Alias Smith and Jones
|Alias Smith and Jones|
|Created by||Glen A. Larson|
|Narrated by||Roger Davis
|Theme music composer||Billy Goldenberg|
John Andrew Tartaglia
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||50 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Roy Huggins|
|Producer(s)||Glen A. Larson
Jo Swerling, Jr.
John M. Stephens
|Running time||45–48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Universal TV
Universal/Public Arts Production
|Distributor||Studios USA Television|
|Original run||January 5, 1971– January 13, 1973|
|Preceded by||The Young Country|
Alias Smith and Jones is an American Western series that originally aired on ABC from 1971 to 1973. It stars Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes and Ben Murphy as Jedediah "Kid" Curry, outlaw cousins (season 2, episode 19, theme intro and storyline), 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.
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 lookalike.) 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 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.
Heyes was deemed "cunning", and Curry was "gunning". Heyes/Smith was considered the brains of the duo, and a card sharp. Curry/Jones was the master gun hand and the brawn. Usually, Heyes figured out ways to make money and save the twosome from precarious situations. After Davis took over the role of Heyes, his distinctive voice could no longer be used in the theme intro. Ralph Story was brought in to provide narration for the series (he rather than Davis had done so in the pilot). Story's slightly revamped intro partially explained why the renowned duo didn't split to evade capture - they were cousins.
Recurring characters include:
- Kyle Murtry (Dennis Fimple) and Wheat Carlson (Earl Holliman), members of the Devil's Hole Gang, formerly led by Heyes and Curry;
- Harry Briscoe (J.D. Cannon), a Bannerman detective who occasionally finds himself on the wrong side of the law;
- Patrick "Big Mac" McCreedy (Burl Ives) and Señor Armendariz (Cesar Romero), two ranchers on opposite sides of the US-Mexico border/Rio Grande waging a feud over a valuable bust which represents land that had been owned by Armendariz until the river temporarily switched course, moving the border with it, allowing MacCreedy to sell the land. Heyes and Curry get stuck in the middle;
- Clementine "Clem" Hale (Sally Field), an old friend who has no problem with blackmailing the reformed outlaws when necessary. Field had appeared in only one episode before Duel's death, and she could not return due to being pregnant with her second child. Several scripts intended for her were rewritten to feature Georgette "George" Sinclair, who was played by Michele Lee. In the third season, Field did appear as Clem one last time; this time doing love scenes with former Flying Nun co-star Alejandro Rey.
- Soapy Saunders (Sam Jaffe) and Silky O'Sullivan (Walter Brennan), both retired confidence men that the boys call on when in need of a large sum of cash and a good con to get them out of trouble.
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. 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.
Roger Davis' original theme voiceover referred to the characters as "latter day Robin Hoods". The Ralph Story intro substituted that description with the phrase, "Kansas cousins". In the first episode with Davis (season 2, episode 19), "The Biggest Game In the West", Heyes shouts to Curry: "Yes sir! Cousin, you're alright!". In the episode "Don't Get Mad Get Even", Curry and Heyes both make reference to their Irish grandfather Curry.
The series continued for another seventeen episodes, but never regained its popularity after the loss of Duel. This, as well as the fact that the long prominent Western genre was giving way to police dramas, brought the show to an end on January 13, 1973. On January 16, 1973, Bonanza aired its final episode, leaving the eighteen-year-old Gunsmoke the syndicated comedy-western, Dusty's Trail, and Kung Fu as the only Westerns scheduled for Fall 1973.
References in other works
- The title was spoofed in the 1980s British comedy series Alas Smith and Jones.
- In his comedy book, Lolly Scramble, comedian Tony Martin makes reference to the irony of the opening narration "they never shot anyone!" with Duel only ultimately shooting himself. Even more bizarre, as Martin remarks, the person reading that line took over Duel's role. He then goes on to describe a surreal event where he witnessed Ben Murphy appear on a low budget New Zealand telethon with hilarious results.
- Yoggy, Gary A., Riding the Video Range: The Rise and Fall of the Western on Television, McFarland & Co., 1995, pp.477-478.
- The Young Country at the Internet Movie Database.
- Glen A. Larson, audio commentary on Alias Smith and Jones, Season One, Disc One, the pilot, Universal DVD, 2007.
- Snauffer, Douglas; Thurm, Joel (2008). The Show Must Go on: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television Series. McFarland. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-7864-3295-0.
- Snauffer, Douglas; Thurm, Joel (2008). The Show Must Go on: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television Series. McFarland. p. 28. ISBN 0-7864-3295-0.
- Snauffer, Douglas; Thurm, Joel (2008). The Show Must Go on: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television Series. McFarland. pp. 29–30. ISBN 0-7864-3295-0.
- Lacey, Gord (2006-12-12). "Alias Smith and Jones - Heyes and Curry become Smith and Jones this Feb! Taken from: http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Alias-Smith-Jones/6714#ixzz15k06HV5j". tvshowsondvd.com. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- "Alias Smith And Jones - Series 1 - Complete [DVD] ". amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- Lambert, David (2010-03-11). "Alias Smith and Jones - TMG's Seasons 2 and 3 Release Gets Closer Date, Lower Price and Package Art". tvshowsondvd.com. Archived from the original on 16 June 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
- Lambert, David (2010-08-30). "Alias Smith and Jones - All 3 Seasons Come Together for The Complete Series 10-DVD Set Taken from: http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Alias-Smith-Jones-The-Complete-Series/14343#ixzz15jzqb8Kx". tvshowsondvd.com. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- Sagala, Sandra K. & Bagwell, JoAnne M. (2005). Alias Smith & Jones - The Story of Two Pretty Good Bad Men. Albany: BearManor Media ISBN 1-59393-031-3