"I am ready to resurrect my career," Ben Murphy told Howard Pearson in 1977. "This performance at Logan (the Logan’s Festival of the American West at Utah State University) is one of the steps. I have been taking acting lessons from the best private teachers in Hollywood. But I was a beginner again (at 35 years of age). I had to prove myself."
Ben Murphy rose to TV stardom in the 1971 series, 'Alias Smith and Jones', "We had to work constantly on that series and I didn't have time to go to classes. I was on television all the time, either rehearsing or appearing in shows. Also at that time, I started getting into tennis seriously. Now (in 1977) I must pick up where I left off in my acting. I will be taking classes for about 30 hours each week and working in physical exercise and keeping in shape for 20 hours.
"This is my last hurrah in tennis, however. I have decided that it is acting I want. I must develop my talent and something will happen. I am fatalistic. I believe that if you prepare yourself and send out vibrations something will happen. I have been under contract to Universal for 10 years (since 1967). I have done pilots for them and I have been in series of shows. Perhaps when they see me after my acting lessons, they will give me better parts. I will now be sitting waiting for my triumphant return to television and movies."
Of the 1976 TV series 'Gemini Man', "Let's face it, it was no good. The second script in the series had to be shelved for a rewrite; the gimmicks were not good. It wasn't a good series. The network felt there was still more to 'Invisible Man'. The network felt the whole concept had not been tried. Our producer said when he took over 'Invisible Man', he was saddled with an unworkable concept from the start. He had to change it and couldn't. With 'Gemini Man', he can change the idea. In 'Invsible Man', a blue-screen method was used to block out parts that should be invisible. For 'Gemini Man', I zap in and zap out. The camera is stopped for me to move. Wires are used to move items."
Ben graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. He spent 2 years at the Pasadena Playhouse in California learning theater arts. After completing his training, movie producer Bob Thompson signed Ben to Universal because "he makes a physical statement. He doesn't have a lot to say. He gets it across."
At the time, Ben believed actors "lead an easy life. I've driven trucks, and compared to that, this is easy. I was on the railroad for a year, and I worked for a publishing firm. I like this life even when I'm invisible." After Ben's contract with Universal expired in 1978, "I gave up my career and focused on tennis. I never auditioned when I was at Universal. So when I was on the open market auditioning was hard and failing was difficult."
In November 1982, Ben auditioned but lost out on a part in the TV series, 'The A-Team'. Ben recounted, "There was death in that room, man, when I didn’t get the part. You could hear a pin drop. That experience was so painful I remember crying." At one stage Ben considered leaving show business but after attending an acting seminar he rethought his decision. "The 3rd day of the seminar I went to interview for 'Bare Essence' and something happened to me," Ben remembered. "I was relaxed and handled myself in a very responsible way. I didn't get the role, thank God. But I discovered it’s always the roles I didn’t get that spurred me on to better things."
The better role waiting for Ben around the corner was playing Robert Mitchum's on-screen son in the "historic epic ratings gold mine" TV mini-series, 'The Winds of War'. Based on Herman Wouk's 1971 book, 'The Winds of War' took 12 years (1971-1983) to bring to the screen. At a total cost of $40 million, the 7-part, 18-hour, 1785-scene mini-series took 14 months (from late 1980) to film in over 400 locations (in 6 countries) from California to the former Yugoslavia.
It was mentioned producer and director Dan Curtis spent 4 years on the project, getting the 984-page script written, as well as casting the 285 speaking parts and directing the filming and overseeing over a million feet of film which took one year (in 1982) to edit. There were 4,000 camera setups. 'The Winds of War' opened in the year 1939 and sought to explore the lives of one fictitious family during the historical events of the 3 years to December 1941.
Viewers witnessed weddings, divorces, births and deaths at a time during the Führer's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Churchill's Britain and Roosevelt's violations of the Neutrality Act. Barbara Holsopple remarked, "The production is spectacularly bold, recreating history in stunning realism and detail as fictitious characters take part in non-fiction events. 'Winds of War' is excellent television, designed to capture the attention and devotion of millions of viewers. It succeeds easily in its mission, mixing the elements of soap opera with the drama of war."
Until 'The Thorn Birds' about a priest torn between love and the church, 'The Winds of War' was the most watched TV event since 'Roots'. Some 140 million viewers were counted watching part or all of the marathon mini-series.
Part I attracted a rating of 39.1% and a 53% share of the audience;
Part II attracted a rating of 40.2% (about 33.4 million households);
Part III attracted a rating of 38.7% (about 32.2 million households);
Part IV attracted a rating of 39.0% (about 32.4 million households);
Part V attracted a rating of 36.1% (about 30 million households);
Part VI attracted a rating of 35.2% (about 29.3 million households);
Part VII attracted a rating of 41.0% (about 34.1 million households) and a 56% share of the audience
Herman Wouk made the observation, "Only 15% to 20% of the material in the book is on the screen. The film medium can say a lot more in a hurry." Robert Mitchum was hired to play the U.S. Navy Captain Victor "Pug" Henry because Dan Curtis argued, "Mitchum is older than Pug, but I had to have someone with the ability to stand up with Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. Mitchum gives you that kind of presence necessary to talk to a Head of State. If you don't have that you're in trouble."