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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Birth NameJon Roger Davis
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Roger Davis is an actor, producer and voice-over artist, who is most remembered for taking over the role of Hannibal Heyes (a.k.a. Joshua Smith) in the TV series, Alias Smith and Jones (1971), from his friend, Pete Duel, after Duel died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while intoxicated.

His assumption of the role was rather fitting, as he had appeared in an ABC Movie of the Week under the title, The Young Country (1970), his co-star being Duel, a Universal Studios contract player who was cast as the second lead. Davis had most recently appeared for two years (1968-70) as multiple characters on the vampire-themed daytime soap opera, Dark Shadows (1966). Before that, he had appeared as a solider in the World War Two-themed TV series, The Gallant Men (1962), which was broadcast in the 1962-63 season, and as a ranch hand in the short-lived 1963 TV Western series, Redigo (1963), which was canceled in the middle of its first season. In 1966, he shot a pilot for a TV series based on James Jones's classic WWII novel, From Here to Eternity (1953), cast in the pivotal role as "Pvt. Robert E. Lee Pruitt". The series was not picked up.

Neither was "The Young Country" pilot four years later. ABC did pick up the "Alias Smith and Jones" pilot as a mid-season replacement in January 1971. The Alias Smith and Jones pilot concept paid homage to the smash hit movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and starred Duel as a character inspired by Paul Newman's Butch Cassidy. (In the movie, Butch and Sundance refer to themselves by the aliases Smith and Jones). Universal Studios contract player Ben Murphy was selected to play Duel's partner.

The producers called on Davis' skills as a voice-over artist to narrate the opening of each "Alias Smith and Jones" episode starring Duel & Murphy. He also appeared as an actor in the episode Alias Smith and Jones: Smiler with a Gun (1971). Davis was the only person ever killed by Murphy's character, "Kid Curry", a reformed gunslinger inspired by Robert Redford's character, "The Sundance Kid".

Duel died on the morning of Friday, December 31, 1971, before shooting on the 1971-72 season could be completed. Eighteen episodes had been completed, and Duel had been working on Episode #19. Shooting with Murphy continued that Friday and Davis was immediately hired to replace his friend, thus completing the circle that began with both being considered for the same role in "Ride the Wild Surf" (1964) and "Love on a Rooftop"(1966) and continued with their starring together in "The Young Country". Davis appeared in the final five episodes of Season Two and all of the 12 episodes in Season Three, when the show was canceled in mid-season.

"Alias Smith and Jones" was scheduled in two of the most unenviable time slots in TV history. In its first two seasons, it appeared on Thursday night opposite "The Flip Wilson Show" (known as Flip (1970)), the #2 rated show in America. ABC switched it in the 1972-73 season to Saturday where its competition was another show that had debuted in January 1971, All in the Family (1971), the top-rated program on television and a genuine ratings phenomenon. From 1971 to 1976, "All in the Family" established a record with five consecutive seasons as the #1 rated show. "The Flip Wilson Show" slipped out of the Top 10 to #12 during the 1972-73 season that would prove to be the last for "Alias Smith and Jones".

Pete Duel publicly blamed the failure of ABC to pick up Love on a Rooftop (1966), the first of the two series in which he played a lead role, to network politics. ABC did not renew "Love on Rooftop" after its maiden 1966-67 season as another producer wanted the time slot, Duel claimed. Before his death, he also claimed that after its first season, ABC had considered moving "Alias Smith and Jones" for the 1971-72 season to Saturday night in the 8:30-9:30 slot vacated by the canceled The Lawrence Welk Show (1951), but left it on Thursday. Duel was disappointed that the network left his show where it was, as he felt the other slot would be better for his new series. He was very wrong, as it was the move to Saturday night, after Duel's death, that killed it.

"All in the Family" had debuted on Tuesday nights at 9:30 and was ranked #34 in its inaugural half-season. After being switched to Saturday at 8:00PM in the 1971-72 season (the season ABC had first considered switching "Alias Smith and Jones" to Saturday), it quickly ascended to the top of the ratings charts. It would prove a more formidable adversary than any "Hannibal Heyes" & "Kid Curry" ever met up with on their show, including "Danny Bilson", the gunman Roger Davis played in Alias Smith and Jones: Smiler with a Gun (1971).

Roger Davis was unfairly blamed for some for the demise of "Alias Smith and Jones", on the grounds that he was unable to fill Pete Duel's boots. However, it's doubtful the show could have survived, even with Duel, as the network unwisely put the show up against the cultural phenomenon that was "All in the Family". The once popular TV Western was a dying genre, and in January 1973, the same month ABC ended the run of "Alias Smith and Jones", NBC pulled the plug on former ratings blockbuster Bonanza (1959) (three times the #1 show from 1964 to 1967 and #3 in both the 1968-69 and 1969-70 seasons), which joined "Alias Smith and Jones" in the Happy Hunting Grounds of canceled TV westerns. That left only Gunsmoke (1955) to cowboy up until it, too, left the airwaves in 1975.

