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Benjamin Edward (Ben) Murphy (1942–)

Ben Murphy is an actor and tennis star who is perhaps best known for his leading role in the popular 1970s television series Alias Smith and Jones, although he is also known for starring roles in a number of other TV series, including The Name of the Game, Griff, Gemini Man, and Berrenger’s. He played a major character in the landmark TV mini-series The Winds of War and appeared in feature films including The Graduate (1967), Yours, Mine & Ours (1968), The Thousand Plane Raid (1969), To Protect and Serve (2001), and The Uniform Motion of Folly (2006). He is also a highly regarded tennis player on the United States Tennis Association (USTA) singles and doubles circuit.

Benjamin Edward (Ben) Murphy was born on March 6, 1942, in Jonesboro (Craighead County). His parents were Nadine Steele Castleberry and Benjamin E. Castleberry. After the death of his father, he was raised in Memphis, Tennessee.

When his mother remarried in 1956, he was adopted by his stepfather, Patrick Henry Murphy, taking his last name. The family moved to Clarendon Hills, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He graduated from Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois, and attended several colleges, including the University of Illinois. In pursuing an acting career, he apprenticed at California’s prestigious Pasadena Playhouse.

His successful acting career has spanned five decades, beginning with an uncredited role as “The Shaving Student” in 1967’s The Graduate. That year, Murphy signed an eleven-year contract with Universal Studios. He guest-starred on top TV series of the late 1960s and early 1970s such as The Virginian, It Takes a Thief, The Outsider, Medical Center, and The Mod Squad before becoming a regular on what was considered a groundbreaking prestige series, The Name of the Game, which ran from 1968 to 1971.

When ABC-TV sought a television project inspired by 1969’s hit movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Murphy landed the starring role as Kid Curry in Alias Smith and Jones (1971–1973). The plot centered around two former outlaws on the run in America’s Old West. Both the program itself and Murphy had a light-hearted charm, the show became well known both in the United States and abroad; it was one of the most popular American shows of its time in the United Kingdom.

Following Alias Smith and Jones, Murphy landed starring roles in several other television series: Griff (1973), Gemini Man (1976), Lottery! (1983), Berrenger’s (1985), and Dirty Dozen: The Series (1988). He starred as Will Chisholm in the mini-series The Chisholms in 1979. He appeared in the TV movie Uncommon Valor as well as the mini-series The Winds of War, both in 1983.

Among many guest appearances, he appeared in TV shows including Murder, She Wrote; The Twilight Zone; In the Heat of the Night; Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; Silk Stalkings; Judging Amy; Cold Case; JAG; and JAG’s long-running spin-off, NCIS. Murphy holds almost seventy credits listed on the Internet Movie Database, with his most recent project listed as 2010’s The Genesis Code.

Murphy married writer/director Jeanne C. Davis in 1978; they divorced in 1981. He resides in southern California and travels on the USTA singles and doubles circuit. He threw his energies into the game during a 1980 actors’ strike, spending about forty hours a week on the court. In 2016, he consistently ranked in southern California’s top ten Men’s 70 Singles Seedings as well as the Men’s 70 Doubles Senior Grand Prix for southern California.

For additional information:
Ben Murphy, Actor and Tennis Player. http://www.benmurphyfans.com/ (accessed August 18, 2016).

“Ben Murphy.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0614101/ (accessed August 18, 2016).

Plummer, William. “Since the Winds of War Picked up His Career, Ben Murphy Has a New Outlook and An ABC Series.” People, May 30, 1983. Online at http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20085138,00.html (accessed August 18, 2016).

Nancy Hendricks
Arkansas State University

Last Updated 8/24/2016

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