Summary

Birth:
24 Feb 1940 1
Rochester NY 1
Death:
December 31, 1971 1
Hollywood, CA 1
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Full Name:
Peter Duel 1
Also known as:
Peter Ellstrom Deuel 1
Birth:
24 Feb 1940 1
Rochester NY 1
Death:
December 31, 1971 1
Hollywood, CA 1

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Stories

Peter Ellstrom "Pete" Deuel (February 24, 1940 – December 31, 1971), also known as Pete Duel, was an American stage, television and film actor. He is best known for his role as outlaw Hannibal Heyes (alias Joshua Smith) in the television series Alias Smith and Jones.

Duel died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the early morning hours on New Year's Eve, 1971. His death was ruled a suicide.

Peter Ellstrom Deuel was born in Rochester, New York, the eldest of three children born to Dr. Ellsworth and Lillian Deuel (née Ellstrom).[1] He had a younger brother, Geoffrey, who also became an actor, and a sister, Pamela.[2]

He attended Penfield High School where he worked on the yearbook staff, campaigned for student government, and was a member of the National Thespians Society.[3] He graduated in 1957 and 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 inThe 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.[4]

Duel's childhood home

Moving to New York, Duel landed a role in a touring production of the comedy Take Her, She's Mine. To find work in the movies, Duel and his mother drove across the country to Hollywood in 1963, with only a tent to house them each night

In Hollywood, he found work in television, making small guest appearances in comedies like Gomer Pyle, USMC and dramas, such as ABC's Channing with Jason Evers and Combat! with Rick Jason and Vic Morrow. In 1965, he was cast in the comedy series Gidget. 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. Although the show earned good ratings, ABC decided not to bring it back after its first season. Duel wished to move from sitcoms to more serious roles. Around 1970, he also changed his name dropping the "r" from Peter and the "e" from "Deuel". In the credits on the series GIDGET, episode 25, his last name was printed "Devel". [6]

He appeared in The PsychiatristThe Bold OnesIronside, and Marcus Welby, M.D.. He also made feature films during this time, beginning with the important role of Rod Taylor’s best friend and copilot, Mike Brewer, in The Hell with Heroes in 1968 and the next year in Generation. Following that movie, he went to Spain to film Cannon for Cordoba (1970), a western in which he played the mischievous soldier, Andy Rice.

In 1970, Duel 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. During the hiatus between the first and second seasons, he starred in the television production of Percy MacKaye’s 1908 play, The Scarecrow.

Duel became involved in politics during the primaries for the 1968 presidential election, campaigning for Eugene McCarthy, in opposition to the Vietnam war.[7] He attended the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and witnessed the violence that erupted

In the early hours of December 31, 1971, Duel died at his Hollywood Hills home of a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Duel's girlfriend, Dianne Ray, was at his home at the time of his death and discovered his body. Ray later told police the two had watched Duel's series Alias Smith and Jones the previous evening. She later went to sleep in another room while Duel stayed up. Sometime after midnight, Duel entered the bedroom, retrieved his revolver and told Ray "I'll see you later." Ray then said she heard a gunshot from another room and discovered Duel's body. According to police, Duel's friends and family said he was depressed about his drinking problem. He had been arrested and pleaded guilty to a DUI accident that injured two people the previous June.[9] Duel's death was later ruled a suicide.[10]

Duel's funeral was held at the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple on January 2, 1972 in Pacific Palisades. At the service, Duel's girlfriend read a poem he wrote entitled "Love". An estimated 1,000 friends and fans attended.[11][12] His body was flown back to Penfield, New York where he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.[13]

After his death, his role in Alias Smith and Jones was taken over by Roger Davis (previously, the series' narrator). The loss of Duel proved too great; fans were slow to accept Davis, and the series was cancelled in 1973.

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