Monday, April 29, 2024

Maverick (1962)


Though it was once Warner Brothers' most popular western, Maverick suffered the same fate as its Warner compadres--Lawman, Cheyenne, and Bronco--by being canceled in the spring of 1962. As we mentioned in our previous post on the show's 1961 episodes, the abbreviated 5th season consisted of only 13 new episodes alternating with reruns from previous seasons that starred James Garner. Even in half the new 1962 episodes that featured only Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick the opening credits still listed Garner as one of the two stars of the program though he had left the program two years earlier. Dennis Broe briefly recaps the series' decline in his 2015 book Maverick after the departures of Garner and series creator Roy Huggins, including the replacement of Garner by, first, Roger Moore for 15 episodes in Season 4 and then Robert Colbert for all of two episodes at the end of that season. That left only Jack Kelly to play a Maverick for the final season, even though Broe quotes Huggins as having said that Garner was Maverick, and Kelly was merely his brother, the character being added to the series out of necessity in its first season when the production team realized that it took more than a week to complete a single episode.

And yet Jack Kelly comes off as a winner in a feature story in the June 2, 1962 issue of TV Guide, a story that curiously ran more than a month after the last new episode of the series had aired. Despite living a life always in someone else's shadow--first his actress sister Nancy and then the more effortlessly charming Garner--Kelly still made a career out of acting, saying that many others with more talent "never got to first base." He said that acting was not his passion--he was in it for the profit, much like his employer Warner Brothers. So he didn't get his feathers ruffled as Garner did by their cheap tactics. Instead he stuck around until he was the last one standing, and by investing rather than spending his salary, at the time of the article he was sitting on roughly a million dollars worth of real estate besides owning a profitable nursery business that supplied trees to large hotels. In other words, while his series Maverick was exposing the crooked business of banks and legal authorities, as well as mocking humanity's somewhat inherent greediness, Kelly was playing the inside game, not taking anything personally, and building a personal fortune in the process. While his character Bart Maverick rarely walks away with a fortune, always seeming to have it snatched from his grasp at the last minute, Kelly was patient and never tried to be too smart.

The same can't be said for the scriptwriters of the series' last 8 episodes. "Poker Face" (January 7, 1962) was just the sort of script that made Roger Moore jump ship after his obligatory 15 episodes. It centers around Mexican revolutionary Sebastian Bolanes who makes a career out of robbery and kidnapping (in this case, all the passengers on a stagecoach Bart happens to be riding in) thinking that he can amass enough wealth to buy back all the land that was stolen from his fellow indigenous Mexicans. But while waiting for the ransom for the stage passengers to arrive, he falls in love with one of them simply because she is not horrified by his scar-ridden face nor instantly condemns him for his life of crime. When his scheme collapses due to his jealous girlfriend and a corrupt federale, he quickly abandons his grandiose plans and runs off with his new love, apparently forgetting about all his bereft fellow tribesmen he had vowed to save. The plot is absurd, the dialogue hackneyed, and the direction stiff and wooden. Fortunately for Bart, he is mostly just a bystander while the other characters fight with each other or pursue new love. Also fortunately, the remaining seven episodes weren't as bad.

Which isn't to say they were gems--after all, the producers at Warner Brothers seemed to be just trying to get the series to the finish line with as little effort as possible. "The Troubled Heir" (April 1, 1962) is built on the flimsy premise that Bart is willing to risk his neck at the hands of wanted killer Big Jim Watson to save the skin of shyster Pearly Gates, with whom is he is little more than an acquaintance and not a friendly one at that. The plot adheres to Maverick's cynical credo of every man, or woman, for himself, as Gates, Watson, Gates' girlfriend Marla, and poker player Ward Quillan are all trying to play each other for Bart's made-up estate that Gates is supposed to inherit. The story goes overboard on the number of twists and turns before Bart, for once, winds up with $5000 that he swindles away from Marla, who took it off of him after he took it off Watson and Quillan. "Mr. Muldoon's Partner" (April 15, 1962) is another plot that tries too hard after Bart breaks a bottle of precious dirt brought over from Ireland for the purpose of growing potatoes only to discover that the bottle contains a suddenly free leprechaun named Mr. Muldoon. In thanks Muldoon grants Bart five wishes, but he soon learns that one must be very precise when making a wish because the granting of it can come with unintended consequences. So Bart requests a large amount of money but doesn't specify that it not be stolen, which naturally gets him into all sorts of trouble on both side of the law. Muldoon's powers also seem limited by unexplained circumstances--he can't stop a gun from firing after saying he could--but the one thing that saves the episode from pure tedium is that when he grants wishes, they have the air of being part coincidence, introducing just enough doubt about whether he has the power to grant them or is merely a keen predictor of what is about to happen anyway. After he is backed into a corner in which he has to decide whether to go to jail or marry an Irishman's unattractive niece, Bart finally wishes he had never seen Muldoon and is transported back to where the whole improbable yarn started. Much like The Wizard of Oz, a bump on the head seems to have launched the fever dream, and when he returns to reality he recognizes some of the players from that dream, in particular Muldoon, in alternate identities.

