Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jack Kelly - A Gambler Returns...

Hello Everyone,

Before we get to the conclusion of "Bart and Bret Running Close Race", I wanted to share this picture with you. (I hope you'll excuse the quality--it's scanned from a slide, and I'm still kind of a novice at that.)

This picture was taken on October 14, 1991, at the premiere party for the television mini-series The Gambler Returns - The Luck of the Draw. The film debuted on TV on November 3, 1991.

I thought it was fitting to share this picture today, since The Luck of the Draw is being shown on the Encore Westerns channel this evening. It marked the last time Jack Kelly would play Bart Maverick.

JK is second from the right in the picture. (It's hard to miss that smile!) Sadly, we lost two of the other TV cowboys in the picture just this year: David Carradine and Gene Barry. The only one remaining now is Hugh O'Brian.

The Luck of the Draw wasn't the first time JK had met up with these hombres. He'd acted with Carradine in the film Young Billy Young; he did a couple of Name of the Game episodes with Barry; and as a young hopeful at Universal he appeared in several films with O'Brian.

Since 2009 is coming to a close, I thought I'd also take a moment to thank all of you for reading "The Tall Dark Stranger There...", and for all of your kind words and support.

2009 started out on a very sad note for me when my beloved mother passed away. I know she's in a better place now and is suffering no more. However, there's an empty place in my life where she used to be. That cruel fact burdened my heart with sorrow. My Christian faith has helped me to bear that burden. And God, in His infinite and creative mercy, also let my spirit be lifted a little by a gentleman named Jack.

I pray that the Lord will abundantly bless you and watch over you all in 2010! :)


Now, for the conclusion of "Bart and Bret Running Close Race." This part reveals JK's thoughtful analysis of how he differed from Bart Maverick:

"Jack is married to May Wynn, a former Copacabana beauty and sometime actress. She, and a desire for a family, are the reasons that Jack is not openly disgruntled--as Jim Garner has been--about the hard work and relatively modest pay awarded to the Maverick brothers.

'In fact,' he says, "I hope that Maverick runs for 35 years and that God wills we have a child to take over my job.'

People are always asking Jack if his own personality is akin to that of Bart Maverick. And he is always replying:

'No. I'm not as free-wheeling.

'Before my marriage, I probably had the outlook of the Mavericks, without the guts and the talent to live that way. But marriage makes a big difference in your attitude. For instance, we have a standing rule in our house, I don't travel without my wife or she without me.

'I'd cry up a storm if I lost as much money as Maverick does across the poker table. And, there's a spiritual responsibility that we have which is never noticeable in Maverick's life.

'Bear this in mind,' Kelly concludes, 'the Mavericks are great guys, who will grab a girl wherever they can and say let's go--we'll have a good time and that's it. The men in the audience say gee, look what that guy gets away with, and the women can't help liking him.

'But if people were that free and easy, they wouldn't have to go to the theater, watch TV or buy our entertainment.'

Wouldn't wish that on a nice guy like Jack Kelly."

What's next? Keep watchin'--and have a Safe and Blessed New Year's!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jack Kelly - Part II of "Bart"...Plus a Bonus! :)

Howdy Folks!

Here's Part II of "Bret and Bart Running Close Race"...and stay tuned for a special bonus story (or stories, I should say):

"'When I [JK] entered the picture (in November 1957), Jim [Garner] had a half-dozen films out and was a well-established hero. The mail came in from the dissenters, saying why give us this guy--we want Garner. If I'd been Warner Brothers, I'd have said, 'Let's get rid of this bum', and fired me.

'But instead, they sent out a form letter telling the audience to have patience. A great snow job. And gradually, as I got over my nerves, I could only improve.'

Jack credits Jim Garner with helping him over his early Maverick nerves, and says they never discuss their rankings or ratings as co-stars on the top ABC show. Because, 'We work too hard even to see each other.'

Kelly was born on the plains of Long Island, and has worked most of his 31 years as a child model and Broadway actor, a student lawyer, an Air Forceman, and actor in TV and Class B movies.

