- Maverick (TV series)
Created by Roy Huggins Starring James Garner
Theme music composer David Buttolph
Paul Francis Webster
Country of origin United States Language(s) English No. of seasons 5 No. of episodes 124 (List of episodes) Production Executive producer(s) William T. Orr Producer(s) Roy Huggins
Location(s) California Running time 60 minutes Production company(s) Warner Bros. Television Broadcast Original channel ABC Picture format 1.33:1 monochrome Audio format monaural Original run September 22, 1957– April 22, 1962 Chronology Preceded by Conflict Followed by The New Maverick
Related shows Cheyenne
The Rockford Files
Maverick is a western television series with comedic overtones created by Roy Huggins. The show ran from September 22, 1957 to July 8, 1962 on ABC and stars James Garner as Bret Maverick, a cagey, articulate cardsharp. Eight episodes into the first season, he was joined by Jack Kelly as his brother Bart. The Mavericks were poker players from Texas who traveled all over the American Old West and on Mississippi riverboats, constantly getting into and out of life-threatening trouble of one sort or another, usually involving money, women, or both. They would typically find themselves weighing a financial windfall against a moral dilemma. More often than not, their consciences trumped their wallets.
When Garner left the series after the third season due to a legal dispute, Roger Moore was added to the cast as their cousin Beau. Robert Colbert appeared later in the fourth season as a third Maverick brother, Brent. No more than two of the series leads ever appeared together in the same episode, and usually only one.
The show was part of the Warner Bros. array of Westerns, which included Cheyenne, Colt .45, Lawman, Bronco, The Alaskans, and Sugarfoot. Maverick can currently be seen weekday mornings at 8am ET on the Encore Westerns Channel.[clarification needed]
James Garner as Bret Maverick
Bret Maverick is the epitome of a rounder, always seeking out high-stakes games, and rarely remaining in one place for long. The show is generally credited with launching Garner's career, although he had already appeared in several movies, including Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend with Randolph Scott, and had filmed Sayonara with Marlon Brando, which wasn't released until December 1957 but had been viewed by Huggins and the Warner Bros. staff casting their new television series. Maverick often bested The Ed Sullivan Show and The Steve Allen Show in the television ratings.
Huggins inverted the usual cowboy hero characteristics familiar to television and movie viewers of the time. Bret Maverick was vocally reluctant to risk his life, though he typically ended up being courageous in spite of himself. He frequently flimflammed adversaries, but only those who deserved it. Otherwise he was honest almost to a fault, in at least one case insisting on repaying a questionable large debt (in "According to Hoyle"). None of the Mavericks were particularly fast draws with a pistol. Bart once commented to a lady friend, "My brother Bret can outdraw me any day of the week, and he's known as the Second Slowest Gun in the West." However, it was almost impossible for anyone to beat them in any sort of a fistfight, perhaps the one cowboy cliché that Huggins left intact (reportedly at the insistence of the studio).
Critics have repeatedly referred to Bret Maverick as "arguably the first TV anti-hero," and have praised the show for its photography and Garner's charisma and subtly comedic facial expressions.. Nonetheless, most TV anti-heroes, such as Eddie Haskell, Dr. Zachery Smith, and J. R. Ewing are at heart self-serving and egocentric, a description that does not fit any Maverick.
Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick
Though Garner was originally supposed to be the only Maverick, the studio eventually hired Jack Kelly to play brother Bart, starting with the eighth episode. The producers had realized that it took over a week to shoot a single episode, so Kelly was hired to rotate with Garner as the series lead, using two separate crews (while occasionally appearing together). In Bart's first episode, "Hostage!", in order to engender audience sympathy for the new character, the script called for him to be tied up and beaten by an evil police officer.
According to series creator Roy Huggins in his Archive of American Television interview, the two brothers were purposely written to be virtual clones, with no apparent differences inherent in the scripts whatsoever. This included being traveling poker players, loving money, professing to be cowards, spouting intriguing words of advice their "Pappy" passed down to them, and carrying a $1,000 bill pinned to the inside of a coat for emergency purposes, but there was one accidental distinction. Garner's episodes tended to be more comedic due to his obvious talent in that area, while Kelly's were inclined to be more dramatic. Huggins noted in the aforementioned Archive of American Television interview that Kelly, while funnier than Garner "off camera," dropped a funny line "like a load of coal." Garner, at 6 feet 3 inches (1.9 m), was also two inches (5 cm) taller than Kelly, leading a character in one episode ("Seed of Deception") to refer to Garner as "the big one" and the 6'1" Kelly as "the little one."
