Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bret and Bart "MAVERICK" and Family

"And Maverick Was His Name", or theirs as it turned out to be.

Who is the tall, dark stranger there?

Maverick is the name.
Ridin' the trail to who knows where,
Luck is his companion,
Gamblin' 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.
Riverboat, ring your bell,
Fare thee well, Annabel.
Luck is the lady that he loves the best.
Natchez to New Orleans
Livin on jacks and queens
Maverick is a legend of the west.

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Every week between September 22, 1957 and July 8, 1962 millions of American's watched a television western with a comedy bent called "MAVERICK". Initially the program starred James Garner as Bret Maverick. Actor Jack Kelly, who had been acting since 1939 at the age of 12, was added as Bret's brother Bart Maverick. Later audiences would meet Cousin Beau played by British actor Roger Moore and finally we met another brother Brent Maverick portrayed by Robert Colbert. This is there story a "Legend of the West".

When "Maverick" first premiered on television still 10 year old Lloyd had a vast choice to watch. Western's were a "Safe" choice for programming in the early days of the "Cold War" for American audiences. Starting at the end of the Second World War "The House Committee on Un-American Activities" was at its height and Hollywood studio's were still reeling from the "Black Lists" against suspected, or actual Communist members in their community. See my blog article" Guy Endore: Communism in the Motion Picture Industry and "The Hollywood Black Lists" at:

For an in depth look at the impact on what America was to see on the motion picture screen and on the new medium called "Television". Here is a list of all the western television programming available to me in the Los Angeles area in 1957:

"Gunsmoke", "Have Gun Will Travel", "Wagon Train", Walt Disney's "Zorro", "Cheyenne", "Sugarfoot", "Colt 45", "Trackdown", "The Roy Rodgers Show", "Tombstone Territory", "The Lone Ranger", "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp", "Tales of Wells Fargo", "Death Valley Days", "The Restless Gun", "26 Men", "Annie Oakley", "The Californians", "Broken Arrow", "The Adventures of Jim Bowie", "Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater", "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans", "Boots and Saddles", "Brave Eagle", "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok", "Tales of the Texas Rangers", "Man Without A Gun", "Sheriff of Cochise", "State Trooper" and "King of the Texas Rangers". It was a good thing there were seven days of television programming and remember there were other non-westerns at the time to watch. So when "Maverick" premiered it just fit into the group.

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Many fans of James Garner believed "Maverick" was his first appearance on screen which illustrates the power of television even in it's early years. Actually Garner first appeared in an episode of the Warner Brothers anthology series "Warner Brothers Presents". The series basically consisted of three alternating television shows "Cheyenne" starring Clint Walker, "Kings Row" starring Jack Kelly and pre-"Wagon Train" Robert Horton and "Casablanca" starring Charles McGraw in the Humphrey Bogart part of Rick. The last two based upon successful Warner Brothers feature films.

James Garner played Lt. Brad Forsythe in the first episode of "Cheyenne" starring Clint Walker in the title role. What is interesting here is that according to Garner. He was to have played  Cheyenne Bodie, but when they called him he was out. So the role went to Walker. "Cheyenne" became so popular that Warner Brother's moved it from the failing anthology "Warner Brothers Presents" to its own time spot. Had James Garner taken the role he would never have made "Maverick", because "Cheyenne" ran from September 20, 1955 starting with Garner's episode into 1963.

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James Garner would appear in three more episodes of "Cheyenne" in different roles and in three episodes of a forgotten television series called "Conflict". On October 20, 1956 Garner had seventh billing in his first motion picture. The movie was about test pilots at Edwards Air Force base entitled "Toward the Unknown" starring William Holden and Lloyd Nolan.  May 4, 1957 saw James Garner appearing in his second motion picture from Warner Brothers "Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend" starring Randolph Scott, James Craig and Angie Dickinson. 

Five days prior to the premier of "Maverick" on ABC, September 17, 1957, Warner Brothers premiered another western series "Sugarfoot" starring Will Hutchins on the same channel. In the December 10, 1957 episode "Misfire"in an non screen credited cameo would be James Garner as Bret Mavrick. During the same month released on December 20, 1957 would be the Marlon Brando starring motion picture "Sayonara" based upon the novel by James A. Michener. The other James, Garner, had seventh billing which brings me back to September 22, 1957.

