Real name: Peter Ellstrom Deuel
Birthdate: February 24, 1940
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Pete Duel (24 February 1940 – 31 December 1971) was an American actor, best known for his role in the television series, Alias Smith and Jones.
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 outback of his family home. 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. 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.
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. 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.