write up courtesy of wikipedia

Alias Smith and Jones was early 70's American Western series that originally aired on ABC from January 1971 to January 1973. It stars Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes and Ben Murphy as Jedediah "Kid" Curry, outlaw cousins who are trying to reform. The governor offers them a conditional amnesty, aiming to keep the pact a secret. The "condition" is that they will still be wanted, until it becomes politically advantageous for the governor to sign their clemency.



Death of Pete Duel

    In the early morning hours of Friday, December 31, 1971, series star Pete Duel died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 31. He was reportedly suffering from depression and had been drinking heavily when he shot himself. Upon learning of Duel's death, executive producer Jo Swerling, Jr. initially wanted to end the series but ABC refused. Swerling later stated:

ABC said, "No way!" They said, "You have a contract to deliver this show to us, and you will continue to deliver the show as best you can on schedule or we will sue you." Hearing those words, Universal didn't hesitate for a second to instruct us to stay in production. We were already a little bit behind the eight ball on airdates. So we contacted everybody, including Ben [Murphy], and told them to come back in. The entire company was reassembled and back in production by one o'clock that day shooting scenes that did not involve Peter - only twelve hours after his death.

     Series writer, director and producer Roy Huggins contacted actor Roger Davis (who had appeared in episode #19 "Smiler With a Gun" and provided narration for the series) the day of Duel's death to fill the role of Hannibal Heyes. Davis was fitted for costumes the following day, and began re-shooting scenes Duel had previously completed for an unfinished episode the following Monday. According to Swerling, the decision to continue production so soon after Duel's death was heavily criticized in the press at the time.





Alias Smith and Jones began with a made-for-TV movie of the previous year called The Young Country, about con artists in the Old West. It was produced, written and directed by Roy Huggins, who served as executive producer of AS&J and, under the pseudonym of John Thomas James, at least shared the writing credit on most episodes. 

    Roger Davis starred as Stephen Foster Moody, and Pete Duel had the secondary but significant role of Honest John Smith. Joan Hackett played a character called Clementine Hale; a character with the same name appeared in two AS&J episodes, played by Sally Field. This pilot was rejected, but Huggins was given a second chance and, with Glen A. Larson, developed Alias Smith and Jones. Both The Young Country and the series pilot movie originally aired as ABC Movies of the Week.  

     Alias Smith and Jones was made in the same spirit as many other American TV series, from Huggins' own The Fugitive to Renegade, about fugitives on the run across America who get involved in the personal lives of the people they meet. The major difference was that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were guilty of the crimes that they were accused of committing, but were trying to begin a non-criminal life.

The series was inspired by the success of the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford (Universal contract player Ben Murphy was offered to the producers because he was considered a Paul Newman look-alike.) There were a number of similarities between the film and the TV series: One of the lead characters was named "Kid Curry", which was also the nickname of Harvey Logan, an associate of the real Butch Cassidy (played in the film by Ted Cassidy). Unlike the TV version, the real Kid Curry was a cold-blooded killer.  

The TV series also featured a group of robbers called the Devil's Hole Gang, loosely based on the Hole in the Wall Gang from which Cassidy recruited most of his outlaws. In order to lend them an element of audience sympathy, Heyes and Curry were presented as men who avoided bloodshed (though Curry did once kill in self-defense) and were always attempting to reform and seek redemption for their "prior ways".  

The names "Smith" and "Jones" originated from a comment in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when, prior to one of their final hold-ups, the characters are outside a bank in Bolivia and Sundance turns to Butch and says: "I'm Smith and you're Jones."



     Operating primarily in Wyoming Territory, Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah 'Kid' Curry (whose boyish face spawned the nickname) are the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. However, the west is starting to catch up with the modern world: safes are becoming harder to crack, trains more difficult to stop, and posses more skilled at tracking them down.

     Heyes, the mastermind of the Devil's Hole Gang, falls in disfavor with fellow members, and so he and Curry decide to get "out of this business!" Being popular and having "never killed anyone", they seek pardons. Through an old acquaintance, Sheriff Lom Trevors (James Drury in the pilot, alternately Mike Road and John Russell in the series), they manage to contact the territorial governor. He agrees to grant them amnesty, but cannot do so openly without angering the public. He therefore makes a deal with them: if they can stay out of trouble for a considerable but unspecified period of time ("until the governor figures we deserve amnesty") and not tell anyone about their arrangement, they will be cleared of all charges. Until then, they will still be wanted. The two are skeptical and ask, "That's a good deal?"

     Heyes and Curry find that a lawful life is more difficult than they assumed. Heyes and Curry (now calling themselves Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones) often find themselves tangling with lawmen, bounty hunters, operatives of the Bannerman Detective Agency, and other outlaws. They are forced to rely on Heyes's silver tongue, Curry's fast draw, and occasionally a little help from their friends from both sides of the law.











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