Monday, February 3, 2020

THE JAMES GARNER BLOGATHON: Maverick Is The Name


Gill is hosting The James Garner Blogathon at her site Realweegiemidget Reviews. Take part in all the affection and admiration HERE. Follow-up: DAY 2 and DAY 3

James Garner as Bret Maverick

The television western Maverick (1957-1962) is the only series to be awarded the Emmy for Best Western Series. The year was 1959 and with the surfeit of westerns aired on television, it was the only year the television academy featured that category. You can read about the award and the nominees here.

Roy Huggins' (The Fugitive, The Rockford Files) creation was a follow-up to his success with Cheyenne starring Clint Walker. His winning formula was to turn the archetypal western loner/hero into gamblers with their own wry code of self-preservation.

James Garner's appealing personality and talent as Bret Maverick made him an instant hit with the audience and one of the most over-worked actors at Warner Brothers. Easing that burden was the addition of the equally charming Jack Kelly as Bret's brother, Bart Maverick. Episodes were usually assigned to one or the other, but audiences always looked forward to the combination of Mavericks as in one of the series' most popular episodes, Shady Deal at Sunny Acres

Robert Colbert, Roger Moore, Jack Kelly

James Garner would leave Maverick after three seasons in a legal dispute with the studio, becoming one of the first major television stars to have a thriving motion picture career. Throughout his career, James Garner would easily travel back and forth from the large to small screens in quality projects. Jack Kelly's Bart would be joined for the final three seasons by Maverick cousins Beau played by Roger Moore (The Saint) and Brent played by Robert Colbert (The Time Tunnel).

James Garner, Susan Blanchard, Charles Frank

The first Maverick sequel was 1979's Young Maverick starring Charles Frank as the Harvard-educated Ben Maverick, son of Beau, who inherited the family gene for gambling and adventure. Susan Blanchard played love-interest Nell McGarrahan. John Dehner co-starred as Marshal Troy. The series followed a 1978 TV movie, The New Maverick. I found the program a delight, but CBS only ran 8 episodes. Hardly enough time to build up an audience. Note: Charles and Susan have been married since 1977.

Darleen Carr, James Garner

NBC showed James Garner in Bret Maverick for 18 episodes in 1981. Bret has settled down and owns a stake in a saloon so instead of riding into trouble, trouble comes to him. Audiences didn't get to see brother Bart planned second season visit.

Let's enjoy memories of those early days when Bret and Bart Maverick rode the television range with a look at three outstanding episodes of Maverick.

SEED OF DECEPTION
Written by Montgomery Pittman
Directed by Richard L. Bare
First aired Sunday, April 13, 1958

Jack Kelly, James Garner

Mistaken identities and a bank robbery play into this final episode of the first season of Maverick. On his way to Yuma, Bret is persuaded to remain in a small town with the promise of "real eastern turkey with sage stuffing and two kinds of gravy; thickening and speckling." He is a little nonplussed by the idea the townsfolk are under the impression that he is Doc Holliday, but "two kinds of gravy!"

When Bart shows up, Bret still hasn't had his fill of turkey, or of Joi Lansing as a pretty widow, so he lets it slip that his brother just might be Wyatt Earp. After all, Bart likes good food and pretty widows as much as the next guy.

The sheriff played by Frank Ferguson and his fellow citizens are anxious that two such reputable gunmen as "Doc" and Earp are in town because they need help dealing with Jim Mundy played by Myron Healey and his gang. These cousins of the Clanton's are notorious trouble-makers and it is feared they have designs on the town's bank which is central to its business survival.

The sheriff is not wrong. Mundy has brought a dancer to town played by Adele Mara (Mrs. Roy Huggins) to provide noisy and distracting entertainment on the night the bank is filled with a mine payroll and ripe for the picking. The fetching dancer and Bart knew each other in the past and the gang suspects Bart of suspecting them so they arrange for the unarmed Maverick to be shot and framed for precipitating a gunfight.