Another episode centered on shifting identities is "Marshal Maverick" (March 11, 1962), which starts out improbably with Bart being appointed Marshal of Abilene after retiring Marshal Heck Thomas is murdered six weeks before his replacement, Wyatt Earp as it turns out, is due to arrive in town. Bart guns down the killer, winning the gratitude of the town, but is forced to accept the marshal position, which he tries to decline, because of outstanding debts he has run up. Despite this absurd setup in which we once again have a Maverick placed in an inappropriate occupation due to chance (the previous episode, "The Maverick Report" [March 4, 1962] has him winning a newspaper business in a poker game and episodes from earlier seasons have, for example, Bret winning a riverboat in a similar situation), the story improves with the unexpected early arrival of Earp to relieve Bart of his duties. Only it isn't really Earp but an imposter named Archibald Walker who has no skills as a gunman, only a desire to "be somebody." He manages to persuade Bart to stick around as his deputy after a weak speech about honor, which is the only thing that saves his neck when he winds up locking horns with failed mayoral candidate and notorious killer Billy Coe. Walker only makes things worse by falling in love with and winning the heart of Coe's girlfriend Theodora Rush but seems to be bailed out when the real Earp shows up after hearing rumors of someone claiming to be him in Abilene. Even when she learns of Walker's true identity, Theodora pleads with him not to abandon her since she has crossed the still very dangerous Coe. Walker seems to think he has no other choice but to leave town as ordered by Earp but then suddenly musters up some courage when he sees the opportunity to assume the identity of Doc Holliday, who has ridden into town and is temporarily indisposed taking a bath at the barber's. Though it takes some help from Bart's gun play to defeat Coe, Walker rises to the challenge but is forced to drop the Holliday masquerade and once again leave town, with Theodora promising to come find him after she sells her saloon. Most westerns would have ended the story here, but Maverick treats us to one more twist as Walker rides away from town in the stagecoach and Bart discovers his trademark pack of cards has been lifted. Without question, this is the most satisfying episode of the abbreviated fifth season, and it would have been a fitting end to the series.

But instead we finish with "One of Our Trains Is Missing" (April 22, 1962), another unlikely confluence of plots, schemes, and scams in which most of the main characters are aboard a train bound for the Kansas border. Two locomotive suppliers--Diamond Jim Brady and Montague Sprague-- have a $10,000 bet and the railroad company's future business riding on whether Brady's train can reach the border by midnight, but Sprague has secretly paid Doc Holliday (making his third appearance in 1962's eight episodes) to sabotage the run. Holliday hires recently released master criminal Justin Radcliffe to hijack the train, but when Radcliffe learns that the train is also carrying $100,000 in U.S. Treasure money in its safe, he is determined to crack the safe and make off with the loot, only to learn that someone has beat him to the punch. That someone is Bart's old acquaintance Modesty Blaine, who had learned about the Treasury shipment from railroad company president Amos Skinner by cozying up to him so that he proposed to her. Bart, in trying to persuade her not to marry Skinner just because he is rich, raises Skinner's ire so that he assigns his goon Leroy Hoad to escort Bart across the border to get rid of him. Modesty hides the stolen money in Bart's suitcase; he discovers it and returns it to the safe to avoid having Radcliffe get it. Modesty sees him do this and removes the money from the safe again but is discovered by Holliday, who wants in on the action. And so it goes--Radcliffe thinks Bart has the money or knows who has it, threatens to hang him, Holliday comes to his rescue, etc., etc. In the end, the Treasury money is returned to the safe, and Bart points out to Brady that technically he won the bet with Sprague because the train, despite being held up for hours from its original destination, crossed the northern border into Nebraska when Radcliffe diverted it off the main track onto a sidetrack. In his gratitude, Brady gives Bart the $10,000 he just won from his bet with  Sprague, but Hoad tells Bart he can't ride the train back to Kansas because of his boss' orders, so Bart is forced to walk 15 miles to the nearest town. However, when Holliday and Modesty see that Bart has just come into $10,000, they decide to go with him, feeling that they can surely benefit in some way. The last episode ends with the three of them walking arm in arm down the railroad tracks together as the sun rises in the east. It almost has a Yellow Brick Road feel to it, but as we all know, the city of Oz didn't turn out to be quite as magical as promised. And in the cynical world of Maverick it's unlikely that Bart is riding, or walking, off into the sunrise, because he who is on top today is often on the bottom tomorrow. To twist the title of a popular 1960s country music song, over its five-year tenure, Maverick went from a King to a Jack.

