There was never a Western quite like Maverick. For starters, it was funny, gliding on the inimitable swagger and charm of its star James Garner.
Of course, the show had two leading men. That was its other unique feature. Jack Kelly joined the series midway through the first season as Bart Maverick, the handsome brother of Garner's Bret. The two would switch off lead roles week to week, and occassionally team up in special episodes.
Later, a certain dapper Englishman would join the cast, but more on that in a bit…
Maverick was the brainchild of Roy Huggins, the creator behind The Fugitive, 77 Sunset Strip, The Rockford Files and more. Few were better at blending gripping action and humor. Let's take a look at some fascinating facts about the 1957–62 series.
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WARNER BROS. CHANGED JAMES GARNER'S NAME WITHOUT HIS PERMISSION.
On April 7, 1928, in Norman, Oklahoma, the actor came into the world as James Bumgarner. Perhaps that is how we would know him today had it not been for Warner Bros. After an array of jobs, he got his break as an actor in 1956. The studio started billing him as Garner instead of Bumgarner without asking the young man.
Garner PLAYED BRET MAVERICK IN THREE DIFFERENT 'MAVERICK' TV SERIES.
It is the rare actor who can claim two iconic television characters and a successful big-screen career. Garner became a household name thanks to the witty and fun Maverick. The gambling Bret Maverick proved to be so beloved that numerous reboots followed over the decades. In 1979, a TV movie led to Young Maverick, an incredibly short-lived sequel that hardly featured Garner. In 1981, Maverick was dealt another hand in the series Bret Maverick. NBC surprisingly canceled the solidly performing show after a season.
The show's announcer was the voice of Allstate insurance.
At the top each episode, a commanding voice proclaimed, "Maverick! Starring Jack Kelly and Robert Colbert!" (Or whoever the leads were that week.) The man behind the deep voice was Ed Reimers, who from 1957 to 1979 was the one telling TV audiences they were "in good hands with Allstate." He also appeared as Admiral Fitzpatrick in the classic Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles."
Garner had moves that were ahead of their time.
Garner was gifted with great physicality, as you can see here in the wonderful two-brother episode "Pappy." He was also sort of doing the rope-a-dope boxing technique before Muhammad Ali popularized it. In the season one episode "Stampede," Bret sets up a boxing match between two bruisers. When one of the boxers quits, Bret must step in and face the burly Battling Krueger. He relies on the ropes to win the day. Perhaps Ali was watching?
One episode recycled a famous set from 'Casablanca.'
"Escape to Tampico" pays homage to the Hollywood classic. Much of the action takes place in La Cantina Americana, an obvious nod to Rick's Café Americain from the film. The cantina itself was constructed from the set of Rick's café. The costumes are quite similar as well.
Warner Bros. recycled 'Maverick' scripts for another TV show.
As we have seen, Hollywood was big on saving money. However, The Alaskans took recycling to another level that is thankfully left in the past. In part due to the 1960 Writers Guild of America strike and in part because of penny pinching, Warner Bros. reused Maverick scripts for the series. "Quite often I realized that we were filming Maverick scripts, with the names changed," the show's star Roger Moore noted. After the series was canceled, Moore made the leap outright to Maverick, joining the cast as Beau Maverick.
Image: Warner Bros.
Another James Bond almost appeared on the show.
That being said, Roger Moore was not the first choice to play Beau. The studio wooed Sean Connery for the role, flying him to America. He turned it down. No worries! From one future James Bond to another.
The studio tried to make actors punch a time clock.
The producers placed a time clock in the makeup room and demanded that the cast punch in and out like factory workers. The actors bristled. Roger Moore supplied his own makeup and refused to clock in. The actor told of the clock's fate in his memoir: "One day [Jack Kelly] took the time clock and used it as a football."
"Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" was Garner's favorite episode.
Perhaps some of this had to do with the fact that Garner got to spend the episode comfortably whittling in a rocking chair. It's also a flat-out brilliant piece of television, which carries many similarities to the classic film The Sting. Like we said, the outings with both Bret and Bart Maverick working together are quite special.
There was a massive crossover episode with other Westerns.
The madcap season four episode "Hadley's Hunters" trots out numerous cameos from other Warner Bros. Westerns. You can spot John Russell and Peter Brown from Lawman, Clint Walker from Cheyenne, Will Hutchins from Sugarfoot and Ty Hardin from Bronco. In addition, Edd Byrnes from 77 Sunset Strip also pops up — combing the mane of a horse called "77 Cherokee Strip."
Image: Warner Bros.