Bart: "Bret, you're not planning anything old-fashioned, are you? You know, like, uh, getting revenge for an only brother?"
Bret: "I'm not mad at anybody. They didn't shoot me."
Bart: "That's right. I certainly wouldn't do anything about it if it was the other way around."

Bret, of course, can't let things go and his detecting ultimately foils the robbery. A hefty reward goes with Bret's success which he splits with Bart, in the ever-constant hope of winning back the full share.

Gerald Mohr as "Doc" Holliday

The coda features the real Doc Holliday played by Gerald Mohr in seven episodes throughout the series, showing up to the confusion of the townsfolk and the pleasure of the audience.

THE RIVALS
Written by Marion Hargrove
Adapted from Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivals
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
First aired on Sunday, January 25, 1959 

Pat Crowley, James Garner

Sheridan's classic comedy-of-manners The Rivals was a great success in 1775, a favourite with the public, with royalty, and with George Washington. Making sport of the silly and the wealthy will never go out of fashion. Marion Hargrove (See Here, Private Hargrove) adapted the farce for Maverick and it has become one of its popular episodes.

Bret has plans to play the casino at an exclusive resort. It won't be easy to gain entrance to such a place, but the name of Vandergelt opens many doors. Prior to his role as cousin Beau, Roger Moore received top billing along with Garner and Kelly in this episode. His character bears the name of Jack Vandergelt III, but he desires an alias. Bret can be bought for $1,000 a week to play games of chance while the other "Bret" plays games of the heart.

Miss Lydia Lynley played by Patricia Crowley is a young lady with stars in her eyes and a dream in her heart. She longs for a romantic suitor in the fashion of Heathcliffe or Sidney Carton. She refuses all suitors of her class while she seeks a poor but honest soul. Thus, Vandergelt III plans to woo Lydia through the guise of Bret Maverick. Could anything be more uncomplicated?

Barbara Jo Allen, known for her character Vera Vague is perfectly cast in the Mrs. Malaprop role of Lydia's guardian Mrs. Mallaver. Sandra Gould is Lydia's scatterbrained maid. Dan Tobin plays Lucius Benson a thwarted yet ever hopeful suitor of the muddle-headed heiress. William Allyn plays a compatriot of Vandergelt's who can't keep a secret.

Neal Hamilton plays old Brigadier Vandergelt who is determined to marry his son to a suitable young lady, and the young lady he has chosen is - you guessed it - Miss Lydia Lynley. Deceptions and a duel lead to the inevitable conclusion. Jack III gets girl, and Bret discovers that unless your name really is Vandergelt, Stuyvesant or Astor, they won't let you into the casino.

Pat Crowley, Roger Moore

Jack: "It's no life for you, Lydia - polo ponies, a yacht."
Lydia: "That doesn't matter. I'd marry you if you were the richest man in the world."

Bonus:

  Pat Crowley and James Garner in The Rockford Files, 1979

THE SAGA OF WACO WILLIAMS
Teleplay by Gene L. Coon and Story by Montgomery Pittman
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
First aired on Sunday, February 15, 1959

James Garner, Wayde Preston

Bret rides into Bent City with Waco Williams played by Wayde Preston (Colt .45). At first glance, they don't appear to be particularly chummy, but Bret is awfully concerned with Waco's well-being. There must be a pot of gold at the end of this dusty rainbow.

Bent City is a nervous town being only a few weeks out of a range war and strangers are not looked upon kindly. We know from his letter writing to Bart that Bret expects a payoff for keeping Waco alive, but it won't be easy. Waco is thoroughly honest and upright, annoyingly so. He doesn't go looking for trouble but trouble naturally finds him. Waco's fast draw, wicked right, and steadfast adherence to the principles of right over wrong will always find him in trouble.

Future Oscar Winner Louise Fletcher

A stubborn rancher, Colonel Bent played by R.G. Armstrong is determined to rid the town of a possible rustler or gunman, which is how he sees Waco. Waco has given the Colonel's son a well-deserved beating and it is not the sort of thing that can be overlooked. The Colonel's pretty daughter played by Louise Fletcher has a different point of view and tries to help the stranger with the honourable code.

