Pete Duel

Pete Duel

Infobox actor
name = Pete Duel

caption = Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes
birthname = Peter Ellstrom Deuel
birthdate = birth date|1940|2|24|mf=y
birthplace = Rochester, New York
deathdate = death date and age|1971|12|31|1940|2|24|mf=n
deathplace = Hollywood, California
restingplace = Oakwood Cemetery Penfield New York

Pete Duel (24 February 194031 December 1971) was an American actor, best known for his role in the television series, "Alias Smith and Jones".


Early life

Peter Ellstrom Deuel was born in Rochester, New York, and grew up in nearby Penfield. Duel's parents, Dr. Ellstrom Deuel and Mrs. Lillian Deuel, were active citizens in Penfield and took part in many community projects. Duel had two younger siblings – a brother, Geoffrey Deuel, and a sister, Pamela Deuel. In later years, Duel often fondly reminisced about his childhood, much of which was spent playing in the woods that were behind his family home. [Brenda Marshall (May 1966). "Face in the Mirror – Pete Deuel: Gidget’s brotherly brother-in-law." "TV Radio Mirror", found at [ Alias Smith & Jones Collection] .] It would provide the basis for a passion for the environment that would continue throughout his life.

Duel came from a long line of doctors and it was expected that he would also enter into the family profession. By the time he graduated high school in 1957, however, his parents were happy just to see their son, a rather indifferent student, go on to college. He attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where he majored in English. Still, he preferred performing in the drama department’s productions to studying for his classes during his two years there. When his father came to see him in "The Rose Tattoo", he realized that his son was only wasting time and money at the university, and told him to follow a career in acting. [Sandra K. Sagala & JoAnne M. Bagwell "Alias Smith and Jones: The Story of Two Pretty Good Bad Men" (Boalsburg: Bear Manor Media, 2005). 16] Duel was quick to take his advice and moved to New York City. While there, he landed a role in a touring production of the comedy "Take Her, She’s Mine ". Although he enjoyed his time on the stage, he decided to try to earn a name for himself in Hollywood. With this goal in mind, Duel and his mother drove across the country in 1963 with only a tent to house them each night. [Sandra K. Sagala & JoAnne M. Bagwell "Alias Smith and Jones: The Story of Two Pretty Good Bad Men" (Boalsburg: Bear Manor Media, 2005). 17]


In Hollywood, he found work in television, making small guest appearances in comedies like "Gomer Pyle, USMC" and war dramas, such as "Combat!". While these bit parts offered much in the way of experience, the same could not be said for the amount of screen time they gave him.

His big break came in 1965, when he was cast in the comedy series "Gidget", starring a young Sally Field. Duel played Gidget's brother-in-law, John Cooper, on the series and appeared in twenty-two of the thirty-two episodes.

"Gidget" was cancelled after only one season in 1966, but Duel was immediately offered the starring role of Dave Willis, a newlywed apprentice architect, in an upcoming romantic comedy called "Love on a Rooftop", also starring Judy Carne. Although the show earned good ratings, ABC decided to not bring it back after its first season.

The end of "Love on a Rooftop" was a blessing from Duel’s point of view. He felt that he was already being typecast as a sitcom actor and wanted the opportunity to prove that he was capable of more. [Percy Shain (February 14, 1971). "He Prefers Duel to Deuel." "Boston Globe TV Week", found at [ Alias Smith & Jones Collection] .] Now free of filming the weekly series, he was able to pursue dramatic guest starring roles in shows such as "The Psychiatrist", "The Bold Ones", "Ironside", and "Marcus Welby, M.D.", displaying his versatility as an actor. He also made feature films during this time, beginning with the important role of Rod Taylor’s best friend and co-pilot, Mike Brewer, in "The Hell with Heroes" in 1968. The next year found him starring in "Generation", a comedy that also featured David Janssen, Carl Reiner, and Kim Darby. Following that movie, he went to Spain to film "Cannon for Cordoba" (1970), a western in which he played the mischievous soldier, Andy Rice.