The Actors

For the biography of Jack Kelly, see the 1960 post on Maverick.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 5, Episode 6, "Poker Face": Rodolfo Acosta (shown on the left, appeared in Wings of the Hawk, Flaming Star, and The Sons of Katie Elder and played Vaquero on The High Chaparral) plays Mexican bandito Sebastian Bolanes. Carlos Rivas (appeared in The King and I, Boy's Town, True Grit, and Topaz and voiced Don Alejandro on The New Adventures of Zorro) plays top lieutenant Luis. William Fawcett (Clayton on Duffy's Tavern, Marshal George Higgins on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Pete Wilkey on Fury) plays stagecoach driver Stallion. Tol Avery (Speaker Bert Metcalf on Slattery's People) plays businessman George Rockingham. Richard Hale (starred in Abilene Town, Kim, San Antone, Red Garters, and To Kill a Mockingbird) plays missionary Dr. Robespierre Jones. Doris Lloyd (starred in Waterloo Bridge, Tarzan the Ape Man, Oliver Twist, and The Time Machine) plays British matron Lady Florentine Bleakly.

Season 5, Episode 7, "Mr. Muldoon's Partner": Mickey Shaughnessy (shown on the near right, appeared in From Here to Eternity, Designing Woman, Jailhouse Rock, Don't Go Near the Water, Sex Kittens Go to College, College Confidential, and The Boatniks) plays Irish leprechaun Mr. Muldoon. Terence de Marney (Case Thomas on Johnny Ringo and Counsellor Doone on Lorna Doone) plays railroad worker Terrance Rafferty. John Alderson (Sgt. Bullock on Boots and Saddles and Wyatt Earp on Doctor Who) plays railroad foreman Simon Girty. Janet Lake (Betty Franklin on The Tycoon) plays saloon girl Bonnie Shay. Marshall Reed (Inspector Fred Asher on The Lineup) plays saloon owner Hatfield. Tim Rooney (Jeff Rose on Room for One More and Tim Grady on Mickey) plays orphan boy Timmy. Joe Brooks (Trooper Vanderbilt on F Troop) plays a bartender. Ray Teal (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Bonanza) plays small-town Sheriff Bundy. Charles Lane (shown on the far right, appeared in The Milky Way, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Lady Is Willing, The Music Man, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and The Gnome-Mobile and played Mr. Fosdick on Dear Phoebe, Homer Bedloe on Petticoat Junction, Foster Phinney on The Beverly Hillbillies, Dale Busch on Karen, and Judge Anthony Petrillo on Soap) plays the general store proprietor.