Waco is meeting a man who once did him a good turn in an effort to get the man to turn himself in to the law for a misdeed. Bret wants to capture that same man for the $2,500 reward on his head. Neither Waco nor Bret will be successful in their endeavour. Nonetheless, Waco will be seen by all to be the winner in what we might call the Battle of Bent City. Bret breaks the fourth wall to share his feelings about Waco and the pretty rancher's daughter he's going to marry.

Bret: "Now, he did everything a man shouldn't do, but he's still alive. Looks like he'll be elected sheriff. I know he'll end up with the biggest ranch in the territory. And I'm broke. Nobody even knows I'm leaving or cares. Could I be wrong?"

The Saga of Waco Williams will feel very familiar to fans of The Rockford Files (1974-1980) and the two guest appearances by Tom Selleck as private investigator Lance White, White on White and Nearly Perfect, 1978 and Nice Guys Finish Dead, 1979.

Bonus:

 Wayde Preston and James Garner in A Man Called Sledge, 1970


Can't get enough of Maverick?

Guess Who

You might enjoy some of the sage advice offered up to Bret and Bart by their "Pappy", Beauregard HERE.












32 comments:

  1. Roger Moore in a Western? Never would’ve imagined... but I guess everyone did Westerns at some point back then. Nice pic of young Louise Fletcher too.

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    1. Roger Moore was a perfect fit as a Maverick. I think his guest spot in The Rivals must have convinced the studio execs that they could sue him again.

      Television has its eras. We know of the years when an actor had to be willing to wear uncomfortable make-up for their sci-fi work. Earlier, you had to know how to ride a horse!

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  2. Oh, thank you so much for featuring the wonderful James Garner in my favorite of his many iconic incarnations! I LOVED Maverick and used to stay up late to watch the reruns; it was on at 11 pm weeknights when I was growing up. I also loved the reboot starring the handsome Charles Frank, who I first watched as Susan Lucci’s very first husband on All My Children.
    Great way to kick off the blogathon, Patricia!!
    - Chris

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    1. My pleasure. We had Maverick here at various times. It was tough to keep up, but we didn't want to miss a single episode. I've loved James Garner in lots of things, but it had to be Maverick for this blogathon.

      I really liked Young Maverick. I thought Charles Frank was perfect casting.

      I wasn't a regular All My Children viewer, but back then I knew what was happening on all the soaps and Erica and Jeff didn't seem like something that would last! Unlike Charles and Susan Blanchard.

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  3. MONTGOMERY PITTMAN was the stepfather of SHERRY JACKSON(and her brother). Sherry is best known for playing the daughter to DANNY THOMAS on his comedy show. Sadly, MRS. JACKSON was a widow from her first marriage. She married Mr. Pittman when Sherry was ten years old and later he died in 1962 when Sherry was 20. Miss Jackson guest starred on GUNSMOKE and PERRY MASON. According to imdb she also guest starred on.....MAVERICK and THE ROCKFORD FILES.

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    1. Mr. Pittman wrote a lovely movie with a lovely role for his stepdaughter Sherry in Come Next Spring, 1956.

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  4. I love that line: "I'd marry you if you were the richest man in the world."

    I haven't seen any episodses Maverick, but I did see a film remake a few years ago (from the late 1980s? early 1990s?) with Mel Gibson as Maverick and Garner in a supporting role. As charming as Mel can be, he's certainly no James Garner.

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    1. I know I saw the 1990s movie but it was mainly to see the cameos from all of the classic western movie/TV stars. I remember being peeved with James Coburn for blocking my view of Robert Fuller! Should have blamed the director.

      Maverick is a dandy show. I hope you get to see some of them, maybe the three here. You should work your way up to Shady Deal at Sunny Acres so you can appreciate it more.

