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Friday, 26 March 2010


I'd never seen any of the episodes of Alias Smith and Jones after original star Pete Duel was replaced by Roger Davies - I used to love the show when it was shown on BBC TV when I was a kid. I'm guessing I missed the original run since I would have only been six at the time. So maybe I saw repeats in the mid-seventies and the latter non-Duel episodes were not shown or at least not shown as often.

Pete Duel had filmed two-thirds of the season 2 episode, The Biggest Game in the West when he committed suicide. The word came down: continue filming. (Ben Murphy was told of Duel's death and decided to stay home for the day's filming, which consisted of pickup shots). When Roger Davis was brought in as Duel's replacement, he had the unenviable task of replicating Duel's every move (except for a few shots where only Duel's back is seen) before doing the last two days of filming on his own. (Davis also re-filmed the opening, with Ralph Story replacing him as narrator).

This episode which I stumbled across on one of the Freeview channels was apparently the last ever episode filmed, though it was shown as the tenth episode of season three. The storyline is that Smith and Jones are told to protect two witnesses to a lynching - a travelling con man and his daughter. And I enjoyed it. It was good solid entertainment with some great riding scenes and a major shoot out contained in its fifty minutes or so. There was also some well staged comedy when Smith and Jones get drunk on a bottle of the travelling con-man's tonic - Cure-all, guaranteed to cure alcoholism, made from 60% natural herbs and flower juices and 40% pure alcohol.

This is the only episode I've seen with Roger Davies so I can't say if there was any dip in quality when Duel went. The chemistry between the leads seems the same as ever, but Davies only did seventeen episodes before the show was cancelled. However this was 1973 and TV westerns were being replaced with cop shows - Bonanza also aired its final episode three days after Smith and Jones, leaving Gunsmoke as the only TV western running and then mostly only in the US. But I'd like to see more of these later episodes and maybe find out more about the show. Information on the web is minimal - I know that fellow Black Horse writer Joanne Walpole (Terry James) is a huge fan so perhaps I'll badger her for some info. I've just this minute ordered the season one box-set and I'm looking forward to reintroducing myself to this evergreen TV western classic


john.sinclair1 said...

A very small world it is.
My pal Mike called to see me this morning on his way to work - and he mentioned that he had just got the first set of Alias Smith and Jones! He's lending them to me this weekend so heads down for a weekend of top-class western tv! Take my mind off my bronchitis anyway...
BTW: I seem to remember - I'm five years older than you, Dobbsy so my memory of those days is a little sharper, that there was a rumour that the producers offered the role to Pete Duel's lookalike (but not twin)brother, but, especially as it was the very day his brother had died, he told them where to stuff their offer.
I seem to remeber that in the pilot, the marshall or sheriff who kept an eye on them, Lom travers, was played by James Drury, but in the series he was replaced by McClouds JD Cannon.
Then again, it was such a long time ago..
Hey, wasn't Ben Murphy in The Graduate and didn't he do a rather sexually ambiguous ad a few years back?
I do recall that my dad reckoned that it was in the best tradtions of Maverick (I think it was written by the same people), especially in the often convoluted but ingenious story lines, particularly the ones concerning gambling...


I can only ever remember the Pete Duel episodes - were the later ones ever shown on BBC TV - do you know? I very much enjoyed the episode last night - yeah they were tame semi-comedic TV western, but I like that type of thing from time to time. Maverick is another favourite and although, not really remembered as so, some of the Bonanza's were zany. I recently saw one with Little Joe and Hoss being mistaken for two gunmen who - you've guess it, the actors played both roles. The only difference being the bad hoss had facial hair.

Anyway enjoy Alias Smith and Jones - how's the western coming along?

john.sinclair1 said...

Hi Dobbsy!
Yep, the later ones were shown as well - I can remember we had our first colour tv by then and friends would come over especially for 8 o'clock Mondays to see the show - Westerns were always glorious in colour - and somebody complaining that Pete Duel had been fired!!
Did you see that Bonanza on disc? Because blow me if that wasn't the very episode me and my dad watched the other week on a disc I picked up in a pound shop!
Synchronicity, what?
My westerns' coming along well I think. I'm doing it in my down time (loads at the moment because of scheduling and this bloody bronchitis means I can't go do the rounds - I may have an agent sorted soon 'fingers crossed'), and really enjoying it. Would it be okay if some time before you head off on your US vacation, to have a quick looksee at the first thirty pages?
I'm having a great time researching it - and i'm getting through at least one BHW a week. Love the difference in styles and attirude - really enjoying the female-viewpoint oriented works of Terrell L Bowers (even if her characters do tend to deliver monolgues rather than dialogue..)

That coincidence again - a big part of my book - provisionally titled 'Shoot-out at Love Junction'- is to do with a travelling brothel and I've been doing lots of reseach on 'soiled doves'. So of course what's one of your latest posts about? D'oh!
My version is a lot more light and up beat than the real ones of course - my one is based on a real brothel my grandfather told me about in France just after the wars and when that life was more of a career choice than it was back in the West.

I have a feeling that Westerns are going to be more on the up starting this year, what with the upcoming release of Jonah hex and of course the remake of True Grit. Both starring Josh Brolin. Go figure.
Great site, muchacho. Keep it up.


John - you know given the way things were in those days I wouldn't mind betting that this series was shown on TV before the Butch Cassidy and Sundance movie of which it so clearly owes so much. It used to be years before films his the small screen - I'm sure Star Wars was first shown on UK TV's in 1979 - Think so.

Randy Johnson said...

As John Sinclair says, indeed a small world. I just recently was doing some posts on TV western novel covers. I did one on Alias Smith and Jones and learned there was a total of six by Brian Fox(W. T. Ballard) published back then, only the first two over here in America. I immediately had to find the four from your country(two already received and the others on the way.


Randy - which seems to suggest the show was more popular in the UK than it was in its native US.

Joanne Walpole said...

Roger Davies just seemed too full of himself. Seventeen episodes was too many with him if you ask me. I preferred the episode 'Smiler with a gun' where he was a guest star...I won't spoil it for you but it has a very satisfying ending IMO.

A man called Valance said...

Alias Smith and Jones was an established show, with an established formula and an established audience who loved to tune in and watch the escapades of Hayes and Curry. This made our two latter-day Robin Hoods very popular with everyone. Pete Duel was Hannibal Hayes - nobody else. Whoever took over the role was on a hiding to nothing. Roger Davies might have had his shortcomings, but his biggest problem was he was not Peter Duel.


Valence - you make a good point. And of course no matter how good his performance it is, as you say, he was no Pete Duel.

Real Mccoy said...

Interesting post. I loved this show as an 11 year old boy, and a friend recently recorded the entire series on DVD for me so I could see it through adult eyes.

Like most westerns, it ages quite well because the audience does not have a personal context for the 19th century -good start. Hannibal was my favorite character as a kid, and now I know why. Pete Duel was outstanding and stole almost every scene he was in!
Roger Davis did the best he could as a replacement, but he was completely miscast. Essentially they ended it up with two Kid Currys' which threw off the entire dynamic of the show. A successful duo needs to be a pair of opposites.

By the way, JD Cannon played Harry Brisco not Lom Trevers. James Drury was replaced after season by whom I do not remember now.