Roger Davis continued to appear in guest roles in TV and the occasional low-budget film throughout the 1970s, but work became sparse in the '80s. As a voice artist, he has made over 6,000 commercials on TV and radio. He is a partner in the movie production company, "Lonetree Entertainment".

Apart from acting, Davis has enjoyed success as a real estate developer, not only building multi-million-dollar homes in the Hollywood Hills area but also renovating high-rise buildings, hotels and mansions. The Louisville, Kentucky native had been married four times: His first wife was actress Jaclyn Smith, of Charlie's Angels (1976) fame.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (4)

Donna M Jenis (1991 - present)
Alice Henry LeGette (15 June 1985 - 1988) (divorced)
Suzanne C Irwin (19 May 1979 - 1983) (divorced)
Jaclyn Smith (29 November 1968 - 1975) (divorced)

Trivia (12)

He replaced Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes on the TV series Alias Smith and Jones (1971) following Duel's suicide in December 1971. George Peppard was also in the running for the part of Hannibal Heyes.
In July 2006, he and his Alias Smith and Jones (1971) costar, Ben Murphy, were guests at the Western Film Fair in Charlotte, North Carolina along with Marjorie Lord, Mark Goddard, Steve Kanaly, Ronnie Schell, Coleen Gray, Russ Tamblyn, Tom Reese, and Cheryl Rogers.
An accomplished designer and real estate developer, his achievements include construction and restoration of hotels, high-rises and 18th century mansions.
Owns an interest in movie developer Lonetree Entertainment in Los Angeles.
In 1971, he narrated the title sequence voice-over for the comedy western TV series Alias Smith and Jones (1971), starring Pete Duel as "Hannibal Heyes/Joshua Smith" and Ben Murphy as "Kid Curry/Thaddeus Jones". Roger also guest-starred in one of the episodes (Alias Smith and Jones: Smiler with a Gun (1971)) as gunfighter "Danny Bilson". His Bilson character has the distinction of being the only character Kid Curry was driven to kill during the series. When star Pete Duel committed suicide during the Christmas holiday season of 1971, Davis replaced him as Hannibal Heyes. However, after Davis completed just seventeen episodes, the series was canceled the next season in 1973.
Davis first attracted attention on TV in the late 1960s playing multiple characters on the daytime gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (1966).
Davis is credited with "And Introducing Roger Davis as Stephen Foster Moody" in the opening credits of The Young Country (1970), the original of two pilots for Alias Smith and Jones (1971). The credit was unusual as Davis had been appearing regularly on television (as well as in movies) for eight years, including recurring roles on two TV series in the early 1960s, and had been a regular on the popular day-time soap Dark Shadows (1966) for the previous two years. The pilot, which was featured as a TV Movie of the Week on ABC, co-starred Davis' friend Pete Duel. ABC rejected the pilot. Known for his voice-over work, Davis was subsequently given the job of narrator of "Alias Smith and Jones", a series that paid homage to the movie blockbuster Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), in the first season and a-half, eventually taking over for Duel as "Joshua Smith" after Duel shot himself to death on New Year's Day 1971.
Davis played Robert E. Lee Prewitt in the 1966 pilot for From Here to Eternity (1980), which was not picked up. The TV movie made as the pilot from James Jones's classic novel has never been seen on American television. Thirteen years later, "From Here to Eternity (1953)" -- the big screen adaptation of which had won the Oscar as Best Picture of 1953 -- made it to the small screen as a TV movie and was picked up as a series for the 1980 season.
Roger Davis appeared as the lead in "The Young Country (1970) which was televised as an ABC Movie of the Week as a pilot for a possible new series. His co-star was his friend, Pete Duel, a Universal Studios contract player who was cast as the second lead. The pilot was not picked up. ABC did pick up the "Alias Smith and Jones" pilot in a series concept which paid homage to the smash hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), starring Duel as a character inspired by Paul Newman's Butch Cassidy. Universal Studios contract player Ben Murphy, was chosen as Duel's co-star, with Universal pushing Murphy for the role as some thought he resembled Newman. A successful voice-over artiste as well as actor, Davis narrated the opening of each "Alias Smith and Jones" episode with Duel and Murphy and appeared as an actor in one episode, Alias Smith and Jones: Smiler with a Gun (1971). Davis's character Danny Bilson was the only person ever killed by Murphy's character, "Kid Curry", a reformed gunslinger inspired by Robert Redford's character, "The Sundance Kid". (Kid Curry was an actual member of Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang, also known as The Wild Bunch.) After Duel died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on the morning of December 31, 1971, Davis was hired to replace him. He was replaced as narrator, in the episodes he starred in, by Ralph Story.
Attended Columbia University, where he took architecture courses as an undergraduate. This education has come in handy in his second career as a real estate developer and builder.
Roger Davis attended Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee, USA.
Involved in real estate in Los Angeles. Currently developing home sites called Viewmont North in the Hollywood Hills. [2003]

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