Season 5, Episode 8, "Epitaph for a Gambler": Robert J. Wilke (appeared in Best of the Badmen, High Noon, The Far Country, Night Passage, and Stripes and played Capt. Mendoza on Zorro) plays casino owner Diamond Dan Malone. Fred Beir (Larry Atwood on Days of Our Lives) plays Sunrise, NV Sheriff Ed Martin. Harry Harvey, Jr. (script supervisor on Mannix) plays his deputy Wes Taylor. Marie Windsor (shown on the left, starred in Outpost in Morocco, Dakota Lil, Cat-Women of the Moon, Swamp Women, and The Day Mars Invaded Earth and played Dr. Vivian Collins on General Hospital) plays roulette wheel operator Kit. Frank Albertson (starred in Alice Adams, Man Made Monster, and It's a Wonderful Life and played Mr. Cooper on Bringing Up Buddy) plays attorney Harvey Storey. Joyce Meadows (Lynn Allen on The Man and the Challenge and Stacy on Two Faces West) plays his daughter Linda. Don Haggerty (Jeffrey Jones on The Files of Jeffrey Jones, Eddie Drake on The Cases of Eddie Drake, Sheriff Dan Elder on State Trooper, and Marsh Murdock on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays blackmailer Lucky Dan Elkins. Adam Williams (appeared in Flying Leathernecks, The Big Heat, Fear Strikes Out, and North by Northwest) plays his brother Sam.

Season 5, Episode 9, "The Maverick Report": Peter Breck (Clay Culhane on Black Saddle and Nick Barkley on The Big Valley) plays Bart's friend Doc Holliday. Lloyd Corrigan (shown on the right, starred in A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob, Hitler's Children, Captive Wild Woman, The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, and Son of Paleface and played Papa Dodger on Willy, Wally Dipple on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Ned Buntline on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Uncle Charlie on Happy, and Professor McKillup on Hank) plays Colorado Senator Hiram Porter. Jo Morrow (appeared in Gidget, Our Man in Havana, and The 3 Worlds of Gulliver) plays his daughter Jeannie. Ed Nelson (Michael Rossi on Peyton Place, Ward Fuller on The Silent Force, and Sen. Mark Denning on Capitol) plays his attorney Gary Harrison. George N. Neise (Capitan Felipe Arrellanos on Zorro, Dr. Nat Wyndham on Wichita Town, and Colonel Thornton on McKeever & the Colonel) plays newspaper publisher Jonesy.

Season 5, Episode 10, "Marshal Maverick": Emile Meyer (starred in Shane, Drums Across the River, Blackboard Jungle, Sweet Smell of Success, and Paths of Glory and played Gen. Zachary Moran on Bat Masterson) plays retiring Abilene Marshal Heck Thomas. Med Flory (played clarinet in the Ray Anthony orchestra and founded and played alto sax in the group Super Sax, appeared in Gun Street, The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Gumball Rally, and played Sheriff Mike McBride on High Mountain Rangers) plays his replacement Wyatt Earp. Willard Waterman (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Dennis the Menace) plays newly elected Abilene Mayor Oliver. Earl Hammond (Hal Soames on Valiant Lady, Captain Sovine on The Clear Horizon, and voiced Mon-star on Silverhawks and Mumm-ra, Jaga, and Vultureman on Thundercats) plays his defeated opponent Billy Coe. Gail Kobe (Penny Adams on Trackdown, Doris Schuster on Peyton Place, and Dean Ann Boyd Jones on Bright Promise and produced over 200 episodes of The Bold and the Beautiful) plays saloon owner Theodora Rush. John Dehner (shown on the left, played Duke Williams on The Roaring '20's, Commodore Cecil Wyntoon on The Baileys of Balboa, Morgan Starr on The Virginian, Cyril Bennett on The Doris Day Show, Dr. Charles Cleveland Claver on The New Temperatures Rising Show, Barrett Fears on Big Hawaii, Marshal Edge Troy on Young Maverick, Lt. Joseph Broggi on Enos, Hadden Marshall on Bare Essence, and Billy Joe Erskine on The Colbys) plays Earp impersonator Archibald Walker. Jerry Hausner (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Mr. Magoo Show) plays Coe henchman George. Owen Orr (Wally Blanchard on No Time for Sergeants) plays Coe henchman Keno. Kay E. Kuter (Newt Kiley on Petticoat Junction and Green Acres) plays one of Bart's creditors. Herb Vigran (Muley Evans on The Life of Riley, Ernest Hinshaw on The Ed Wynn Show, and Judge Brooker on Gunsmoke and voiced Glum on The Adventures of Gulliver and Mr. Dinkle on Shirt Tales) plays barber Elkins.

