Friday, May 14, 2010

Jack Kelly - "I Hated Horses When I Was a Kid" :)

Howdy Everyone!

After reading Jack Kelly's stirring column about the Lone Ranger and Silver, I got to wondering: How did JK really feel about horses himself? We know he rode Sickle, a.k.a. Goldie, and other mounts in Maverick. And, of course, he rode horses in the western films in which he appeared.

So, I did a little digging and found an article from 1960 which reveals how JK felt about horses and some other interesting things, as well:

"TV's Maverick Once Didn't Even Like Horses -
Let Alone Ride Them

by Joe St. Amant,
United Press International, 10/30/1960

Jack Kelly, television's sophisticated easy-in-the-saddle Bart Maverick, talks to his horse these days but there was a time he was not on speaking terms with any of the four-legged critters.

This suave TV gambler with the educated eyebrows [B27 - I love that description!] who looks perfectly at home on a horse in his video shenanigans, was not born to the saddle. He was not raised in the saddle. And the only range he knew as a boy was the kitchen stove at home in Astoria, Long Island.

Between scenes in the shooting of a Maverick episode on the Warner Bros. lot, Kelly came clean on his relationship with horses.

'I hated horses when I was a kid,'
he recalled. 'I was afraid of them.

'When we moved here to Southern California, I used to ride at weekend boys' camps--I don't know whether they have things like that any more--but I never liked it. Then, in 1951, I signed a contract with the old Universal Studio--for about 150 or 200 bucks a week. They had regular classes for young actors in almost anything you can name--including riding and Balinese dancing where you'd have to strike a lot of kookie poses. [B27 - I had to stop here because I was laughing so hard - can you imagine JK dancing like that?] This was the greatest thing that ever happened to me as far as training was concerned. You learned poise. You learned how to cock your head or lift an eyebrow to get an idea across. I do that a lot today in Maverick, if you'll notice. [B27 - Yep!]

'But the riding class--I thought I could do without that. I missed the first two classes and Bob Palmer, head of talent then, called me into his office and told me, 'Listen, young fella, the measure of your success in this business may well be how you can handle a horse. Now get out of here and get your satchel over to the stable.' I got.'

Thus began a great friendship between Kelly and the equine family.

'I really learned to handle a horse," Kelly continued seriously. 'In the first place, I lost my fear. You couldn't hold me then. I wanted to get out there every day and saddle up as soon as possible. The wranglers they had at the studio were great guys. They knew horses, of course. And they taught you how to treat a horse. It was their responsibility to see that the horses were not mistreated. They did a good job on the horses and the students.'

For the past three seasons, Kelly's been grateful for his acquired horsemanship.

'In the situations in Maverick, I could look awfully silly if I didn't know how to handle a horse," he explained. It's getting on and off mostly in the show, and I could look foolish if I didn't know what I was doing.'

But, he isn't about to indulge in any mad gallops down the side of a mountain or any other such breakneck stunts.

'I've got too much at stake," he said. "A broken arm or leg and my career might be wrecked.'

That career is a serious thing with Kelly. In real life, he displays few of the characteristics of the light-hearted drifter, Bart Maverick.

He recently completed a movie for Warner Bros. called A Fever in the Blood. He plays a straight part as a district attorney who exploits the prosecution of a murder case as a lever to try to become governor.

Kelly recently renegotiated with Warner Bros. and signed a seven-year contract covering Maverick and four more movies.

'I got what I wanted,' he said.

Kelly said he does not think movie audiences will identify him with Maverick.

'It doesn't have the stereotyping characteristics that some other westerns have," he explained. "I like doing this show. The stories are usually whimsical. The spirit infiltrates the whole company and turns it into a lot of camaraderie. It helps to make the work easier.'

It's easier in the saddle now, anyway."

JK is tall in the saddle as "Curly Mather" in
Gunsmoke (1953), one of his early Universal westerns.


  1. "Kelly said he does not think movie audiences will identify him with Maverick" -- sadly, none of his movies really clicked with audiences the way Maverick did. He made some good movies and always did a fine job, but his movie career just never seem to catapult him above his Maverick fame. A real shame!

  2. Bartista...Really outdid yourself here...very interesting article!! Thanks! I agree with "Prof. Plum" ...JK somehow never realized how much of an impression his role on "Maverick" made!!! It is sad that he didn't seem to be aware or concerned about his popularity...of course, maybe he just didn't really know? The emphasis was always on James Garner back then.

  3. Jack Kelly was one of Universal Studio's contract players in the early 1950s, but he didn't do just Westerns for them. I remember seeing one of his movies on TV, a 1952 comedy called "Sally and Saint Anne". It was about a large and boisterous family of Irish-American Catholics; Jack played one of the family members, a brother who was an aspiring magician and who used magician references in the movie. :)