To get disappointed viewers used to the idea of a second Maverick, Garner filmed a series of vignettes that aired at the beginning of the Kelly-only episodes, where he would introduce the evening's story. Kelly did the same in the Garner-only episode, "Black Fire", by appearing in the opening vignette to introduce the story, and narrating the remainder of the episode.
While Kelly developed a following among the show's female fans, not everyone was happy with his addition to the cast. The chairman of Kaiser Aluminum, the series' main sponsor at the time, became so perturbed when Kelly was brought in (saying, "I paid for red apples and I get green apples!") that ABC had to make a new deal that cost the network a small fortune.
The episodes featuring the two were audience favorites, with critics frequently citing the chemistry between the Maverick brothers. Bret and Bart often found themselves competing for women or money, or working together in some elaborate scheme to swindle someone who had just robbed one of them.
Though it was never said explicitly, Bret appears to be the older, stating once in response to someone mentioning lightning striking twice in the same place, "That's just what my Pappy said when he looked in my brother Bart's crib." In real life, Kelly was seven months older than Garner. Kelly wound up being the only Maverick to appear in all five seasons of the series in the wake of Garner's departure after the third season to pursue a film career.
Roger Moore as Beau Maverick
Though very popular, Garner quit over a contract dispute with the studio after the series' third year and was replaced by Roger Moore as cousin Beau, nephew of Beau "Pappy" Maverick. Sean Connery turned down the role, but accepted a free trip to America; the following decade, Moore would replace Connery as James Bond in the film series.
Beau's first appearance was in the season four opener, "Bundle From Britain," in which he returns from an extended stay in England to meet cousin Bart. Moore had earlier played a completely different role in the episode "The Rivals," a drawing room comedy episode with Garner in which Moore's character switched identities with Bret.
Beau's amusingly self-described "slight English accent" was explained by his having spent the last few years in England. Moore was exactly the same age as Kelly and brought a flair for light comedy and a physical similarity to Garner fitting the show—-Moore even looked like the profile drawing (based on Garner) of the card player at the beginning of each episode. Moore noted in his autobiography that the producers told him he was not being brought in to replace Garner. However, when he got to wardrobe, all of his costumes had the name "Jim Garner" scratched out on the tags. Moore also mentioned in the book that he, Garner, Kelly, and their wives would regularly gather at the Kelly home for what they called "poker school."
There was also a dispute between the cast and producers during this time over the long hours they were putting in each day. The producers placed a time clock in the makeup department and required the actors to punch in. Moore brought his own makeup, and refused to do so. Moore wrote in his book that Kelly was "similarly minded, and one day took the time clock and used it as a football."
Moore had already played Maverick dialogue written for Garner in his earlier series, The Alaskans. The studio had a policy of recycling scripts through their various television series to save money on writers, changing as little dialogue as possible, usually only names and locations. Recycled scripts were often credited to "W. Hermanos" (Spanish for W. Brothers).
Moore quit due to what he felt was a declining script quality (without having to resort to legal measures as Garner had); Moore insisted if he had gotten the level of writing Garner had enjoyed during the first two years of the show's run, he would have stayed.
Robert Colbert as Brent Maverick
As ratings continued to slide following the addition of Moore, strapping Garner lookalike Robert Colbert was cast as yet another brother, Brent Maverick, duplicating Garner's costume exactly. Colbert had appeared on the show previously as Cherokee Dan Evans in the season four episode "Hadley's Hunters." Aware of his physical similarity to Garner and wary of the comparisons that would inevitably result, Colbert famously pleaded with Warner not to cast him, saying, "Put me in a dress and call me Brenda but don't do this to me!"
The studio had intended for Kelly, Moore, and Colbert to be on the series at the same time, and a pair of publicity photos exists of Bart, Beau, and Brent, marching together down a street with their pistols pointed, as well as a color shot of Bart and Beau admiring the thousand dollar bill pinned to the inside of Brent's jacket (a recurring Maverick plot device), but Moore had already left the show when the first of Colbert's two episodes aired in March 1961. Colbert was introduced as Brent in the season four episode "The Forbidden City." Kelly made what amounted to an extended cameo appearance in the episode. Colbert would appear again two episodes later by himself in the episode "Benefit of the Doubt."
For the fifth season in 1961-1962, the studio dropped Colbert without notifying him; they simply did not call him back. New Kelly episodes alternated with Garner reruns until the series was cancelled. The studio reversed the actors' billing at the beginning of the show for that last season, with Kelly ahead of Garner.
Colbert later appeared as a Brent-like character called "Ace" in a 1965 episode of Bonanza entitled "Meredith Smith". In the 1965-66 season, he appeared on F Troop, but left to star in a new series. In 1967, he would co-star with James Darren in the science fiction television series Time Tunnel. The actor spent most of the 1970s in daytime serials.
