy is dedicated to the simple life—at least until he makes it big.

But he has too much zest for living to sit around his apartment on weekends, and the thought of spending his free time with the same people he sees during the week appalls him. Also, he feels it is important that he take a break from the demands acting places on his psyche. So, on Saturday afternoon, he gets into his car and takes off for the Pacific Lodge Home for underprivileged children. "I like to visit these kids, so they know someone cares" be says. "Someday, I even hope to adopt some of my own. However, the time is not right for that now. When I go to orphanages, and I've been to a number of them, I hate to constantly sit around and sign autographs. I'd rather do something with the kids, like play a game." And that s just what be does. Ben and the kids troop off to the football field, where he teaches them the fine points of blocking, rushing and tackling. They don't know who he is; to them he is just an okay guy who cares enough to spend some time with them. They respond to him, not as a movie star, but as a person—which is just the impression he wants to create.

An simple as he keeps his life right now, he is, just a little concerned about the rumors that Alias Smith And Jones is in its last season. And he insists that all the talk about the show now going off the air is only rumor. Ben hopes the show will last a few more seasons. "The longer it stays on the air," he says, "the more leverage and power I have to do the things I want. If you're going to go off, go off with a hit!"

Under a seven-year contract to Universal, Ben can make movies if he wishes, but he says he hasn't been offered any choice roles yet.

Photo Caption: No time for signing autographs. Gotta teach these kids the elementary rules of football! Ben loves kids; wants lots of his own someday.

"I like the kind of film that deals with a little piece of Americana—Joe, Midnight Cowboy, Bill Jack, even The French Connection. Billy Jack was almost like a college-made picture, actually naive and old-fashioned; the heroes vs. the bad guys.

There s nothing naive and old-fashioned about Murphy, however. At 29, he's traveled all over the country, written down his thoughts in a notebook (he s modest about that; says, "it s not important."), has become a man with a cause.

"I was sitting on my horse overlooking the San Fernando Valley yesterday morning," he said. "That was fun. Then I saw the smog, and it wasn't fun anymore. But at the moment my social conscience is taken up with internal pollution--bad food! That's what I preach on most, not that there aren't plenty of other things wrong with society. You know, this is really a chemical society and the wrong food can be an insidious killer."

Ben has reason to be "a health nut," as he calls himself. Working on a series is very demanding physically as well as emotionally, and he hasn't missed a day of work since the show went on the air almost two years ago.

When he does have a day off, it's likely to be so filled with activity that he finds little time to relax. Not long ago, he had all day Wednesday free.

Photo Caption: Ben is a fresh-air and exercise nut. The kids love him for his sense of fair play. Besides he doesn't mind being tackled.

"I had a dental appointment, a doctor appointment, shopping to do, three miles of running and a couple of girls to see," he laughed. "Doing a series involves tremendous pressure as far as time is concerned."

Emotionally, too, he finds acting demanding. "There are feelings that come from childhood, and acting brings you in contact with them," he said. "If you deal with anger, hate and love on the screen, it s still you. It takes a lifetime to deal with these feelings; you can't solve them today or tomorrow."

Ben admits that working on the show is not always a labor of love. "It gets mechanical, somewhat, but you're still involved in emotional areas. Acting doesn't mean the same thing to me as it once did. It s a job now. I don't feel I have to do it anymore. Once, emotionally, I needed to act. It was an important outlet, a means of growth."

The idea of acting occurred to him in his sixth year of college. He just wasn't getting what he wanted out of academic life, and the prospect of being a professional student wasn't too appealing. At the same time, acting had its drawbacks.

Photo Caption: The kids at the Pacific Lodge Home for under-priviledged children don't even know who Ben Murphy is. To them, he is just a guy who cares enough about them to remember their names.

"When I first thought I might like to be an actor, I dismissed the idea as not really fitting a middle-class mid-western boy," said Ben, who was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas and raised in Clarendon Hills, Illinois, where his parents run a clothing store.

"Acting was only something crazy people did, that's what I had been raised to think," he said. "But I was restless for something, I didn't know what."

That was in 1964. And the 170-pound, blond-haired, blue-eyed mid- westerner decided to do something about his restlessness. "If anything bothers me, I set out to do something about it," he explain "If I find I can't, then I try to live with it. I m not the kind of person who says, ‘I don't care. You can shape your own life—if you can't who can?"

Murphy enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse in California. It was there that an agent saw him in a play, "Life With Father," and signed him. Small roles followed and Ben decided to stick around, "and make film my life." He had roles on numerous TV shows, including The Name of the Game, The Outsider and Mod Squad, before landing the part of Jed ‘Kid" Curry.

Photo Caption: Ben has a rough weekly schedule, with daily shootings for Alias Smith and Jones. Playing outdoors with these kids is a great tension reliever for him.

"I was like a chicken with its head cut off," said Ben of the years when he was still trying to find a place for himself. "I had difficulty channeling my energies. I'm quieter, more stable now I'm a little aloof, kind of private and I keep to myself quite a bit. But I don't have to prove anything to people the way I did as a kid. I'm a man now."

That doesn't mean he has things all figured out, not by a long shot. But he s aware of his limitations, and is trying to live within them. Ben doesn't worry about the things he doesn't have—such as a wife and kids. He takes each day as it comes.

"I have interesting relationships with people," Ben says. "I have a lot of blind dates that work out very nicely. Anywhere I meet a human being I want to be with, I say, ‘hey, let s go somewhere.' I do what I feel.

"I try to keep my head free of problems and negative thoughts," he continued intently. "It's hard, but life is hard. You have to have - - - - - to live in this world, to do things that are psychologically good for you. People do all kinds of bad things, like entering into bad marriages so they can suffer all their lives."

Photo Caption: His love of life and childred leads Ben to spend time with them.

Ben may present a cool, nonchalant exterior to the world; he may seem to have everything he wants. But the idea of a lasting, permanent relationship with a woman is something to which he s given a great deal of thought, and he says he does want to get married in the future. Right now, he is biding his time, letting his career unfold and doing everything he can to improve himself as an actor. "I know I'm not ready for marriage," he says, with a trace of sadness in his voice. "I don't want the responsibility and I don't feel I can give in that area. But it'll happen later on—it'll all come to pass."

Back to Articles List