When he won the audition for Bart Maverick, he realized it would mean hard work for less salary. 'I decided to cut my salary in half,' he says cheerfully, 'so that perpetuity might be served. After working at odds and ends most of my life, there's great satisfaction in the knowledge that I may become a success.'"


Now here's the special bonus. We've been reading about JK's Maverick days above. I've been going through Google again, and I found some fascinating stories about his later career:
  • In 1973, JK acted up a Storm with some students in Alabama (great pix here, too, and a review that calls JK "suave and virile". ) ;->
  • JK was an international investor in 1975, but he still "Love'd" acting
  • JK got back down to business in 1978. But, he still had time to watch some TV--and guess what show he loved to watch? (You probably watched it, too--I did! :->)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jack Kelly - "And It's Bart By a Nose..." :)


If you regularly read this blog, you know that I discovered Jack Kelly and started my "Kellection" of memorabilia only this year (2009).

However, there was another Kellection of sorts in my family long before that. In fact, it was in my family before I was.

You see, when my older sister was a teenager in the late 1950's, our step-grandfather gave her an enormous leather-b0und ledger to use as a scrapbook. She covered its lined, white pages with clippings and pictures of her favorite actors.

When my sister grew up and moved away, she left the scrapbook with our family. I remember looking at it as a child and being fascinated mainly by the many horse pictures which decorated the pages. (My sister loved horses, and so do I.)

Earlier this year, I told my sister about my nascent interest in JK. She said she enjoyed watching Maverick as a teenager. However, she admitted that she always liked Bret better than Bart. (I still love her, though. ;->)

After I talked to her, I hauled out the old scrapbook. Yes, there are a lot of Bret/James Garner clippings in there, but JK is also well represented (along with every other TV cowboy of the time). Most of the JK/JG pix were clipped from fan magazines or from the covers of Maverick comic books.

I slid the scrapbook under my computer table and didn't open it again until last night. I wondered if a certain JK pic was in it. But, when I opened the book, I found something else which I hadn't seen before. It was a newspaper clipping, brown with age, tucked right inside the front cover.

There are lots of loose clippings in the scrapbook, because many of them were attached with rubber cement or now-brittle cellophane tape. (I guess those were the days before Elmer's School Glue and invisible tape.) So, that newspaper clipping could have been about any subject.

However, when I picked it up to get a better look, I glimpsed a familiar smile and this headline:


Now, how did I miss this? And--yee haw!--it's primarily about Bart/JK! Anyway, the story is undated, but since there are local movies listings on the back, I can make an educated guess. The films Some Like it Hot and Disney's Sleeping Beauty were among those playing, so I would say this story comes from some time in 1959.

I scanned and enlarged the JK pic from the story and posted it above. That's about as good as I could do with a 50 year-old newspaper photo, but I don't think I've seen that Bart pose before, and you can still see those marvelous eyes and that rougish smile. :)

Now, without further ado, here's Part I of the story, by Phyllis Battelle:

"NEW YORK - The TV brothers, Bret and Bart Maverick, are meant to be as alike as two peas in a shooter. That's the way their writers look at them--as completely interchangeable, with equal humor, agility with cards and women, and a like larceny in their gentle souls.

The viewers don't see them that way at all. Nor does Jack Kelly, the long, lean, likeable actor who plays Bart.

'Basically, both Mavericks are great guys,' Jack says, 'and any week the scripts could be switched on us and it'd come out all right. But there's a subtle element of difference in Jim (Garner) and me. And it's given us a fabulously partisan audience.

'Some viewers are all out for Jim as Bret and wish he were doing the lead every Sunday. Others, thank goodness, like Bart. If there's an edge,' he put in modestly, 'Jim must still have it.'

The reason Garner, as Bret, still has an edge (it's estimated at 1100 fan letters for Garner to 1000 for Kelly) is that he starred in six straight episodes before Warner Brothers hired him a brother. But Kelly is moving up fast, may be the choice before you can say 'Trendex'."


