Vintage Hunk: Ben Murphy

By: Mike McCrann

A dead ringer for the legendary Paul Newman, Ben Murphy was one of the hottest men on TV in the 1970s.

Born in 1942 in Arkansas, Murphy grew up in Illinois and attended numerous colleges before finally deciding on an acting career. He appeared as an extra in the scene where Dustin Hoffman is looking for "the makeout king" in The Graduate, and he played the hippie boyfriend in Lucille Ball's hit film Yours, Mine and Ours.

Early success followed when Murphy played Robert Stack's young assistant in the popular TV series The Name of the Game, which led to his getting the role as Jedediah "Kid" Curry in Alias Smith and Jones, a partial ripoff of the megahit movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

This fun show about outlaw cousins ran from 1971 to 1973, and Murphy was the rage of teen girls and gay men at the time, but the show never recovered after costar Peter Duel killed himself on New Year's Eve 1971. "The chemistry between Peter and I was wonderful," Murphy later said in a 2004 interview. "I've never quite had it since... it was a marvelous chemistry... it was like being married..."

Although he had steady work for the rest of his career — including a good role in the miniseries The Winds of War — Murphy never recouped his early fame. He would later say, "It was the high mark of my career as it turns out, even though I was very young at the time." 

Years ago, when I was living in Westwood, I ran into Ben Murphy. He was filming some sitcom and just standing around waiting for his cinematic moment. I went up to him and told him how much I loved him as Kid Curry. He flashed that killer smile and then thanked me. He was so beautiful, and I was speechless.

Murphy is now 71. At the height of his fame in 1973, he sagely stated, "I know my attributes and I understand how to use them." Seeing Ben Murphy in person, I can attest to a lot of those attributes; some I can discuss and others I can't.

See the Alias Smith and Jones opening below.