Supporting players and recurring roles
- Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Dandy Jim Buckley, a sophisticated con artist, who at times was both friend and foe to Bret but maintained a markedly warmer friendship with Bart.
- Diane Brewster as Samantha Crawford, a con woman who managed to dupe Bret and Bart out of large sums, but not without having a little romance with each brother first. Brewster originated the role of Crawford on Cheyenne before Maverick went on the air. "Samantha Crawford" was the maiden name of series creator Roy Huggins' mother.
- Richard Long as Gentleman Jack Darby. Gentleman Jack was intended to be the friendly rival opposing Bart that Dandy Jim's character was for Bret, and was created after Zimbalist had been cast in 77 Sunset Strip and was no longer available for lengthy appearances; Long later joined the cast of 77 Sunset Strip himself. Gentleman Jack never appeared with Bret, always with Bart, although Dandy Jim was in episodes with both, together and separately.
- Arlene Howell as Cindy Lou Brown, another beautiful con woman whom Bart and Gentleman Jack fought over.
- Leo Gordon as Big Mike McComb, Bret and Bart's Irish friend who aided them on several adventures. Gordon would later write a few episodes of the series.
- Gerald Mohr and Peter Breck as Doc Holliday. Mohr originally played the role in season one as a ruthless killer. However, in seasons 4-5, Breck portrayed Holliday as more of a lovable rogue who was always getting Bart in trouble with his scams.
- Kathleen Crowley as Modesty Blaine, Melanie Blake, and Marie, leading ladies with repeated appearances in various seasons. Mona Freeman played Modesty Blaine twice while Crowley played the role once.
- John Dehner and Andrew Duggan each played gangster Big Ed Murphy once, among other roles in the series.
- Mike Road played gambler Pearly Gates twice during the final season.
Some performers, such as Kathleen Crowley, Tol Avery, and Chubby Johnson, appeared seven or eight times over the course of the series in various roles. A very young Joel Grey played Billy the Kid in an unusual episode that featured a bravura pistol-twirling exhibition by Garner. A chubby, acne-scarred Robert Redford joined Kelly on a desperate cattle drive in "The Iron Hand." Stacy Keach, Sr. played a sheriff in "Ghost Rider". Slim Pickens, Lee Van Cleef, John Carradine, Buddy Ebsen, Hans Conried, Alan Hale, Jr., Jim Backus, John Gavin, Mike Connors, Chad Everett, Patric Knowles, and Adam West appeared at least once during the run of the series. Actresses included subsequent Oscar-winners Ellen Burstyn and Louise Fletcher, as well as Mala Powers, Coleen Gray, Ruta Lee, Marie Windsor, Abby Dalton, Karen Steele, Dawn Wells, Connie Stevens, Merry Anders, Sherry Jackson, and Adele Mara.
The program's stentorian-voiced announcer ("Maverick! Starring Jack Kelly and Robert Colbert!") was character actor Ed Reimers.
The first broadcast episode of Maverick, "War of the Silver Kings," was based on C.B Glasscock's "The War of the Copper Kings," which relates the real-life adventures of copper mine speculator F. Augustus Heinze, a copper king who ultimately went to Wall Street. Huggins recalls in his Archive of American Television interview that this Warners-owned property was selected by the studio as the first episode in order to cheat him out of creator residuals.
Notable episodes of the series include "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" (in which Bret spends most of the acclaimed episode apparently relaxing in a rocking chair, calmly whittling and offhandedly assuring the inquisitive and derisively amused townspeople that he's "working on it" while Bart runs a complex sting operation to swindle a crooked banker who'd blithely pocketed Bret's deposit of $15,000); "According to Hoyle" (the first appearance of Diane Brewster as roguish Samantha Crawford, a role she'd played earlier in an episode of another western TV series called Cheyenne); "The Saga of Waco Williams" (which also drew the largest viewership of the series); "Gun-Shy" (a spoof of Gunsmoke); and "Duel at Sundown" (with Clint Eastwood as a fist-fighting and gun-slinging villain). In his Archive of American Television interview, Roy Huggins contends that the first half of The Sting was an uncredited restaging of "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres."
Jack Kelly's favorite episode was "Two Beggars On Horseback," a sweeping adventure that depicted a frenzied race between Bret and Bart to cash a check, the only time in the series that Kelly also wore a black hat, albeit briefly.
