Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Kelly Pages

(Another recurring feature that looks back at Jack Kelly in magazine and newspaper articles.)

Here's an article that I found in a "TV Magazine" from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. It's dated December 22, 1957, so it's a very early story about JK in Maverick. He had debuted as Bart only about a month before. The Encore Westerns Channel is re-running the first "Bart" episodes now, and I thought it was interesting to see how the public reacted to the new Maverick on the block back in '57. The good-natured kidding between JK and James Garner is also interesting:

"Mavericks Steal Thunder
From Sullivan and Allen

by Vernon Scott (UP)

Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen have called off their rating feud to battle a common enemy, a pair of Mavericks named Bret and Bart.

A big surprise of the 1957-'58 TV season is the way Maverick has stolen the thunder and audience from the two big variety wheels.

On the air only 13 weeks, the hour-long horse opera passed Allen in the Trendex rating the second week out of the barn. It took six weeks to catch Sullivan.

The success of the new entry is credited to its rough-and-tumble stars, James Garner (Bret) and Jack Kelly (Bart).

...Both are delighted that their show is whipping the opposition, but they refuse to needle either Allen or Sullivan.

During lunch the big guys spent their time ribbing one another about Kelly joining the show six weeks after it went on the air.

'Turning out an hour show on film was too much for one actor,' Garner explained. 'I was working 14 hours a a day, and we were falling behind schedule. So we decided to write a brother into the script.'

'That's his story,' Kelly put in brashly. 'The ratings were lousy and they needed some real talent to pull it out of the hole.'

'He's crazy,' Garner fired back. 'We needed comedy relief, and believe me, Jack's funny in this role, even though the script doesn't call for laughs.'

Warner Brothers studio, which films the ABC-TV show, says Kelly is 30, Garner 29. Both stand over 6-feet tall. Garner might get the best of it in a free-for-all. He outweighs his TV brother by 20 pounds.

If Warners decides to write more brothers into the script, they might consider Sullivan and Allen. They still have fairly large followings."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Maverick Report

("The Maverick Report" will be a recurring feature where I review my favorite Maverick episodes starring Jack Kelly.)

"All This--And Puppies, Too?"
My current favorite JK episode is "The Witch of Hound Dog". It originally aired on November 6, 1960. I'm guessing it was intended as a Halloween episode, though, because there's some mighty spooky stuff going down here.

First, there's an alluring young mountain lass named Nancy who may or may not be a witch. She can apparently brew up thunderstorms at will and claims she put a "courtin' spell" on Bart so he'll fall in love with her. Then, there's Nancy's Pappy, who may or may not be a raven. And, finally, there are Nancy's two no-account brothers, who may or may not be "all there" and who enjoy using poor Bart as a punching bag.

The plot also involves a prized Bassett hound. And, let's not forget about the gambling debt Bart aims to collect, which is why he traveled to Hound Dog, Tennessee, in the first place. His winnings are in a safe stolen by Nancy's brothers, but they don't know his money is in the safe, so Bart has to play poker with them to get access to the safe...or something like that.

Bart eventually comes to his senses and sees Nancy "nevermore". He returns to his life as a gambler. But, he's reminded of his mountain interlude when he hears thunder--and spies a familiar bird in the saloon!

"The Witch of Hound Dog" is surprisingly racy for 1960--and for Maverick, for that matter. Bart is literally under Nancy's spell and comes this close to surrendering to her charms. There's lots of huggin' and kissin' and flirtin' between Bart and Nancy, and you have to hear the "poem" he recites to her. Don't worry, though: the whole thing is like "Maverick Meets Bewitched Meets Lil' Abner" and is wildly whimsical.

Jack Kelly is extra charming as Bart Maverick in this episode. He's courtly, yet witty and amorous, too. And, even when he's not under her "spell", Bart treats Nancy with respect, which is something the townsfolk--and her brothers--refuse to do.

The title character of "The Witch of Hound Dog" is smolderingly portrayed by
Anita Sands, a talented young actress whom, frankly, I'd never heard of before seeing her here. She guest starred in another Maverick episode ("Family Pride" with Roger Moore) and in a handful of other television series during the same era.

Another interesting guest star in this episode is
Wayde Preston, who'd starred in Warner Brothers' Colt .45 series.

So, is Nancy really a witch? Who knows. But, one thing is for sure--I wouldn't need a "courtin' spell" to fall for Bart Maverick. ;->