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  5. Maverick has long been on my TBW list!

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    1. You won't regret it once you have time in your life.

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  6. Paddy Lee, I hope everything is well for you. I so enjoyed reading this wonderful write-up about one of my favorite actors James Garner in one of my all time favorite tv shows MAVERICK(1957-62). I first watched the series in syndicated reruns during the 1960's and as a youngster I would go around whistling the very memorable theme song which was sang by a male chorus with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster and music by David Buttolph. Fact is Beauregard Maverick(Roger Moore) whistles the tune while fixing his tie in the episode "Family Pride," which is a fun January 8, 1961 episode with some good twists and what a fine supporting cast. Also, Beau(Moore) whistles the tune again in the February 5, 1961 episode "Diamond Flush."

    Good write-up and I look forward to the next.




    MAVERICK was so popular that

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    1. Walter, so lovely to hear from you. I can't complain. A recent successful parathyroid surgery has fixed a hormonal imbalance and I am back on the kidney transplant list. Who knows what this year will bring?

      I can't wait to catch those episodes and hear Beau whistle. Of course, I always do-doodle-de-do-do-do the them to The Saint.

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  7. SHERRY JACKSON and STEVE COCHRAN had done a movie together titled THE LION AND THE HORSE. Steve was friends with MONTGOMERY PITTMAN and he introduced him to MAURITA JACKSON(the mother of Sherry). When they married Steve was the best man. Speaking of COME NEXT SPRING besides starring in the movie Steve was also a producer. I saw the movie in the late 80s and I was impressed with the sensitive performance that Steve gave. I never saw THE LION AND THE HORSE but Steve played the good guy! The bad guy was played by RAY TEAL, later known for playing SHERIFF ROY COFFEE on BONANZA.

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    1. Matchmaker Steve! Isn't that nice.

      I'll have to give The Lion and the Horse another try. I couldn't really get into it the one time I tried.

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  8. P.S. SHERRY JACKSON became quite the beauty! I never saw the movie but she was in TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY as the daughter to JOHN WAYNE. It came out in 1953. DUKE played a football coach, I believe. It was kind of ahead of its time because Dukes character(STEVE!) was divorced from the daughters mother(MARIE WINDSOR). It also starred DONNA REED. Did you see the movie? If so, did you like Duke in it?

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    1. Trouble Along the Way was a different sort of film for John Wayne at that time. The relationship between the father and daughter is one of my favourites and Sherry is very appealing. It was directed by Michael Curtiz and features lots of familiar character actors. Marie is really nasty this time around and Donna is feisty.

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  9. As you know, Maverick is one of my all time favourite shows. It produced so many great episodes! "The Rivals" certainly numbers among my favourites. Roger Moore did a great job as John Vandergelt, and Pat Crowley has always been one of my favourites. She really has a gift for comedy!

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    1. I think it was very clever of Hargrove (or Huggins or whoever) to adapt Sheridan to Maverick and that cast was perfection!

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  10. I watched THE ROCKFORD FILES in its original run when I was a kid. Later I saw some of the reruns in the mid 80s and again much later-around 2000. Some of the actresses who guest starred are JOAN VAN ARK, JULIE SOMMARS, RITA MORENO. LINDSAY WAGNER, and LINDA EVANS. STEFANIE POWERS, who is a particular favorite of mine, also did one-the one with SHERRY JACKSON. As Ive mentioned I like PAT CROWLEY that you mentioned in your article. All of these ladies are still with us. Did you see MISS CROWLEY in the DISNEY movie THE BISCUIT EATER about a dog? The movie also had JOHNNY WHITAKER and EARL HOLLIMAN. I like both of them too.

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    1. Only the best guest stars for our "Rockford."

      I have seen both versions of The Biscuit Eater, Disney's and the earlier one made in 1940.

