Actor Pete Duel

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.

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, also an actor best known for his role in Chisum (1970) and numerous episodic television appearances of the 1960s and 1970s; 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.

Moving to New York City, 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 from Deuel 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.

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.[verification needed] In Tarantino’s novelization of the movie, Duel and Dalton worked together, “enjoyed … each other’s company” and were both “undiagnosed bipolar.”

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.


Year Title Role Notes
1963 Espionage Target – You! Training film
1966 W.I.A. Wounded in Action Pvt. Myers
1968 The Hell with Heroes Mike Brewer
1969 Generation Walter Owen Alternative titles: A Time for Caring
A Time for Giving
1970 Cannon for Cordoba Andy Rice Alternative title: Dragon Master
Year Title Role Notes
1963 Channing Episode: “The Last Testament of Buddy Crown”
1964 Combat! Szigeti Episode: “Vendetta”
1964 Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. 1st Man Episode: “Gomer and the Dragon Lady”
1964 Mickey Crazy Hips McNish Episode: “One More Kiss”
1964–1965 Twelve O’Clock High Various roles 2 episodes
1965 The Fugitive Buzzy Episode: “Fun and Games and Party Favors”
1965 Diamond Jim: Skulduggery in Samantha Wild Youth Television movie
1965–1966 Gidget John Cooper 22 episodes
1965–1967 The F.B.I. Various roles 2 episodes
1966–1967 Love on a Rooftop David Willis 30 episodes
1968 Ironside Jonathan Dix Episode: “Perfect Crime”
1968–1969 The Virginian Various roles 2 episodes
1968–1971 The Name of the Game Various roles 2 episodes
1969-1971 Marcus Welby, M.D. Various roles 2 episodes
1970 The Young Country Honest John Smith Television movie
1970 Insight Edward Episode: “A Woman of Principle”
1970 Matt Lincoln Father Nicholas Burrell Episode: “Nick”
1970 The Interns Fred Chalmers Episode: “The Price of Life”
1970 The Young Lawyers Dom Acosta Episode: “The Glass Prison”
1970 The Bold Ones: The Lawyers Jerry Purdue Episode: “Trial of a Pfc”
1970 The Psychiatrist: God Bless the Children Casey T. Poe Television movie
1970-1971 The Psychiatrist Casey Poe 2 episodes
1971 How to Steal an Airplane Sam Rollins Television movie
1971–1972 Alias Smith and Jones Hannibal Heyes/Joshua Smith 33 episodes
1972 The Scarecrow Richard Talbot Television movie

External Links

Actor Pete Duel – Wikipedia

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