Monday, December 28, 2009

Jack Kelly - A Bunch of Google Goodies! :)


I've gathered a bunch of JK goodies from the annals of Google News (it seems like there's a lot more free stuff here than there used to be):

UPDATE (5/31/20): The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel articles were removed from the Google News archive again. Articles from the MSJ --but only from 1990 to the present--are now accessible only with a library card from the Milwaukee Public Library. :( 

UPDATE (7/9/18): Good news! The links below to articles from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel have been reactivated after the paper suddenly pulled its archival articles from Google News in 2016. Hopefully, the links will remain active for a while. Here is a very thoughtful commentary about the importance of online archival material to researchers, bloggers and readers.
  • Yikes! JK needed a vacation in 1960.
  • Even so, he still wanted to do some stage work. (Lots of info about JK's early stage career here.)
  • Here's another fun story from 1962 that gives a glimpse into JK's life right after Maverick. (I love the little caricature of JK, even if it does look a bit more like Hank Williams Sr. ;->) And, JK finally got to do that stage work. I also admire this quote: "I loved playing the part [Bart Maverick], but there comes a time when you have to step out into the deep end and find out if you can swim." (I think that's wise advice for any career.)
  • An ad for something called "Shoot In at NBC". It's a Bob Hope comedy special. Apparently, it was the comics (like Buddy Hackett) vs. the cowboys (like JK). Wish this one was on YouTube!
  • Now, here's a story from 1968 that has JK navigating through choppy post-Maverick waters. The writer seems to think JK might sink--but he manages to stay afloat! :) And, he's surprisingly candid about his place on the Maverick series and James Garner...
Coming next: A JK story I didn't find on Google. In fact, it's from a Kellection that was started before I was even born! And, it was only a few feet away from my computer all this time. STAY TUNED.... :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Barta Claus Strikes Again? :)


I just found this cute poem. It was written in 1959, back in the heyday of TV westerns. Notice who's in the driver's seat. Although it doesn't specify which Maverick is piloting the sleigh (er, stage), we all know who it is. ;->


" 'Twas the night before
And all was serene
Not a cowboy was stirring
On our TV screen.
A lasso was hung by the
chimney with care
In hopes that Saint Nick
would be caught in its

"Young Junior was lying
Secure in his bed
With guns by his side
And a spear by his head;
Then he soon fell asleep in
his fortress supreme
And the heroes he worshiped
came to life in his dream.

"All at once from the lawn
There arose such a clatter,
Junior grabbed both his guns
To look into the matter.
In the dark all he saw were
some shadows that
So he cried, 'Don't you move
'cause I've got you all

"The moon broke the gloom
And shone down on the
Gave a luster of midday
To the objects below;
His heart pounded wildly,
for Junior saw then
A stagecoach on runners
drawn by eight mounted

"Now who is that driving?
It can't be Saint Nick:
He's tall, and he's wiry-
Why, it's
More rapid than eagles
His coursers they came
And he howled and he
And called them by name.

"Now, Cheyenne, now Sugarfoot,
Lucas McCain;
On, Ringo, On, Zorro.
Wahoo! Bronco Layne.

"So up to the housetop
The cowboys all flew
With the coach full of toys
And Wyatt Earp, too:
And then in a twinkling,
He heard on the roof
The patter and clatter
Of each horse's hoof.

"He ran to the fireplace
And guess what he found-
From the chimney
Marshal Dillon came in with
a bound.
He looked like he had
A big hump on his back
For a bundle of toys
Were all stashed in his pack.
"Junior said, 'Have a drink?'
And he offered a cup;
Matt Dillon was willin'
So he answered, 'Yup!'

"And then all at once
All the rest came in view.
The heaven sent seven
And Maverick, too.
They spoke not a word
But went right to their task
And filled all the stockings.
What more could one ask?

"There were Bowie knives,
Shotguns and bullets galore,
Enough ammunition
To start a new war.
Some real cowboy boots
And some real wild Western clothes
And when they were through
Up the flue they all rose.

"They sprang on their
And before you could say
'A word from the sponsor'
They went that-away.
But he heard them exclaim
As they rode out of sight
'Those guns are to play with
So peace, and good night'."

--Sid Kuller (1959)