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Alias Smith and Jones.

Byline: By ROBIN TURNER Western Mail

Hannibal heyes and Kid Curry, 'the two most successful outlaws in the history of the West', rode onto our screens in 1971. And according to the script of Alias Smith and Jones, in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.

And, so the story went, this made our two latter-day Robin Hoods very popular, with everyone but the railroads and the banks.

Based more than loosely on the hit 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman) the series was a Western with a difference.

The two main characters, safe cracker Hannibal Heyes (Pete Duel) and sharp shooter Jed 'Kid' Curry (Ben Murphy) get a secret offer of a pardon from a state governor on the condition that they 'go straight'.

Every episode the two heroes, who adopt the pseudonyms Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones, get a chance to help someone but risk giving away their identities.

And they are relentlessly pursued by the Bannerman Detective Agency, who know nothing of the governor's deal.

Also on hand is Sally Field (Clementine Hale) to provide the love interest.

Hayes and Curry are also regularly asked by hapless members of their former Devil's Hole Gang to get back into train and bank robbing.

The series, full of wit, charm and engaging stories, ran for 30 episodes and is re-played on TV channels throughout the world.

It is probably best remembered for the tragic death of co-star, Pete Duel, as it is for its excellent scripts, top class acting and the clear on-screen chemistry between close friends Murphy and Duel.

A strong campaigner for the environment, New York-born Duel struggled against depression and an alcohol problem.

His body was found by his girlfriend, actress Diane Ray, at their Hollywood Hills apartment on New Year's Eve 1971.

He had shot himself in the head and was believed to have been gripped at the time by overwhelming pessimism about the future of the world and the environment in particular.

On screen, the two loveable heroes were huge hits in the 1970s.

Their most famous lines were, 'There's one thing we gotta get Heyes.'

'What's that?'

'Out of this business.'

Kid Curry existed in real life, being born Harvey Alexander Logan in Iowa in 1867.

When his mother died in 1876, Harvey and his three brothers went to live with their Aunt Lee in Dodson, Missouri.

Until at least 1883, Harvey was making an honest living breaking horses for the Cross L outfit near Big Spring, Texas.

Then he got into a minor saloon brawl, his first incident of trouble.

After quickly leaving, Logan arrived at Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming, a known outlaw hideout.

While there, Harvey met Flat Nose George Curry and adopted his new last name. They had called him Kid in Texas, so when he took George's name he became Kid Curry.

Through associated with a few unsavoury characters, at this point, Kid Curry was still 'legit', but he fell out with the father of a girlfriend who issued law suits against him and he went on the run.

He ended up with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's Wild Bunch, robbing banks and trains.

He held off pursuing Pinkerton Detective Agency officers after what was to have been his last train robbery in 1904, allowing two friends to escape.

But he was mortally wounded and a few days later shot himself in the head with his Colt .45.

Robin Turner: When the fun died:After Pete Duel's death in 1971 the makers of Alias Smith and Jones decided to continue with the series. Roger Davis, who had previously been the narrator, was drafted in to play Hannibal Heyes.

But the series was cancelled soon afterwards

Kid Curry actor Ben Murphy, born in Arkansas in 1942, said, 'I numbly went on, but the show was dead when Pete died.

'The fun lovingness of the show was emphasised by Pete. I still miss him.'

Murphy, who had been in TV hits such as the Virginian and It Takes a Thief, went on to appear in series such as The Chisholms, the Gemini Man and The Dirty Dozen (the Series).

Now divorced and a keen tennis fan, he lives in Malibu where he says he takes in 'stray dogs and stray people'.

Roger Davis now runs a hotel.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 19, 2005
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