The first episode "Point Blank" was written as the pilot for "Maverick", but was actually shown as the second. The reason was simply Warner Brothers playing games with creator Roy Huggins. The televised first episode "War of the Silver Kings" was based upon a script for another property Warner's owned. This ploy forever denied Huggins of royalties he would have received as "the creator" of the character Bret Maverick and the series. This information came from interviews for "The Television Archives" with Roy Huggins, but I could not locate the date of the interview.

Below is a photo of James Garner and Karen Steele in "Point Blank"/

Some reviewers consider Bret Maverick to be the first television "anti-hero". I would have to disagree with that characterization by eight days. "Have Gun Will Travel" premiered September 14, 1957 on CBS. Richard Boone portrayed "Palladin" a "gentleman gunfighter" for hire, a mercenary and solider of fortune, who was on the side of right. His calling card become will known at the time. In my school printing class we were all making copies of that calling card. It was the "in thing" to do for 11 to 13 year old boys.

So lets look at the character of Bret Maverick and why he seems also to be that "anti-hero". The obvious was Bret's profession as a "Riverboat Gambler" from Texas. Bret was always looking for a high stakes poker game to join and left wherever he was as fast as he could. In the majority of western movies gambler's were shown as cheaters, or quick on their hidden derringer to kill a another player. They were also usually run out of town by the law, tar and feathered, or in some cases hung by the locals Two notable exceptions to the rule were director Anthony Mann's 1952 hard hitting western "Bend of the River". The western motion picture starred James Stewart who is in love with one of two sisters played by new comer Julie Adams. The gambler in the picture is new comer Rock Hudson as Trey Wilson. Wilson becomes friends with Stewart and helps him take a wagon train to Oregon. Trey falls in love with Adams' sister played by new comer Lori Nelson. At one point Trey reverts back to his bad ways, but this is overcome by his love for Nelson. The second differently portrayed "Riverboat Gambler" had to be presented out of character, because of the television mini-series the character appeared in. This was Hans Conried as Thimblerig, the comic relief, in Walt Disney's "Alamo" sequence of "Davy Crockett" on "Disneyland".

Lets look at the way Roy Huggins wrote Bret. He was the reverse of the stereotypical western hero traits we were seeing in motion pictures and on almost all of the television series I mentioned above. James Garner's Bret Maverick at times appeared a coward who only became the hero over the circumstances he was caught up in. He was terrible with a pistol, or rifle and used his gambler's wits to get out of those touchy situations. The handsome James Garner was definitely a ladies man and that also would get him into trouble. However, Bret Maverick had one fault he was honest with a conscience that found him helping the underdog. He was also known to give back the money he won. With that added trait Roy Huggins played on Garner's ability to deliver a comic line with a straight face. This helped to endear Bret to the television audience.

When the eighth episode of "Maverick" premiered there was a major change. Suddenly Bret had a brother Bart played by Jack Kelly. The reason was simple economics. The producers realized it was taking over a week to make one program and that added pressure to how fast the shoot could be completed before editing for viewing. The solution was a second Maverick alternating with the first. The pressure to complete the episode before it aired was off. 

So who was Jack Kelly? I already stated above he had first appeared in motion pictures when he was 12 in 1939. The movie was "The Story of Alexander Graham Bell" starring Don Ameche and Loretta Young. Kelly played a non-screen credited "Banker's son".Also in 1939 again without screen credit in "Young Mr. Lincoln" starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford. Then his film career was put on hold for schooling. He would spend two years at UCLA studying to be a lawyer, but in 1945 Kelly was inducted into the army. He became a weather observer and was part of the first B-29 crew to fly over the North Pole.

