Bret Maverick (James Garner) is a professional gambler with an natural nose for trouble and a keen sense of justice. He’s also not your ordinary western hero. Though he can handle a gun, he’s more apt to use brain power in order to get himself out of trouble and that’s what makes Maverick so special.
Originally broadcast in 1957, Maverick’s first season might have been a little too sharp for TV. The stories are complex and you’ve got to pay strict attention if you want to keep up with the cons. It’s often thought of as a light, comedic Western but these early episodes have plenty of warmth, drama, and action.
It’s also beautifully shot and the crisp shades of black and white come through perfectly in this new DVD release. Maverick was a western, but it’s more New Orleans restaurants and river boats than mining camps and saloons. And Bret and his brother Bart (Jack Kelly) are two of the snappiest dressers you’ll ever see in the genre.
To get an idea of why Maverick is so good, you only have to look at the credits for the first few episodes. The unparallelled western director Budd Boetticher (Ride Lonesome) is at the helm of the first three episodes. He’s followed by prolific TV director Leslie H. Martinson and Howard W. Koch who went on to direct 8 Oscar specials. As for the scripts, how about stories based on the works of Louis L’Amour, Robert Louis Stevenson, and a host of other solid short story authors.
If you’re an Alias Smith and Jones fan like I am, you’ll see the beginnings of that show here thanks to creator Roy Huggins. It doesn’t come any closer than the episode titled “According to Hoyle” and you’ll see shades of Hannibal Heyes’ scams and card tricks throughout the series. Edd Byrnes (77 Sunset Strip) even makes an appearance as a gunslinger called Kid.
If you’re a fan of smart writing, you need to pick up a copy of Maverick: The Complete First Season.
Here are a few quotes from the series to tide you over until your DVD arrives:
Bret: My Pappy always said, “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero dies but one.” A thousand to one is pretty good odds.
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Phineas King: What do you do, Mr. Maverick?
Bret Maverick: I’m a grass inspector.
Crane: You inspect grass?
Bret Maverick: The kind that’s always greener in the other fellow’s yard.
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Bret Maverick: One thing about a crook, he thinks everyone else is dishonest.
Do you have any favorite Maverick quotes or moments? Don’t keep them to yourself, share them right here.