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  11. Which BISCUIT EATER movie did you like best? What is your opinion of EARL HOLLIMAN? Im a fan of his. He was a good actor(I say was because he is apparently retired). He worked with ANGIE DICKINSON, LONI ANDERSON and LISA HARTMAN. I remember that he was on the bio. show INTIMATE PORTRAIT of LISA HARTMAN. It mentioned that Earl did a TV-Movie with Lisa and that she had earlier been on an ep of POLICE WOMAN as the girlfriend of a bad guy. Earl was attractive and had a good and distinctive voice. He won a GOLDEN GLOBE when he was young, one of the actors that lost was ANTHONY QUINN who went on to win the OSCAR for that role. I think Earl should have later gotten a special lifetime achievement award from SOMEBODY-either the ACADEMY(OSCAR), GOLDEN GLOBE, or SAG. Also he worked with DORIS DAY on one of her animal foundations.

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    1. We've always been Earl Holliman fans in this family.

      Both versions of The Biscuit Eater are enjoyable, but I think I lean toward the earlier one.

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  12. I meant LISA HARTMAN BLACK. (She has been married to country singer CLINT BLACK for 28 years. They have one daughter.) I know that you mentioned that you didn't watch the prime-time soaps but did you hear about that Lisa played singer CIJI DUNN on KNOTS LANDING? Ciji was killed by CHIP ROBERTS who was her manager/boyfriend. This was in 1983. JOANNA PETTIT played JANET, the cop on the case and the old flame of MACK(KEVIN DOBSON). The producers or whoever got a lot of mail that the viewers missed Lisa so they brought her back on the show as a woman that looks like Ciji. Her name was CATHY GEARY and she was seeing GARY EWING(TED SHACKLEFORD) and also became a singer. Lisa is a good actress and did a lot of TV-Movies including two with JOE PENNY. Do you know Lisa from anything?

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    1. The doings on Knot's Landing escaped me.

      Clint and Lisa would have been the perfect choice for a biopic of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Too late now.

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  13. Paddy Lee, yesterday my daughter Caitlin found and bought a hardback copy of MAVERICK published in 1959 by Whitman Publishing Company. The book was written by Charles I. Coombs and illustrated by Alexander Toth. This book featured Bret Maverick. These books are neat.

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    1. Goodness! I remember those books. They are such collectibles. I believe I still have an Ironside and maybe The Big Valley around the house somewhere.

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  14. Speaking of ROY ROGERS,LESLIE H. MARTINSON directed 13 eps of THE ROY ROGERS SHOW. Leslie directed 18 eps of MAVERICK and then in 1979 he got to direct an ep of YOUNG MAVERICK. He also directed some eps of DALLAS, MANNIX, CANNON and BARNABY JONES.

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    1. Indeed, Mr. Martinson was a very familiar name to television fans.

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  15. I've been in love with MAVERICK since first coming across reruns when I was jr. high school age in the late '70s. It's still my favorite TV show! Is there any other TV show where the episodes are remembered so clearly by their titles? They're like mini-movies. :) Thanks for a wonderful stroll down memory lane.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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    1. Thank you, Laura. In writing about Maverick now and again, I am not surprised by the devotion of fans, but I am surprised at the number of people who have heard of it, but not seen it. That is a real shame to me.

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  16. The original MAVERICK was a blast during the James Garner years! I must admit I tended not to watch Bart's solo episodes. My favorite Garner episode is "Gun-Shy," a brilliant parody of GUNSMOKE. You are so right about Garner's unique ability to move back and forth from TV to movies. There are so many TV stars who tried their hand at motion pictures and just didn't make it (e.g., Tom Selleck). And those who did, like Steve McQueen, tried to avoid television if they could.

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    1. I love Gun-Shy which makes me feel just a wee bit disloyal to Gunsmoke (You may recall my fondness for the program.) However, when something becomes that popular, that quickly, it can't help but be a target to parody.

      Perhaps, just perhaps, James Garner had the attitude of Barbara Stanwyck that it is the work that is important, not the venue. It may have been the thing that made him successful. (Of course, Jimbo and I never spoke about such things.)

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