In 1949 Jack Kelly returned to motion pictures in another non-screen credit role as a "Cattleman" in "Fighting Man of the Plains" starring Randolph Scott. His next seven roles were also without credit, but in November 1951 Jack Kelly got his first on screen credit as "Lt. Barton" in the motion picture "Submarine Command" starring William Holden and Nancy Olson. Another 26 performances later brought Kelly to a very good 1955 low budget horror tale "The Cult of the Cobra". Which is considered now a "Cult Classic". The picture stared Faith Domerque, but its cast of unknowns that would become major television stars within the next few years adds interest to the picture. You had Kelly, plus David Janssen (The Fugitive), Marshall Thompson (Daktari), William Reynolds (The FBI) and Richard Long.(The Big Valley). They all played soldiers that get involved with a women who turns into a cobra.

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Jack Kelly would appear in another classic from 1955 the story of Audrey Murphy's war career "To Hell and Back" with Murphy playing himself. Released March 15, 1956 Jack Kelly had fifth billing as Lt. Farman in the Science Fiction Classic "Forbidden Planet".

So unlike James Garner Jack Kelly had a large amount of acting experience behind him when he became Garner's "Clone" for that was what Bart Maverick was suppose to be.

The producers of the series had Roy Huggins take scripts already written for Bret Maverick and in the beginning simply substituted the name Bart Maverick.

Brother Bart initially appeared in episode eight of the first season on November 10, 1957. The title was "Hostage" and. when the audience first sees him he is tied up and being beaten by a crooked Sheriff. Note in the above picture that Jack Kelly was wearing an all grey outfit. This originally was thought to separate the look of the two brothers for easier audience recognition. As the alternating episodes continued Kelly's outfit would turn to the same black as James Garner with the exception that brother Bart's hat stayed grey.

The producers used another gimmick for Kelly's episodes as they immediately received mail from some of the audience over having two brothers. For a period of time there was a short opening sequence where James Garner's Bret introduced Jack Kelly's Bart's story of the week. At one point the producers reversed it and had Kelly introduce Garner.

Another interesting and unintentional result of showing two Maverick brothers was that Bret appeared to be the old brother of Bart. Even though Jack Kelly was seven months older than James Garner. Roy Huggins and the writers played off what viewers were saying in one episode about lightening striking twice in the same place. Huggins had Bret deliver the line:

That's just what my Pappy said when he looked in my brother Bart's crib.
Speaking of the Mavrick brothers' "Pappy". James Garner would appear in that role in the episode  "Pappy" that opened the Third Season of the program on September 13, 1959. It is important to note that Pappy's name was "Beau Maverick" as Roger Moore would become Cousin "Beau" Maverick at the start of the show's Fourth Season.


A further problem developed over the appearance of Jack Kelly. The show's main sponsor was Kaiser Aluminum. Their Chairman of the Board didn't like the idea and was quoted as saying about Bart Maverick that:
I paid for red apples and I get green apples!
However, what soon became apparent was that female viewers of "Maverick" preferred Jack Kelly over James Garner and his lady fans seemed to rise with every episode Kelly appeared in.

A change to the character of Bart over Bret was made after a couple of those rewritten episodes. It was discovered the Jack Kelly had problems delivering comic lines in those scripts originally written for James Garner. The answer was to have Bart became the more serious of the brothers and Bret kept on delivering comic asides.

The programs popularity with young audiences was noted and like many western television shows of the period Dell Comics released comic books.

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Note the first comics with both Maverick Brother's had James Garner's name more prominent than Jack Kelly's. Then there were the toys for young male viewers. Going back to my younger days with "The Lone Ranger", "Hopalong Cassidy" and "Roy Rodgers" was the "Maverick" cap pistols.

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I have to mention that a young boy playing with his "Maverick" cap guns would not be mistaken for having a real pistol.

Like a lot of other television programs of the period "Maverick" had a theme song that was very catchy. Here is a 78 RPM record of that song and story designed for young children.

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Another interesting publication based upon the television show and perhaps a sign of the times this instruction manual on playing "Poker".

The show made the cover of "TV Guide" many times:

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Below is an  example of the ads that Warner Brothers was running in the television section of newspapers across the United States.


