Monday, September 23, 2013

"Maverick" Debuts – Sept. 22, 1957

Who is the tall dark stranger there? 
Maverick is the name.
Riding the trail to who knows where 
Luck is his companion 
Gambling is his game.

Smooth as the handle on a gun
Maverick is the name.
Wild as the wind in Oregon
Blowin' up a canyon
Easier to tame.

I'll never forget those first few lyrics to the theme song of Maverick, the classic TV western starring James Garner and Jack Kelly. It debuted on Sunday, September 22, 1957 on ABC – 56 years ago yesterday. (Shown above is a portion of the Lorain Journal's TV page from the day before the premiere episode.)

When you saw this title card, you wondered:
which Maverick brother would star in that episode
Of course, I wasn't even born yet when the series debuted, and I'm too young to remember watching the series in its first run, which ended in April 1962.

But the show was a big favorite of my brothers and mine because of its reruns, which ran for years on Saturday night on Channel 43 in Cleveland. It was part of that classic 1970s Saturday night line-up that included Wild Wild West and Star Trek.

Of course, much like watching the Three Stooges and being disappointed to see Shemp and not Curly, it seemed like the Maverick episodes we watched usually featured Jack Kelly and not James Garner, our favorite. It's not that surprising, though – because while James Garner stuck around only for the first three seasons, Jack Kelly stayed for two more and became the star of the show.

But why were there two (and later, even more) Mavericks anyway?

Well, when Maverick was created by Roy Huggins, there was only one Maverick brother – Bret, played by James Garner. When it became obvious that the production of the TV show was taking so long that it would begin to miss air dates, it was necessary to create a second brother – Bart – so that simultaneous shooting of episodes featuring each of them could occur.

But while my brothers and I – like the TV public – preferred James Garner as Maverick, Jack Kelly was good too, with a charm all his own. Best of all were the episodes that featured both of them, working together to swindle the bad guys.

One of the best (and my favorite) is "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres," which aired on November 23, 1958. In it, a crooked banker cheats Bret out of $15,000. Bret vows to get it back before the sheriff runs him out of town, and he then proceeds to spend the rest of the episode sitting in a chair – whittling. But unbeknownst to the crook, Bret has orchestrated an elaborate sting to get the money back, enlisting the aid of brother Bart and a whole host of Maverick secondary characters, including Gentleman Jack Darby (played by Richard Long), Diane Brewster, and Big Mike McComb. Of course, by the end of the episode Bret has his money back and the villain – having been duped by Bart and his friends – is scratching his head, wondering how he did it!

Anyway, I have a few Maverick episodes on DVD and I pop them in once in a while just for fun. Maverick is still an enormously entertaining show, and watching it always brings back happy memories of Saturday nights in a simpler time.

Here are the catchy opening and closing credits of Maverick, courtesy of YouTube.

And here’s the theme song with a nice little montage of images of from the series (a few from the episode "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres").


Marc Herman said...

The FULL first and second seasons of Maverick are now available on DVD. You can get them at My favorite western series of all time, and one of the best theme songs too!

Linda Jean Limes Ellis said...

My mother loved the show and she wrote down the words to its theme song as she heard them. I still have her handwritten copy of those words and it means so much to me because it is in her handwriting. A small reminder of the show and the times that is an important memory for me today.