Tag Archive | actor

Alias Smith and Jones, actor Pete Duel – thoughts on his suicide and gun laws

Pete Duel.jpg

Remember Alias Smith & Jones?

Alias Smith & Jones was a TV series and a western which first aired during the years 1971-1973, and of course later in other parts of the world. The series was indeed popular internationally, also in countries which only had about one or two TV channels at this time, which increased the chances that viewers would find the series – and those who did liked it. Unfortunately the series is also well known for the suicide committed by one of the actors when he was 31 years old, Pete Duel (previously Peter Deuel), early New Year’s eve 1971. He was found naked and dead under the Christmas tree after having shot himself through the ear.

This suicide seems to have been truly spontaneous, where he left no suicide note, no explanation and he had even arranged wake up calls for the following morning in order to get up to work at Universal where he and his colleagues were finalizing a new episode of the show. His parents were travelling by plane in order to make their planned visit the following day. Pete’s girlfriend was, based on her own account, sleeping in the bedroom when Pete turned up to take his gun and said ”I’ll see you later”, before the shot was heard moments later.

”But Peter’s most serious personal crisis occurred when he was 16. ”My father took great pains to get me ready for college,” he pointed out. ”But I had been watching the world and I didn’t see one thing in my future that I really wanted. Everything seemed phony. I was down, terribly depressed. I knew that if I went to college I’d be educated like every other guy who ever went to college. I’d be given little chance to become Peter Deuel. People I didn’t even know, would never even meet, had planned my life for me. I said the devil with it.” / PETER DEUEL: HE KISSES THE GIRLS AND MAKES THEM CRY by Lou LarkinModern Screen, March 1967

”A series disrupts your life and makes you think. You have to do a lot of thinking. The pressures and the time involved in doing a series are the things that can either make you grow or beat you into the mud. I allowed myself to be beaten into the mud last year. I just didn’t really choose to deal with reality.”/ WHAT IS PETE DUEL AFRAID OF ? by Fiona MacDougall ‘TEEN Magazine, February 1972 

Peter sometimes felt lonely and depressed also later in his life and sadly too much alcohol became one of his problems He had a couple of DUI’s against him and pleaded guilty to a serious felony drunken driving charge. Two persons almost got killed in the accident and he had unfortunately removed himself from the scene of the accident (something he deeply regretted and couldn’t fathom that he even contemplated). He gave up his driver’s license for a period of time, and he was therefore driven to and from work by his stand-in at the series.

This type of personality change suggests that he was highly unreliable under the influence of alcohol. Moreover, this ordeal together with the fact that he was supposed to stay away from heavy drinking based on the court order, plus the fact that his work wore him out, plus his history of depression should all have motivated him to make precautions and to keep two things away from his house: alcohol and weapons. Unfortunately both were present. What might have happened if at least one of those two things were not present that particular night?

If Pete’s addiction to alcohol was so intense that he couldn’t keep it away from his house (which apparently was the case), then wouldn’t it have been wise safety measure to at least keep weapons away from the house considering his shaky background and the risk for mood swings during too much drinking? Of course, when you’re sober you might not think that there is a risk for doing anything that foolish when you’re drunk …

Pete had already reached out to Alcoholics Anonymous for help.

It’s hard to know if a small argument with his girlfriend took place that evening, but at least it was established that they had split up a few months earlier and had tried to get back together. It’s quite possible that it still didn’t work out. It’s also possible that a number of factors caused him to drink heavily this evening, and which resulted in his unfortunate decision in the midst of his daze to kill himself.

Unlike his colleague Ben Murphy, Pete didn’t want to be in Alias Smith & Jones in the first place (or any series), but rather in film productions.

Gun laws 

pete duel.jpgPete was no criminal, and he got his weapon due to the risk of intruders who might try to enter his house. Intruders are still to be preferred over the risk of self inflicted injuries made under the influence of alcohol. A week prior to the death, he had shot a hole in a telegram which he had pinned to the wall and which was telling him he had lost the election to the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild. (This extra shot is quite significant since the Police wanted to figure out why there were two bullets used in his gun.) Reportedly he shot at the document because a period was missing, and the new period made the statement of his loss more official …

As a European, I feel that it’s way too easy to get hold of guns in the US. Many spontaneous murders and suicides would have been prevented if people wouldn’t have guns laying around despite that they are neither hunters nor active in gun clubs. If there were more conditions involved for gun ownership (like extensive education about safety procedures, being required to store the weapon in a heavy gun cabinet, being active in a gun club, etc), then these obstacles would eliminate a lot of people from acquiring a gun, and especially criminals. If criminals can’t come by weapons easily, neither will the rest of us feel the need to own guns for protection. Criminals can get hold of guns anyway? Yes, in America! So criminals can never come by guns illegally in Europe? Of course some do, and the homicide rate is not zero in Europe – but the homicide rate in the US is towering compared to the rest of the western world. To me it’s not real freedom to walk around feeling you need to own a gun for protection due to too many criminals owning guns. The day I start to feel that I need a gun in my purse, is the day when I lose my freedom. In order to not head in that direction, I want to continue preventing criminals from owning guns.

Still, if there would be a new American law requiring people to turn in their guns unless they register in an extensive gun safety education class, then of course the criminals would be the last ones to turn in their guns. Maybe it’s too late for America because the guns are already in circulation. If Europe would change the gun laws and make guns more accessible (more like America), the criminals would of course laugh heartily and be the very first ones in line to get guns. THEN (unlike before) the rest of the people would start feeling they need guns for protection. I pray it will never go that way.