At one point Warner Brothers pulled off the ultimate television stunt to promote its stable of westerns. A "Fast Draw" competition between its stars. From Left to right: Will Hutchins of "Sugarfoot", Peter Brown of  "Lawman", Jack Kelly of "Maverick", Ty Harden of "Bronco", James Garner of "Maverick", Wayde Preston of "Colt 45" and John Russell of "Lawman".

Warner Brothers had a minor gold mine with "Maverick" and then things seemed to go wrong. James Garner was looking at his options in a contract dispute. Warner Brothers in an effort to keep Garner had him star in three motion pictures and one cameo for United Artists. The first film "Darby's Rangers" was a fictional account of how Col. William Orlando Darby formed the first Army Ranger Division during World War 2. Charlton Heston had turned down the role of Darby and under the circumstances James Garner, who did a very good job, was available. The movie was released on April 8, 1958.

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January 11, 1959 saw a classic parody of the television series "Gunsmoke" on "Maverick". The episode was entitled "Gun-Shy" and featured actor Ben Gage as Marshall Mort Dooley. The picture below is of Gage as Marshall Dooley, Walker Edmiston as Deputy Clyde Diefendorfer and Marshall Kent as Doc Stucke.

Bart is after a fortune in buried Confederate Gold, but he keeps being kicked out of town by Marshall Dooley.

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On March 4, 1959 Warner Brothers would release another World War 2 motion picture with James Garner "Up Periscope". It was about a Navy Lieutenant and frogman sent on a submarine to a Japanese held island to obtain secret codes.

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On March 20, 1959 James Garner made a cameo appearance as "Bret Maverick" in a non-Warner Brothers film from United Artists starring Bob Hope. The film was titled "Alias Jesse James" and Hope was an Insurance Salesman who inadvertently sold Jesse James a life insurance policy . At the comic climax of the movie Bob Hope's Milford Farnsworth has a shoot-out with the James gang. At that time multiple television and movie western characters played by the actual actors appear to help. James Arness appears as "Matt Dillon", Fess Parker as "Davy Crockett", Hugh O'Brien as "Wyatt Earp", Jay Silverheels as "Tonto" and Ward Bond from "Wagon Train" were among those who come to help Bob Hope and Rhonda Fleming. When the movie originally appeared on television James Garner's cameo as Bret was edited out due to a conflict with his contract at the time.

On January 27, 1960, James Garner starred as "Cash McCall" an ultra-rich businessman who buys failing businesses and resells them at a large profit. The great comedy co-starred as his love interest Natalie Wood. The problem being she is the owner's daughter of the company he wants. Sounds a little bit like the Richard Gere, Julia Roberts "Pretty Women" of 30 years later.

However, on March 13, 1960, James Garner played Bret Maverick for the last time, maybe, in the final episode of Season Three "Greenbacks" and leave Warner Brothers. James Garner would next appear in one episode of a Desilu produced sitcom "Angel". It was about a French girl who comes to the United States and married an architect. She keeps getting into comic situations such as Lucy Ball on her Desilu show. Garner guest starred in "The French Lesson" on February 8, 1961. Garner's next motion picture was released on December 19, 1961 and was distributed by United Artists. He co-starred with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in William Wellman's "The Children's Hour" based upon the Lillian Hellman play.

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Returning to the television program "Maverick" Season Four brought the audience a new lead to alternate with Jack Kelly as he had alternated with James Garner. Initially Warner Brothers flew a Scottish actor from England to Burbank, California to interview for the role. The actor would later say he only agreed to the interview to see the United States. His name was Sean Connery and he turned it down. Then the producers remembered they had a "Contract Player" named Roger Moore already at the Burbank studio and available. Why they didn't save money by going with Moore over Connery in the first place is one of those mysteries of how Studios think.

