An incredible piece of ephemera just joined the Kellection. It's the November 1958 newsletter for "The Warner Club", an organization for employees of Warner Bros. west coast studios.
In 1958, TV screens were filled with popular Warner Bros. shows such as Maverick. However, the Warner Club newsletter reveals that these exciting productions were created in an environment which was surprisingly like any other factory. Behind the cameras was an army of technicians, crafts people, and other rank-and-file personnel.
And, the chatty newsletter is pretty much like most other internal house organs. On its 17 black and white pages, new employees are welcomed, retirees are wished the best of luck, and passings are mourned. Newlyweds and new parents are congratulated; vacations and other events of interest are detailed ("On her recent trip back East, Mrs. S. picked up quite a collection of teacups.")
Warner Bros. employees could sign up for blood drives, dinner dances and even bowling teams. The cartoon department's bowling team was called--wait for it--"The Looney Tunas" (it was sponsored by a local seafood restaurant).
However, most other house organs didn't have photos of Jack Kelly posing with a couple of delighted fans (and his ride!):
The caption reads: "JACK KELLY FANS: When Martha Fuhrmann, daughter of our back lot superintendent 'Fuzzy' Fuhrmann, visited the studio with her roommate, Ruth Van Dyke, it was discovered that that were fans of Jack 'Maverick' Kelly. Result, Jack posed with Martha, left, and Ruth, beside Kelly's Willys Jeep station wagon, presented by Henry Kaiser of Kaiser Industries."
Of course, Kaiser Industries was one of the sponsors of Maverick. Not only did Kaiser own Willys Motors Incorporated, maker of the Jeep at the time, but it also manufactured Kaiser Foil. Although it's hard to see in the grainy photo, that's cartoon foil huckster "The Kaiser Kid" and his horse "Quilty" decorating the door of JK's Jeep (I believe Maverick is also hanging on to Quilty). The Kaiser Kid and Quilty can be seen in this ad:
Starting in 1958, Willys began offering a "Maverick Special" Jeep station wagon, which is no doubt the vehicle JK was presented with. Which is probably why he placed this amazing used car ad in the Warner Club newsletter:
If one could find a silver 1956 T-Bird in "faultless condition" with a continental kit and only 11,700 miles for $3,000 today, it would still not be a bargain. It would be a MIRACLE. These iconic cars now usually sell for well-over $30,000. (If only I had a time machine...)
And, if that's not enough Warnerstalgia for you, JK was also a co-sponsor of the TV division's bowling team, which was called--you guessed it--"The Mavericks". No loud shirts for this team: the Mavericks strutted the lanes at Kirkwood's Bowling Alley attired in black vests and string ties.
I wish I could find more of these wonderful newsletters, but for now, as another Warner Bros. employee used to say: "That's All, Folks!" :)
We recently lost a fine actor and gentleman with the passing of Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
I first saw Mr. Zimbalist's work on The F.B.I. television series, which my family watched every Sunday evening when I was little (and which my dad always called The F.B.I. Story, actually the title of a James Stewart film).
When I finally discovered Jack Kelly and Maverick many years later, I was delighted to watch Mr. Zimbalist guest star several times on the series as the suave con-artist Dandy Jim Buckley.
JK and EZJ also worked together in the 1961 Warner Bros. feature film A Fever in the Blood, as shown in this still:
Great news: A Fever in the Blood will air this Wednesday, May 14, on Turner Classic Moviesin the US at 4:00 pm ET (check your local cable/satellite guide for correct time/channel).
More info about this rarely seen classic can be found in this 2009 TDSpost. (I guess TCM heard me! ;->)
I'm thankful that Efrem Zimbalist Jr. left a long legacy of performances for us to enjoy. Rest in peace, sir.
UPDATE (5/23/14):A Fever in the Blood has just been released on DVD! It's available from WB Shop.com for $18.95 and $2.50 standard shipping (in the US only at this time).
I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday. I did. The spring sunshine couldn't have been more glorious, and after Easter service this morning I had a great lunch with my family.
More happy news: The Warner Archive Collection has scheduled the release of the fifth and final season of Maverick for April 29. It's available for pre-order in the US right now for $34.95 from WBShop.com.
This set is much cheaper than the third and fourth season DVDs, probably because there were only 13 original episodes in the fifth season. When they first aired in 1962, the season was filled out with repeats of episodes co-starring James Garner, who had long since left Maverick.
Never fear, though: Warners has finally put Jack Kelly ALONE on the cover:
Incidentally, Paul Mavis gave the Maverick fourth season DVD set an incredibly fair and insightful (and lavishly illustrated!) review on the DVDTalk website. The fifth season set probably won't fare so well--even I realize that the storylines and JK were getting stretched pretty thin by the time Bart Maverick walked into TV history at the end of "One of Our Trains is Missing". But there are still some little delights such as Three Queens Full (the Bonanza spoof) in this season. And, hey, it's got Jack Kelly, and JUST Jack Kelly, as Maverick, so I'm not complaining. :)
Jack Kelly--That Maverick Actor and More
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