29 September 2005 | silverscreen888
Classic Western, Intelligent Individualism; Roy Huggins' Masterwork
"Maverick" ran for only five seasons. Early on, it was decided that the series would be best served by having two Mavericks, Bart, played by James Garner and Bret, played by Jack Kelly. By alternating the two leads, the productions for each's scripts could be shot at the same time. This led to the show's technical peculiarity. It had only one supervising producer and script supervisor, Roy Huggins, who was its creator; and he used four female assistants as script supervisors. Also, he employed 36 directors, 39 different writers, 17 cinematographers, 40 film editors, 8 art directors and 7 property masters all under Perry Ferguson as chief art director, 20 set decorators, 10 makeup personnel and 31 second-unit directors. This classic B/W show featured satires, dramas, adventures and comedies. It was inexpensively made sometimes, but offered attractive costumes and good actors, utilizing narration by the leads and clips from the Warner Brothers film library to avoid having to stage elaborate scenes. The Maverick brothers were designed by Roy Huggins to violate the Code of the West. While they could fight, and shoot, very bravely and effectively, they preferred not to fight, not to save people at great risk, not to do foolish things on a dare and not to keep up appearances. The show's creator also innovatively employed sidekicks for his leads, unusually frequently, and hired talented lead guest actors plus developing a stock company of continuing characters including Diane Brewster as larcenous and lovely Samantha Crawford, Kathleen Crowley as Melanie Blaine, Mike Road as Pearly Gates, Leo Gordon as Big Mike, and Gerald Mohr as Johnny Balero. Later, in 1960, Roger Moore played Beau Maverick, and Robert Colbert was added as cousin Brent in 1961, when Garner left the series. The leads played Texas men, a maverick being a name given to unbranded cattle in that part of the country. They gambled professionally, and continually sought after a large-enough prize to satisfy their hopes--which always eluded them somehow. Because of budgetary constraint, the writing and directing for the show were its hallmarks of quality, plus its fine guest stars. Memorable among these to me, who saw the original series, were Julie Adams, Mona Freeman, Buddy Ebsen, Abby Dalton, Ben Gage, Ruta Lee, Arthur Shields, Tol Avery, Gage Clark and many others. The ranks of the series' writers included TV stalwarts Ron Bishop, Carey Wilber, George Slavin, Gerald Drayson Adams, Wells Root, James O'Hanlon, Irene Winston, Marion Hargrove and Leo Townsend. The episode each week might be light-hearted or a dangerous mystery; frequently one Maverick or another sought a monetary prize at some risk or was cheated, kidnapped or involved in a hazardous business. Garner, with his touch for comedy, was usually given more laughs per hour. In his scripts; he fought, romanced, played cards, observed, commented and was misused. But the narrative lines of Jack Kelly's scripts were every bit as good or better, although he avoided the physical with more dexterity. The hallmark of the series I suggest was that it was about objectivists--purposive men who dealt with reality as they found it, without employing denial, wishful thinking or conventional or religious self-delusions. "My 'ol Pappy used to say," one of the brothers would drawl, and then he would proceed to state the truth, setting wisdom against the usual way men looked at things. The show is was pure Roy Huggins; he employed noted directors and talented producers such as Coles Trapnell, William P. D'Angelo, Howie Horwitz, Arthur W. Silver, William L. Stuart plus fine actors to get the result he wanted. Without him, "Maverick" would not be the "legend of the West" it has become; along with "Cheyenne", "Bonanza" and "Gunsmoke", the program was a towering hit and a trend-setting show at a time when the character-based western was deservedly eclipsing all other genres. The series was adult,American and a delight, at a time when individualism was still a desirable philosophical goal to U.S. citizens and not a buzzword for its opponents to misuse while they attacked the concept. The man who lives by his own standards is only dangerous to the bad guys; the Maverick outsmarted the honest and cheated only criminals. They went "riding the trail to who knows where" as their theme song said, with luck as a companion and an intelligent gamble as their way of life. We loved them in 1957; we who enjoyed their adventures then miss them today. They and their self-assertive sort.