Over the years I've written many times of my deep love for the TV series MAVERICK (1957-62). Ironically, the very day James Garner passed away last weekend, my husband had stumbled across the show's most famous episode, Season 2's "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres," airing on TV. We couldn't help pausing to watch it for the millionth time -- and it still makes us laugh!
In light of James Garner's passing, I was glad to spend time thinking about him and my favorite show as I reviewed the Warner Archive's MAVERICK: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON.
What is it that makes MAVERICK so special, a TV show with endless "rewatch" value? Let me count the ways:
1) The charming lead characters and the actors who played them. While James Garner became the most famous, I've admitted that despite my love for Garner, I think my favorite Maverick of all might have been Bart, played by Jack Kelly. Both actors are exceptionally charismatic and interesting, and never better than the episodes in which they play off one another.
Incidentally, revisionist history (including the '80s series BRET MAVERICK) sometimes refers to the brothers as con artists. They were not; they were honest gamblers who only tricked people when they'd been tricked first. And when that happened, it was glorious (see the aforementioned "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres").
The writers also do a great job incorporating running jokes and bits, such as the $1000 bill the brothers always keep pinned in their jacket for emergencies, and of course the "Pappyisms" ("As my old Pappy used to say...").
passed away a few weeks ago, as Modesty Blaine in a pair of favorite episodes, "The Cats of Paradise" and "Cruise of the Cynthia B." "Cynthia B" is an Agatha Christie-like story as one by one passengers are killed.
The Modesty Blaine character was later played by Kathleen Crowley -- one of three different recurring characters Crowley played, but for me there was only one Modesty Blaine!
Some favorite episodes in Season 3: The season starts off with "Pappy," a classic episode which finds Garner playing the brothers' oft-quoted Pappy, along with his usual role as Bret. Kelly gets to play a dual role in the last scene as well.
"The Sheriff of Duck 'n Shoot" seems to anticipate my favorite Garner comedy, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969), as Bret is tricked into serving as sheriff for a few months. No one seems to realize that a man Bret supposedly knocked out was actually hit by a horse... It's a delight.
"A Tale of Three Cities" is a chance for Jack Kelly to shine, with Bart speaking to a ladies' group about the evils of gambling! I love his cozy jail cell. This one is just plain fun.
Another favorite Bart episode is "The Goose-Drownder," in which Bart and recurring character Gentleman Jack Darby (Richard Long, below) are stranded with some disreputable folks during a terrible rainstorm. This is one of Jack Kelly's strongest dramatic episodes. He's seen here in this episode with Fay Spain.
"The Marquesa" was one of a few episodes guest-starring Adele Mara, who was the wife of series creator Roy Huggins and the sister of James Garner's stand-in, Luis Delgado. (Delgado can sometimes be seen as an extra in crowd scenes.) Edward Ashley appears as Nobby Ned Wingate, a role he would repeat later in the season in "Iron Hand," an episode best known for having Robert Redford in the cast!
"Maverick and Juliet" finds the brothers having to duel one another via an epic card game, and Julie Adams fans will enjoy "The White Widow," one of two appearances she made on the show.
I'm only listing a few episodes here, but really, they're all good! I'd probably have to say that the show's first two seasons were the best, but the entire series is high quality and there are many standout episodes in the third season.
The set contains 26 fine-looking episodes on six discs. There are no extras.
Most highly recommended, along with the rest of the series.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website. Please note that the initial sets of this series sold at the Warner Archive site are traditionally replicated (pressed) rather than burned on demand.