Duel finally made an international impact in 1970 when he was cast as the outlaw Hannibal Heyes, alias Joshua Smith, opposite Ben Murphy, in "Alias Smith and Jones", a light-hearted western about the exploits of two outlaws trying to earn an amnesty. Although the show had to compete with the immensely popular "The Flip Wilson Show" in the same timeslot, it still managed to gain quite a following. Duel’s feelings on the series were mixed. While it was a major boost to his stardom, it also took up most of his time, keeping him from pursuing other projects while the show was filming. During the hiatus between the first and second seasons, he starred in the television production of Percy MacKaye’s 1908 play, "The Scarecrow".

The role of Hannibal Heyes, however, would be his last. The series was at the height of its popularity when, in the early hours of December 31, 1971, Duel apparently shot himself, after drinking heavily that evening. At the time, his girlfriend, Dianne Ray, was in the house but not in the same room, and didn't witness what actually happened. In October 1970 he had been the driver in a car wreck in which another person was injured, and was facing legal problems; an astrologer had then told him that 1972 was going to be a difficult year for him. After his death, his role in "Alias Smith and Jones" was taken over by Roger Davis (previously, the series' narrator) but, with another man in the part and the focus shifted to "Jones" (Ben Murphy), many fans lost interest, and the series was cancelled in 1973.

Duel is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Penfield, New York. [Penfield Post, 14 June 2007, page 6A, "You'd Never Guess Who is Buried Here" by Amy Cavalier]

Personal life

Beyond his acting career, Duel was a man with a desire to change the world. He became involved in politics during the primaries for the 1968 presidential election, campaigning for Eugene McCarthy, who was running for the Democratic nomination. Duel admired McCarthy for his opposition to the Vietnam war. ["Actor Campaigning Here" (June 17, 1968). "Rochester Democrat and Chronicle", found at [ Alias Smith & Jones Collection] .] His work for the campaign would eventually bring him to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that year, where he witnessed firsthand the violence that erupted. [Sandra K. Sagala & JoAnne M. Bagwell "Alias Smith and Jones: The Story of Two Pretty Good Bad Men" (Boalsburg: Bear Manor Media, 2005). 18]

Duel’s habit of signing autographs "Peace and ecology now" reflected his desire for the end of the war, as well as his interest in preserving the environment. He dabbled in poetry, often writing of nature’s beauty and the jeopardy it was in because of humanity not taking proper care of it. In 1971, he recorded a short record in which he discussed his thoughts on ecology and read a selection of his poems on the subject. He also lent his talents gratis to narrating the environmental documentary "Ah Man, See What You’ve Done".

Following Duel’s death in 1971, his sister, Pamela Deuel Hart, changed the direction of her singing career and began recording Christian music. [Paul Green, with foreword by Pamela Deuel Johnson, "Pete Duel : A Biography" (McFarland & Co. Inc., 2007)] Her album "An Unbroken Hart" includes a song that she wrote in her older brother’s memory, "Odin (A Song for Peter)". Pamela appeared on a 1983 episode of the Christian talk show The 700 Club discussing Duel's depression. The actor did mention suicide to her saying, "I've been watching you, your stability. I think you can endure it".

Duel’s brother Geoffrey Deuel, an actor, continued making guest appearances on TV shows. The pace of his career slowed and he left the business in the late 1980s, coming back for a role in the 2001 film 108 Stitches.



External links

* [ The Pete Duel Memorial Site]
* [ Article on "Pete Duel - A Biography"]
* [ Find A Grave - Pete Duel]
* [ Alias Smith & Jones Collection]

NAME = Duel, Pete
DATE OF BIRTH = February 24, 1940
PLACE OF BIRTH = Rochester, New York
DATE OF DEATH = December 31 1971
PLACE OF DEATH = Hollywood, California

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