Since the inception of American film and television, Westerns have been an in-demand genre. However, in the 1950s and 60s, the popularity of gunslingers and cowboys exploded. American audiences had a voracious appetite for these types of stories.
These decades brought us some of the most memorable western characters.
Among them was the popular TV series Maverick. The series follows Bret and Burt Maverick two brothers who travel the American west looking for adventure, fortune, and, of course, games of poker.
Maverick starred James Garner and Jack Kelly as the two titular brothers. The show ran for 5 seasons and totaling over 120 episodes.
Though the show was never in short supply of great storylines, there were also a few interesting stories happening behind the camera.
For example, James Garner, the lead actor sued Warner Brothers and quit the series.
Keep watching as we take a closer look at James Garner’s feud with the series, why James Garner left Maverick and other stories.
Garner Became Upset with Studio
Though the storylines would switch back and forth between the two Maverick brothers, James Garner clearly emerged as the star.
Things went swimmingly for the first few seasons and Garner was blazing a trail becoming a huge name in the western genre.
However, things became rocky between the star and the studio when, in 1960, the writer’s guild went on strike.
All of the sudden, there were no new scripts in Hollywood. No scripts meant no new episodes. This included the weekly scheduling of Maverick.
Garner had signed a 52-week contract with Warner Brothers. Even the show hit, Garner only making a paltry $1250 a week. Now that Maverick had come to a halt, the studio decided to lay Garner off. They claimed that no scripts meant no pay for Garner.
James Garner was finally fed up with the studio’s treatment. He took action.
Garner Sues Warnes Brothers
James Garner tired of forces within the studio pulling him every which way.
The writer’s strike gave him the opportunity to sue the studio for breach of contract. It turns out he had a compelling case. Garner won the lawsuit easily.
At this point, the studio was willing to offer him a raise or a new contract. However, Garner had such a bad experience under his first contract that he wanted to step away from the studio.
He claimed that while he attached to Maverick, he had no control over his career. Away from contractual obligations, Garner could make his own decisions on his roles. If he was going to become a success, he wanted it to be his own doing, not the studio.
At this, Garner decided to step away from the Maverick universe…but not forever.
Before we take a look at some of the other Maverick stories, take a moment to give us a like. Also, consider subscribing to the Facts Verse page for similar videos.
The Studio Tried to Replace Garner
Although they lost James Garner, Warner Brothers was not ready to cut bait on Maverick. The Show was still a popular option in their tv series lineup.
What’s more, because of the structure of the series where the episodes would flip flop between Garner and Jack Kelly, Maverick still had half of the show still intact. Unfortunately, Kelly was the less popular half.
Warner Brothers’ idea was to find someone who resembled Garner to fill his role. They tapped the little-known Robert Colbert to take on the role.
In his memoirs years later, James Garner claimed Colbert was supposed to be a complete lookalike. They dressed him in the same costumes as Garner and gave him the same mannerisms. Technically, Colbert’s character was not the same Bret Maverick, but a new brother called Brent.
All this was to fool the audience. Garner wasn’t the only one to notice this. Even Colbert himself understood the tactics. He was afraid of what it would do to his career. Instead, he jokingly pleaded with the studio to “put [him] in a dress and call [him] Brenda.” Anything to avoid the comparison to Garner.
They Added a Maverick Cousin
The studio brought in another Maverick, too. Future James Bond star Roger Moore was cast to play cousin Beau Maverick. For season 4 the stories alternated between the three family members.
Although the new trio of Maverick’s posed for photos together, they never met onscreen. Originally, the two brother team-up episodes were a regular occurrence. Yet, the studio never came up with a storyline that features all of the actors together. Instead, they relied on separate episode scripts.
The tactic didn’t really work, however.
Colbert and Moore both left the series and the fifth and final season only featured new stories with Jack Kelly.
They Almost Cast Sean Connery
Although Roger Moore was cast in the role of Beau Maverick, the studios originally wanted a different James Bond.
The character of Beauregard Maverick was written to have spent the last many years playing cards abroad in England. Along the way, he was said to have picked up an English accent. Beau’s debut episode was even called “Bundle from Britain”
Therefore, they wanted an actor from overseas to play the part. The first person they had in mind was Sean Connery.
It was clear that Connery was on the cusp of a major breakthrough in Hollywood. Warner Brothers flew him to the studio to woo him.
Ultimately, Connery turned the role down. He intended to make a bigger splash with American Audiences.
Not only did Moore take the part of Beau, but he was also the next choice for James Bond after Connery.
Warner Brothers Recycled Episodes of Maverick
As mentioned, the writer’s guild went on strike in 1960. This disruption affected more than just Maverick.
Another show running during the same years called The Alaskans suffered for content as well.
The show, which weirdly also stared Rodger Moore, focused on the adventures of gold prospectors in 1890s Alaska.
When the scripts stopped rolling in, Warner Brothers had an idea. They saw the story similarities between Maverick and The Alaskans. As such, they recycled old Maverick scripts to make new episodes of The Alaskans.
This strategy was easily seen through by many. Rodger Moore recalls that when he read the scripts, he recognized them as Maverick episodes with the names changed.
This is possibly among the reason the Alaskans was canceled after only 37 episodes.
One Episode Paid Homage to Casablanca
Just because Maverick was a western didn’t mean it couldn’t pay tribute to one of the greatest movies ever.
The episode in season 2 was called “Escape to Tampico.”
The story is set in a bar called “La Cantina Americain” Right off the bat this is a nod to Humphry Bogart’s bar in the film which is named “Ricks Cafe Americain”
However, Maverick went even further. The set for the show was created from the bits of the original set from the movie. Even the costuming of the series was very similar to the movie.
The actor Gerald Mohr, who looked very much like Humphry Bogart, wore the white Panama suit from the film.
This is just one example of the cool cutting-edge ideas that Maverick had in its run.
James Garner Returned for the Maverick Movie
Even though James Garner left the series on a bad note, he would return to the Maverick universe.
In 1994, director Richard Donner was tasked with rebooting the show into a film. Donner chose Mel Gibson to play the part of Bret Maverick. Donner had worked with Gibson many times including on the Lethal Weapon franchise.
Bret Maverick has all the same attributes and quirks as the original. He’s a deft cardsharp, silver-tongued, and full of adventure.
While the lead was filled, there was still the major role of Marshall Zane Cooper to be cast. It’s only fitting that the part went to James Garner.
While it was very cool for Garner to be a part of Maverick once again, he later found out that they originally wanted Paul Newman to play the part. Garner was only selected after Newman declined.
The character of Zane Cooper is ultimately revealed to be the father of Bret Maverick. So, while Gibson took on the new mantle, Garner was still part of the Maverick family name.
The film filmed was well-reviewed. Many praised the return of James Garner to the world of Maverick.
Maverick was a cool series that captivated American audiences during the peak of the Western Genre’s popularity. Not only did it have the unique form of switching main characters each episode, but it was also packed with great actors.
But there were happenings behind the camera as well. Beyond Garner quitting the show, these are some of the other interesting stories about Maverick.
So, what do you think? Was Maverick better with Garner? Would you like to see Maverick rebooted today? Sound off in the comments below.
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