"Pappy" stands out as a unique episode, with James Garner playing Bret and Bart's father Beau, an important but previously unseen character always referred to throughout the run of the series as "Pappy." Bret and Bart were both constantly saying, "As my Pappy used to say" then reeling off some intriguing aphorism like "Work is fine for killing time but it's a shaky way to make a living." In this particular episode, Pappy was brought to life for the only time in the series by Garner, and Bret also winds up disguising himself as his own grey-haired, mustachioed father as part of the plotline. The split screen sequences with two Garners in the same shot were singled out by critics as especially interesting. Kelly also plays a dual role, briefly portraying old Beau's brother Bentley, or "Uncle Bent," as Bret calls him. Garner's Beau Maverick is not the same character as the Beau Maverick played by Roger Moore later in the series; Moore's Beau is the nephew of Garner's Beau as well as Bret and Bart's cousin; and Beau Maverick always referred to "Uncle Beau" (instead of calling him "Pappy"). In the studio tradition of casting their contract players, Troy Donahue plays the son of a long-time lover of Pappy.
The second episode of season four, "Hadley's Hunters," features brief crossovers from the Warner Bros. array of Western shows. Bart encounters Dan Troop (John Russell) and Johnny McKay (Peter Brown) from Lawman, Cheyenne Bodie (Clint Walker) from Cheyenne, Tom Brewster (Will Hutchins) from Sugarfoot, Bronco Layne (Ty Hardin) from Bronco, and Edd Byrnes from 77 Sunset Strip. Bart also walked into the office of Christopher Colt and found it empty. He noticed Colt's gun hung up on the wall, and his satchel covered in dust. This was an inside joke referring to Colt .45, another of the Warner Bros. westerns, that had been cancelled.
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.'s charming character Dandy Jim Buckley (Maverick minus the meticulous scruples) appears to especially superb effect in the epic "Stampede" and comedy of treachery "The Jail at Junction Flats." The latter episode features a memorable conclusion that offended many 1958 viewers. Zimbalist went on to play the lead in his own series, 77 Sunset Strip, after five appearances as Buckley. Huggins recruited Richard Long to fill the void as a similar character named "Gentleman Jack Darby," and both Buckley and Darby appear in "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres," although not in the same scenes.
Many episodes are humorous while others are deadly serious, and in addition to purely original scripts, producer Roy Huggins drew upon works by writers as disparate as Louis Lamour and Robert Louis Stevenson to give the series breadth and scope. The Maverick brothers never stopped traveling, and the show was as likely to be set on a riverboat or in New Orleans as in a western desert or frontier saloon. Huggins quit the series at the end of the second season due to a life-threatening bout with pneumonia, and was succeeded by writer/producer Coles Trapnell, ushering in a gradual but sharp permanent decline in ratings.
The memorable theme song was penned by prolific composers David Buttolph (music) and Paul Francis Webster (lyrics). Buttolph's music first appeared in the Warner Bros. film of The Lone Ranger. The theme song lyrics (performed by an all-male chorus) introduce the lead character and also describe the setting.
In the decades following the cancellation of Maverick, the characters and situations have been revived several times. In 1978, a TV movie called The New Maverick had 50-year-old James Garner and Jack Kelly reprising their roles, while Charles Frank playing young Ben Maverick, the son of their cousin Beau. Garner shot the film while on hiatus from The Rockford Files. Kelly only appeared in a few scenes near the end.
The New Maverick was the pilot for a new series, Young Maverick, which ran for a short time in 1979. Frank's character, Ben Maverick, was the focal point of the show, while Garner only appeared as Bret for a few moments at the very beginning of the first episode. It is apparent that Bret does not much care for Ben, and the two part at the nearest crossroads; some critics later noted that the audience couldn't help but think that the camera was following the wrong Maverick. The series ended so quickly that several episodes that had already been filmed were never broadcast.
Two years later, another attempt to revive the show occurred after Garner left The Rockford Files and needed to perform in another series to fulfill his contractual obligations. Bret Maverick (1981–82) starred the 53-year-old as an older-but-no-wiser Bret. Jack Kelly appeared as Bret's brother Bart in only one episode but was slated to return as a series regular for the following season. NBC unexpectedly canceled the show despite respectable ratings, and Kelly would never officially join the cast. The new series involved Bret Maverick settling down in a small town in Arizona after winning a saloon in a poker game: the two-hour first episode was eventually trimmed and repackaged as a TV-movie under the title Bret Maverick: The Lazy Ace. Bret Maverick ended on a sentimental note, with Bret and Bart embracing during an unexpected encounter, with the theme from the original series playing in the background.
