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Pete Duel

Pete Duel

American actor
Pete Duel
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actor
Was Actor Film actor Stage actor Television actor
From United States of America
Type Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 24 February 1940, Rochester, USA
Death 31 December 1971, Hollywood, USA (aged 31 years)
Star sign Pisces
Siblings: Geoffrey Deuel
St. Lawrence University
Pete Duel
The details


L-R: Pete Duel, William Windom and Ben Murphy in Alias Smith and Jones (1971)

Peter Ellstrom Deuel (February 24, 1940 – December 31, 1971), known professionally as Pete Duel, was an American stage, television, and film actor, best known for his starring role as outlaw Hannibal Heyes (alias Joshua Smith) in the television series Alias Smith and Jones. He was the older brother of actor Geoffrey Deuel, who is best known for his role in Chisum (1970) and numerous episodic television appearances of the 1960s and '70s.

Early life

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

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. He graduated in 1957 and attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where he majored in English. He was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. 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.

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, California in 1963, with only a tent to house them each night.


In Hollywood, he found work in television, making small guest appearances in comedies such as Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and dramas such as Channing, Combat!, and Bonanza. In 1965, he was cast in the comedy series Gidget as Gidget's brother-in-law, John Cooper; he appeared in 22 of the show's 32 episodes.

After Gidget's cancellation, Duel was quickly offered the starring role of Dave Willis, a newlywed apprentice architect, in the romantic comedy series 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 changed the spelling of his last name to Duel.

He appeared in The Psychiatrist, The Bold Ones, Ironside, and Marcus Welby, M.D.. He also made feature films during this time, beginning with The Hell with Heroes in 1968, playing Rod Taylor’s best friend and copilot, Mike Brewer, followed the next year by Generation. After that film, he went to Spain to make 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's Kid Curry, in Alias Smith and Jones, a light-hearted Western about the exploits of two outlaws trying to earn their amnesty. During the hiatus between the first and second seasons, he starred in the television production of Percy MacKaye’s 1908 play The Scarecrow.

Personal life

Duel became involved in politics during the primaries for the 1968 presidential election, campaigning for Eugene McCarthy, in opposition to the Vietnam War. He attended the 1968 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 driving under the influence accident that injured two people the previous June. Duel's death was later ruled a suicide.

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, titled "Love". An estimated 1,000 friends and fans attended. His body was flown to Penfield, New York, where he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

After his death, his role in Alias Smith and Jones was taken over by Roger Davis, who was previously the narrator over the opening theme of the show. The loss of Duel proved too great for the series to be sustained and the series was cancelled in 1973.

According to Quentin Tarantino, Duel was one of the inspirations for the character of Rick Dalton in the film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 26 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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