Murphy was headed for the top, not just on television but in the movies. When he signed his contract, Universal promised him that. There were a few bits, including an exchange with Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate" and a featured role in the Robert Stack segments of "The Name of the Game," then his own series, "Smith and Jones."
But that was seven years ago, and the gold long since has dulled. "Smith and Jones" faded after three seasons, partly because its balance was upset by the death of co-star Pete Duel. His replacement didn't have the flair.
Murphy went through two flops, "Griff" and "Gemini Man," then disappeared.
He re-surfaced last spring after two years to play one of the sons of Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris in the CBS mini-series "The Chisholms."
Now Saturday at 8 on Channel 7 "The Chisholms" will continue their journey west. The Virginia family, left landless by debts, got only as far as Fort Laramie, Wyo., in the original mini-series. They will continue the trek and settle eventually in northern California. Preston and Miss Harris are back from the original cast, along with Murphy and James Van Patten.
Murphy's two-year hiatus from acting was his own idea, he says. It wasn't the first time he'd retreated from his career. There was a long intermission between "Griff" ("I hated it. All I did was stand two steps behind Lorne Greene.") and "Gemini Man".
He ended up so sour on his career, he said, that he sat out the end of the contract with Universal. "I'd had 11 years, and it hadn't done me much good," he said.
"Sure, there was the recognition factor after I'd done the TV series. But a studio contract doesn't mean a thing except that they use you. There's no grooming, no training. I was a trained actor when I signed, and it was a good thing."
Murphy balked when his agent came up with "The Chisholms."
"My immediate reaction was that I didn't want to do a TV series and certainly not a western. But it was a good property. I thought the mini-series was a little slow-moving, but there was a feel to it, real nitty-gritty, like it really must have been for the pioneers."
After the series settles down, we'll start
doing stories that focus on the cast as individuals. Right now,
we're all about equal: Each actor gets so many lines per script.
Although, when it comes down to it, we're really just glorified
extras to the scenery."
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