Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jack Kelly on Screen: Any Objections?


The distinguished-looking man above is, of course, Jack Kelly. He's not our friend Bart Maverick here, though. JK's playing a character miles away from the carefree gambler: overly ambitious District Attorney "Dan Callahan" in the 1961 feature film A Fever in the Blood. I've not seen this film yet (yo, Turner Classic Movies?). But, the info on the back of this still describes JK's role:

"Warner Brothers' A Fever in the Blood gives Jack Kelly a complete change of character. As Bart in the studio's Maverick TV series, he is an easy-going, non-chalant ladykiller--and always a gentleman. But in A Fever in the Blood he plays a hard-bitten, ambitious District Attorney who would willingly sacrifice friendship in exchange for a state governorship. Even his appearance has changed. There are lines on his face, drawn by discontent, and there is gray in his hair."

Actually, some of that discontent may have come from having gray in his hair. JK was only 34 at the time, so his hair was artifically grayed. In Filmfax magazine three decades later--in what sadly turned out to be his final interview--he discussed doing the 1965 film Love and Kisses, where he played singer Rick Nelson's father. He refused to put gray in his hair for the part: "I had done a picture at Warner Brothers called A Fever in the Blood with that phony gray in my hair, and I looked like an ass."

(Oh, I don't know about that, JK--you look pretty good in that pic to me! ;->)

Anyway, here's how Screen Stories magazine describes Fever: "A woman was murdered and the District Attorney meant to hang her husband, whether he was guilty or not. A conviction would lead the D.A. right to the Governorship!"

Screen Stories adds that JK was so eager to make a feature film after co-starring in Maverick since 1957 that he gave up a vacation to make Fever. While working on the film, he received the escrow papers for a new home in Westwood Village. He was so excited he exclaimed to a reporter, "My wife--May Wynn--and I had to talk our business manager into allowing us to spend $12,000 on alterations. So help me, that's more than we spent on our first little home!"

JK is joined in Fever by a virtual Maverick reunion: Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (Dandy Jim Buckley) plays a judge; Robert Colbert (Cherokee Evans in "Hadley's Hunters" and later brother Brent) plays an important witness; and Ray Danton (who guested with JK in "State of Siege") plays the opposing District Attorney. And, it was produced and co-written by Maverick creator Roy Huggins.

Plus, Angie Dickinson (who would play opposite JK again in Young Billy Young) plays a senator's wife. Finally, Don Ameche plays the senator, and, of course, wee Jack Kelly had appeared in Ameche's film The Story of Alexander Graham Bell way back in 1939.

I'd love to see A Fever in the Blood, although, uh, I prefer seeing Jack Kelly as a good guy rather than a bad guy. It's not that he's bad as a bad guy--no, no, he's usually darn good. It's just that after enjoying him as the benevolent Bart Maverick, it's almost hard for me to watch him as someone like "John Behan" in Young Billy Young. Behan is like Bart's evil twin!

But, I guess that's the hallmark of a skilled actor: the ability to convincingly portray vastly different, even unsympathetic, characters. Jack Kelly didn't just play variations on Bart for the rest of his career. He had the courage to play villains as well as heroes.

And, by golly, I'll watch him as either one! :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Alias Smith and Jones--and Maverick


I found another entertaining "fanfic" featuring Bart and Bret Maverick, this time involving them with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry from Alias Smith and Jones. The author is obviously an ASJ fan, but she seems to understand and appreciate the Maverick boys pretty well, too. I'm just surprised Heyes and Curry didn't try to teach Bart how to play Montana Red Dog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Magnificent Seven Meet Two Mavericks


I was just out wandering the web this evening, and I came across an interesting bit of
fan-fiction featuring Bart and Bret Maverick. It's a "crossover" story that involves Bart and Bret with characters from the old Magnificent Seven TV series. Now, to be quite honest, I don't remember much about that show. In fact, I kind of "boycotted" it because it was the replacement for one of my favorite shows, Buddy Faro, which CBS summarily dumped after airing only eight episodes. But, that's water under the bridge now, and I really enjoyed this story. Hope you will too! :)