Americans might suggest that they want to increase their chances to survive a threatening gun attack by possessing guns themselves which they could use for protection, but my attitude is that it’s the attackers who shouldn’t have guns in the first place. If they don’t have guns, then neither would you need a gun. There are criminals also in Europe who will come by weapons despite serious gun control laws, and those guns are almost exclusively used against other criminals or used in large crimes like a bank robbery. If people would be able to acquire guns more easily, the risk will increase that even criminal teenagers can get hold of them and use them to threaten people on the streets.

If I lived in the US (or if I worked as a farmer in South Africa…), maybe I too would like to own a gun for protection due to the many guns in circulation in the wrong hands, but would an American moving to Europe really want Europe to become just as unsafe as America with the same enormous homicide rate? In America it’s a ”leftist” thing to be for strict gun control rules, but I’m definitely not a leftist either by American or Swedish standards.

Let’s suppose you want to change the airline rules by suggesting that weapons should be allowed to bring on board the plane, unless the airline could absolutely guarantee that you will not be threatened or harmed by other passengers with weapons or other threatening tools. It’s hard to guarantee something like this because it has happened, even if rarely, that passengers have used all sorts of things as weapons (if they haven’t been able to smuggle real guns or knives on board). Let’s suppose that the airline will start to accomodate your request and allow weapons on board because ”If a passenger is threatened by someone with a weapon, he/she has no way to turn in a plane, so if we allow passengers to carry on board weapons for protection, their chances of surviving a threat will increase!”. Who are you really kidding? Of course the risks will instead increase.

Japan is a country where homicides are rare (they say it’s because it’s illegal ….), and the risk of being shot by a gun is just a tiny percentage. On top of this it’s the same thing there, that criminals with guns aim at other criminals, so if you stay away from being a criminal yourself your chances of encountering a gun aimed against you is indeed very small. Still, what if you managed to change the gun laws in Japan and started to apply American gun laws? Maybe because you feel that you must protect yourself due to the 1% chance of being shot? Criminals will thank you and of course buy guns, but not for protection but in order to aim at you and others. THEN you will start to feel threatened.

Starting to apply American gun laws in Europe equals placing more guns in the hands of criminals.

Robert Cummings – from being a praised actor to being hooked on Methamphetamine

robert cummings 2For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt. 16:26)

Was not Robert Cummings the most handsome American actor of all in the 1940’s – back in the days when films did not contain any swear words or nudity? At least based on his appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Saboteur from 1942, where he actually looked his very best wearing simple clothes, and where he is unshaven and has uncombed hair. Little did he know when he filmed Saboteur, that he would end up in a straight-jacket 1965 – when he was taken away from his luxurious home in Hollywood into a Psychiatric hospital as a consequence of his heavy methamphetamine addiction and altered behavior.*) Meth was a legal drug at the time and unfortunately he discovered it early, maybe even as early as 1954 albeit sporadically, which is  the year when he incidentally starred in his second film with Hitchcock – Dial M for murder.

It is really tragic that he and many other actors and artists did not even know that the vitalizing ”vitamin injections” from Dr Max Jacobson in New York contained meth. Had he known the true content/meaning of the drug and that he would eventually lose everything due to those miraculous injections – his wonderful Hollywood home, his previous connection with his family (he remarried), his profession as a well paid actor in the Hollywood elite, his fortune, his reputation and the possibility to a drug free joyful life – he would probably have rejected the drug from the very start. Instead he eventually became completely trapped and from then on he made sure to make the drug a part of his every day life – even if he made a couple of sincere attempts to stop with the help of drug clinics (based on an interview 1987). Sadly his life story with vitamin injections and drugs is not unique among Hollywood stars of his era and I use him just as an example.

Ja. 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

How sad it is when someone forgets what is the most important aspect of life – livingFlesh and fantasy with and for God during his brief stay on planet earth. A lingering depression can sometimes make a person seek God, but it is unfortunate if you must go so far and lose everything before you will eventually start turning to the only one who can save you – our Creator God – where you can find a new life in Jesus Christ. I have no means of knowing if Robert eventually did become a born again christian perhaps during the final days of his life, but his mother (a minister) was definitely interested in the Bible and tried to influence her son. He seems to have had a keen interest in astrology and numerology throughout his life.

Robert eventually ended up living all alone in a retirement home with only his pension to live on, suffering from Parkinson’s disease. His final years are of course not the whole sum of his life, and he is rather remembered by his acting performances, TV shows and his love for aviation. It is hard to combine a Hollywood life with a life with Christ, due to being surrounded by worldly temptations and a pressure to always make a top-notch performance in order to not be a forgotten name and soon be out of work.

Our time in this temporary world is very brief

Ja. 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

1 Pet. 1:24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

Ja. 1:10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.

1 Chron. 29:15 For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.

Eccl. 1:4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

Eccl. 6:12 For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

Is. 38:12 Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.

Is. 40:6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Ps. 78:39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

Ps. 144:4 Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.

Ps. 102: 3 For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.

Ps. 39:Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.5 Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.—11 When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah.

Job. 7:7 Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?

Job 14:1 Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.

Eph. 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

However, our short time of suffering is nothing compared to what is ahead of us, if we are the children of God:

Rom. 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Rev. 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Phil. 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Ps. 90:For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.—12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Ps. 147:3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

Prov. 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Ja. 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

2 Cor. 1:3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

robert cummings 1

I can add that I found his book with focus on health in my book shelf – ”Stay young and vital” and I reread some of it. I had forgotten that he had written a dedication to a friend on the front page (Milton Berle), and also that he had used a large number of Bible verses throughout his book to make various point. I like that he encouraged his readers to pray, not only dinner prayers. This was 1960 and before his life really came crumbling down.

*) Lertzman, R & Birnes, W (2015) Dr Feelgood