The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) featured Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick for the last time. The film united Kelly with various other Western characters and actors, including Bat Masterson (Gene Barry), Wyatt Earp (Hugh O'Brian), the Rifleman (Chuck Connors) and his son Mark (Johnny Crawford), Caine from Kung Fu (David Carradine), The Westerner (Brian Keith), a thinly disguised Virginian and Trampas (James Drury and Doug McClure, who had appeared briefly as a hotel clerk in a first season Maverick episode), and Cheyenne Bodie (Clint Walker). Kenny Rogers played the lead as part of his TV movie series based on his hit song "The Gambler", with the others (including Maverick) more or less relegated to brief appearances. As each veteran hero appears onscreen, a few bars of the theme song from their original series plays in the background. Garner had made a similar appearance as Bret Maverick years before, in a 1959 Bob Hope movie called Alias Jesse James that also featured Hugh O'Brien as Wyatt Earp, along with Fess Parker (dressed as Davy Crockett), Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers and Trigger, Jay Silverheels (Tonto from The Lone Ranger), Gail Davis (Annie Oakley), James Arness (Marshal Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke), and Ward Bond (Seth Adams of Wagon Train), not to mention Hope's frequent screen partner Bing Crosby. Garner's appearance in the film is frequently absent from television presentations due to legal problems with the rights to the character.
Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick
In 1994, a lavish film version titled Maverick starred Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick, Jodie Foster, and James Garner in a supporting role as Bret's father. It was directed by Richard Donner (who had previously directed dozens of TV series prior to working in feature films), from a screenplay by Oscar-winning writer William Goldman. Garner maintained in later interviews that he was playing exactly the same character as in the television series, with Gibson as his son, but the script itself leaves this open to conjecture; some assume that he was actually portraying Bret's father Beau "Pappy" Maverick. A "Making of" mini-documentary was broadcast on cable stations prior to the film's release that included no footage of Garner from the original series despite both the movie and television series having been produced by the same studio.
During the height of the TV show's popularity, the Maverick brothers starred in a comic book drawn by Dan Spiegle. Spiegle met Garner at the studio before the first Maverick comic was drawn because no publicity photographs were available yet. Spiegle talked in an interview about comic books he had drawn:
I would say my favorite was Maverick, which ran about three years----fairly successful, considering the run of other western strips published then. I was assigned this strip even before they had stills available for the show, so I was sent down to Warner Bros. to see it in production----where I met James Garner, which is perhaps the reason I enjoyed it so much. Having met the star, I was extra careful to make the drawings I did look as parallel to the real person as possible. I put my all into that strip, having fun all the way.
Writers for Maverick included Roy Huggins ("Shady Deal at Sunny Acres"), Russell S. Hughes ("According to Hoyle"), Gerald Drayson Adams ("Stampede"), Montgomery Pittman ("The Saga of Waco Williams"), Douglas Heyes ("The Quick and the Dead"), Marion Hargrove ("The Jail at Junction Flats"), Howard Browne ("Duel at Sundown"), Leo Townsend ("The Misfortune Teller"), Gene Levitt ("The Comstock Conspiracy"), Leo Gordon (who also acted on the series), and George Waggner, among many others.
Bret Maverick statue
On April 21, 2006, a 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) bronze statue of James Garner as Bret Maverick was unveiled in Garner's hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, with Garner present.
For a complete list of every episode in the series with comments, see the list of Maverick episodes.
Two different books on the Maverick TV series were published in 1994, one by Burl Barer and the other by Ed Robertson, and serve as the main sources for the background information in this article, together with various magazine pieces from TV Guide, Life Magazine, and numerous others, along with viewings of the original series episodes, many of which remain available to the public at the Paley Center for Media in New York City and Los Angeles.
- ^ "Maverick". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/M/htmlM/maverick/maverick.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-20. "Maverick premiered on September 22, 1957, and pretty soon won over the viewers from the powerful opposition of CBS's The Ed Sullivan Show and NBC's The Steve Allen Show, two programs that had been enormous Sunday night favorites from the mid-1950s."
- ^ p.111 Callan, Michael Feeney Sean Connery 2002 Virgin Publishing
- Maverick at the Internet Movie Database
- Maverick at TV.com
- Museum of Broadcast Communications: Maverick
- TV Guide Maverick Episode List
- Maverick Episode Guide at epguides.com
- Roy Huggins' Archive of American Television Interview
- Stephen J. Cannell's Archive of American Television explanation of Huggins' approach
- James Garner's Archive of American Television Interview
- The Paley Center for Media
William T. Orr television shows September 1955 September 1956 September–October 1957 September–October 1958 October 1959 October 1960Surfside 6 · The Roaring 20s January–October 1962 January 1963 September 1963 September 1964 September 1965
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