Moore had previously appeared in the Warner Brothers television series "The Alaskans" which had lasted one season. The series co-starred Dorothy Provine. Provine had played the title role in 1958's "The Bonnie Parker Story" and would follow "The Alaskans" with "The Roaring Twenties". Also the one season series had co-starred Jeff York remembered as Mike Fink in "Davy Crockett and the River Pirates" and Ray Danton. Danton would receive critical praise playing the title roles in "The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond" and "The George Raft Story", 

Roger Moore took the role of "Cousin" Beau Maverick, named for "Pappy", under protest as he remembered in an article in a "TV Times" interview during 1972. One of the reasons Moore protested playing Beau was that he had already, in a fashion, played James Garner's Bret Maverick in "The Alaskans". Warner Brothers had a policy of recycling, or changing scripts as they had with the characters of Bret and Bart Maverick. Added was a writers strike in progress when "The Alaskans" came out. The producers of "The Alaskans" had taken Bret Maverick scripts, changed the location to Alaska and Bret became Roger Moore's character of Silky Harris.

Below Roger Moore and Dorothy Provine in "The Alaskans".

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According to Roger Moore's autobiography he had been told that was not being hired to replace James Garner, but when he went to wardrobe. Every piece of clothing for his character "Beau" had a label on it saying "James Garner" with the name crossed out, if in the eyes of the producers of "Maverick" Jack Kelly's "Bart" was the "clone" of James Garner;s "Bart". What would Roger Moore's "Beau" be other than the replacement for "Bart"?

Beau Maverick entered the show with the first episode of Season Four "The Bundle from Britain" September 18, 1960. "
Cousin" Beau is met at the dock by Bart as he arrives on a ship from England. Although Beau was born in the United States the arrival scene was a set up to explain Roger Moore's slight British accent. Another never to be heard again piece of character trivia relating to Bart is that in this episode we discover his real first name is "Bartrum".

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Moore would alternate with Kelly over most of Season Four, but the quality of the scripts were dropping with each newly written, or recycled episode and he would get out of his contract without having to  take the same legal action James Garner did. Out of the first 23 episodes of the season Roger Moore only appeared in a total of 14, before Beau just disappeared. After the episode "Red Dog" premiered on March 5, 1961 Which probably was a better move than Moore realized, because with the loss of James Garner the ratings for "Maverick" started dropping with the opening episode of Season Four.

During those 23 episodes the audience saw the return of James Garner as Bret. Actually the producers had held back one episode with both Garner and Kelly. "The Maverick Line" premiered on November 20, 1960. James Garner would not be through with Bret Maverick as my reader will find out.

Two episodes later the audience met the Third Maverick Brother Brent played by actor Robert Colbert in "The Forbidden City" which premiered on March 21, 1961, Colbert had appeared in the first Three Stooges movie "Have Rocket Will Travel" in 1959. An obvious play on the title of Richard Boone's very popular "Have Gun Will Travel". He also made appearances on several Warner Brothers television series such as "Bourbon Street Beat", Moore's "The Alaskans", "Colt 45", "Sugarfoot" and "Cheyenne". Along with the Warner Brothers motion picture "A Fever in the Blood" written by Roy Huggins and featuring Jack Kelly. Robert Colbert portrayed the unknown murderer who triggers that pictures plot. All of this prior to being informed by Warner Brothers that as a contract player he was to become the next "Maverick".

Robert Colbert is famously known for telling the show's producers:

Put me in a dress and call me Brenda but don't do this to me!
Colbert would be dressed exactly as James Garner's Bret had been, because he looked so similar to James Garner. Below Garner and Colbert.

The reason "The Forbidden City" was ready so fast was that the original Warner Brothers plan was to have Jack Kelly's Bart and Roger Moore's Beau alternate with Robert Colbert's Brent. Publicity stills had been taken of the three together prior to Moore's departure.

Jack Kelly's Bart appeared in the next episode of Season Four which was followed by Brent in his second appearance "Benefit of the Doubt" on April 9, 1961. Oh Brent's second appearance was also his last. Warner Brothers didn't bring the character back and just didn't call Robert Colbert back. Colbert would star in 1967's one season Science Fiction television show "The Time Tunnel" and otherwise appear in roles on many television shows.

Jack Kelly would be the sole Maverick in the original show's final Fifth Season. The previous four seasons had some recurring characters and one returned to give trouble to Bart.