Season 5, Episode 11, "The Troubled Heir": Mike Road (Marshal Tom Sellers on Buckskin, Lt. Joe Switolski on The Roaring 20's, and provided the voice for Race Bannon on Johnny Quest and Ugh on Space Ghost) plays gambler Pearly Gates. Kathleen Crowley (Terry Van Buren on Waterfront and Sophia Starr on Batman) plays his girlfriend Marla. Alan Hale, Jr. (shown on the right, played Biff Baker on Biff Baker U.S.A., Casey Jones on Casey Jones, and The Skipper on Gilligan's Island) plays wanted outlaw Big Jim Watson. Will Wright (Ben Weaver on The Andy Griffith Show and Mr. Merrivale on Dennis the Menace) plays small-town Sheriff Chester Bentley. Chick Chandler (Toubo Smith on Soldiers of Fortune and Barney Hogan on One Happy Family) plays con man Oliver Perkins. Gordon Jones (appeared in The Green Hornet, Flying Tigers, My Sister Eileen, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and McLintock! and played Mike Kelley on The Abbott and Costello Show, Pete Thompson on The Ray Milland Show, Hubie Dodd on So This Is Hollywood, and Butch Barton on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) plays poker player Ward Quillan. Frank Ferguson (Gus Broeberg on My Friend Flicka, Eli Carson on Peyton Place, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction) plays Payoff Sheriff Luther Hawkins. Doodles Weaver (narrated Spike Jones' horse-racing songs and hosted A Day With Doodles) plays a telegrapher.

Season 5, Episode 12, "The Money Machine": Andrew Duggan (Cal Calhoun on Bourbon Street Beat, George Rose on Room for One More, Major Gen. Ed Britt on 12 O'Clock High, and Murdoch Lancer on Lancer) plays con man Big Ed Murphy. Patrick Westwood (Mian Rukn Din on The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling) plays his accomplice London Louis Latimer. Ted de Corsia (Police Chief Hagedorn on Steve Canyon) plays Pappy Maverick creditor Cannonball Clyde Bassett. Henry Corden (shown on the left, played Carlo on The Count of Monte Cristo, and Babbitt on The Monkees and did voicework on The Flintstones, Jonny Quest, The Atom Ant Show, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and Return to the Planet of the Apes) plays inventor Professor Reynard. Charles Fredericks (Pete Albright on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays Denver Marshal Hodgekins. Sig Ruman (starred in Ninotchka,  A Night at the Opera, To Be or Not to Be, House of Frankenstein, and Stalag 17) plays jeweler Klaus Jonckbloet. Jonathan Hole (Orville Monroe on The Andy Griffith Show) plays the Kansas City hotel clerk. Guy Wilkerson (played Panhandle Perkins in 22 westerns) plays one of Murphy's marks Mark Conway. Frank London (Shad on Johnny Staccato and Charlie on Peyton Place) plays the Denver House hotel bellboy.

Season 5, Episode 13, "One of Our Trains Is Missing": Alan Hewitt (starred in That Touch of Mink, Days of Wine and Roses, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and played Det. Bill Brennan on My Favorite Martian) plays railroad company president Amos Skinner. Kathleen Crowley (shown on the near right, see "The Troubled Heir" above) plays his fiance Modesty Blaine. Barry Kelley (starred in The Asphalt Jungle, The Manchurian Candidate, and The Love Bug and played Charlie Anderson on Big Town, Jim Rafferty on The Tom Ewell Show, Mr. Slocum on Pete and Gladys, and Carol's father on Mister Ed) plays locomotive supplier Diamond Jim Brady. Gage Clarke (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Gunsmoke) plays his rival Montague Sprague. Kevin Hagen (John Colton on Yancy Derringer, Inspector Dobbs Kobick on Land of the Giants, and Dr. Hiram Baker on Little House on the Prairie) plays notorious criminal Justin Radcliffe. Peter Breck (shown on the far right, see "The Maverick Report" above) returns as Bart's "frenemy" Doc Holliday. Mickey Simpson (Boley on Captain David Grief) plays Skinner's goon Leroy Hoad. Owen Orr (see "Marshal Maverick" above) plays Wells Fargo agent Tim Hardesty. Emory Parnell (Hawkins on The Life of Riley and Hank the bartender on Lawman) plays train engineer Clarence.


No comments:

Post a Comment