Actor Gerald Mohr, 1952's "Invasion U.S.A.", 1958's "Terror in a Haunted House", 1959's "The Angry Red Planet" and many television appearances, had first portrayed gunfighter/dentist Doc Holliday in two episodes of Season One "The Quick and the Dead" and "Seeds of Deception". Mohr's Holliday was portrayed somewhat to fact as a vengeful killer you didn't want to mess with, but there was a certain charm also in Mohr's portrayal. The character of Doc Holliday reappeared during Season Four and would be seen in four episodes of Season Five, but in both seasons played by Peter Breck of the television westerns "The Black Saddle" and "The Big Valley". Breck's Doc Holliday was described as "a lovable rogue" who kept getting Bart Maverick into trouble. Below Gerald Mohr and Peter Breck as Doc Holliday.

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Here is a link to a Wikipedia article giving my reader of complete list of the original episodes of "Maverick" amd which "Maverick" was in them.

The original series "Maverick" had come to an end, but "Maverick" would return and return and so would James Garner and Jack Kelly. On September 13, 1974 James Garner first appeared as James "Jimmy/Jim" Scott Rockford in his series "The Rockford Files". During a hiatus in the production of
"The Rockford Files" Garner agreed to appear as Bret in a 100 minute made for television movie "The New Maverick". Jack Kelly would appear as Bart in a few scenes at the end, "The New Maverick" premiered on September 3, 1978.

The picture introduced Charles Frank as Cousin Ben Maverick the son of Beau who is not seen. Frank had appeared on many television shows and would be best known for the television soap "All My Children" as Dr. Jeff Martin. He also would play Scott Carpenter in the movie "The Right Stuff".

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One of the characters in "The New Maverick" was Nell McGarrahan played by actress Susan Blanchard. Blanchard was Frank's wife. The two had met on "All My Children". She would join her husband in the television series that followed "Young Maverick" as Nell.

On November 28, 1979 James Garner once more appeared as Bret in a very small cameo at the start of "Clancy" the first episode of "Young Maverick" to possibly give the appearance to the audience he would be part of program. The series lasted for eight weeks and CBS dropped it. There were other episodes in "the can", but were never shown. There is a DVD release of the complete series which includes the other episodes previously filmed, but not seen by the television audience.

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On December 1, 1981 at the age of 53 James Garner was back as "Bret Maverick" which also was the title of the new series. Bret has settled down in the community of Sweetwater, in the Arizona Territory. He is the silent partner of a saloon he won in a poker game, because he still is a gambler. The respectful citizens of Sweetwater are cautious of him and that includes the Sheriff who is keeping a steady eye on Bret.

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Jack Kelly was to return in "Bret Maverick" for the Second Season and appeared in the very last episodes of Season One briefly. He never got a chance as NBC cancelled the show after that first season even though it was getting fairly good ratings. Roy Huggins' believed the problem was the producers had Bret settled in one town and that limited what the writers could do with him.

In 1991 Jack Kelly did reprise the roll of Bart Maverick in a cameo in a made for television motion picture starring Kenny Rodgers "The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw". Actually his appearance was reminiscent of James Garner's in the Bob Hope motion picture "Alias Jesse James".

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According to the plot Jack Kelly and others are attending a special poker game "In Honor of the Late Mr. Paladin". Richard Boone of "Have Gun Will Travel" had passed away ten years earlier. Besides Kelly's cameo as Bart. The viewers saw the following television favorites: Hugh O'Brien as Wyatt Earp, Clint Walker as Cheyenne Bodie, Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford as his son Mark, David Carradine as Caine from "Kung Fu", Jame Drury and Doug McClure from  "The Virginian", Paul Brinegar of "Rawhide" and Brian Keith of "The Westerner".

Not to fear "Maverick" came back in a feature film of that name starring Mel Gibson in 1994. In the motion picture which had Gibson as Bret and Jody Foster as Annabelle Bransford as another co-artist. James Garner played Marshall Zane Cooper tracking down Maverick. Of course at the film's end the audience discovers the Con on the Con as Garner turns out to be Gibson's father the original Bret Maverick.

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Riverboat, ring your bell,
Fare thee well, Annabel.
Luck is the lady that he loves the best.
Natchez to New Orleans
Livin on jacks and queens
Maverick is a legend of the west.

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