HomeEntertainment‘Maverick’: Why Two Different Actors Played the Doc Holliday Character

‘Maverick’: Why Two Different Actors Played the Doc Holliday Character

by Jennifer Shea
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“Maverick” audiences were lucky. They got to sample two different versions of the Doc Holliday character in Season 1 versus Seasons 4 and 5. One was dramatic and one was more comedic.

In Season 1, Episode 12, “The Quick and the Dead,” Gerald Mohr plays Doc Holliday as a hard-bitten, merciless gunman, per IMDb. Douglas Heyes wrote and directed the tense, dramatic episode.

In Season 4, Episode 106, “Triple Indemnity,” Peter Breck portrays Doc Holliday as a somewhat friendlier presence who takes part in various schemes. And in Season 5, Breck became a series regular. He appeared in four of the season’s 13 episodes.

Over the course of the series, Heyes would write only 11 episodes total and direct only 13 episodes. By 1959, he had stepped aside. By the time Seasons 4 and 5 began production, he was out of the picture. That meant someone else from the long list of series directors and the even longer list of series writers scripted and directed those later episodes.

It may well be that with a new team producing the episodes, they wanted a new actor for the role. Perhaps the new writer and director wanted to take the character in a different direction and felt they needed a new face to do that.

‘Maverick’ ‘Broke the Mold’ of Westerns

The series follows two gambler brothers who are constantly getting into scrapes. Bret Maverick (James Garner) is a sharp-witted gambler with a moral compass. His brother Bart Maverick (Jack Kelly) is also a traveling card player who gets into various adventures.

Garner’s episodes reportedly tended more toward the humorous. And the episodes featuring Kelly tended to be more dramatic. However, most episodes were good-natured romps through a Western landscape.

“The genial ‘Maverick’ broke the mold of traditional shoot-em-ups,” TV Guide declared.

James Garner Opened Up About The Series

In a Television Academy interview on Westerns, Garner held forth on the making of the show and how the brothers’ plot device came to be.

“We knew we were going to run out of shows to put on in a couple of months,” he said. “And that’s where they came up with the idea of the brother. So he could do one. I could do one. We could do one together.”

“We had great fun,” Garner said of his time with Kelly. But he said Kelly’s wife kept grousing that Garner was getting all the good scripts and he was getting the bad scripts.

“And what [show creator] Roy Huggins was doing, I think, was giving me the ones with more humor in them, and Jack the straighter scripts,” he explained. “So therefore I was getting a little more recognition.”

“Maverick” did indeed launch Garner’s career. But Bart Maverick remains the role that Kelly is best known for, proving that audiences didn’t have to choose between humor and drama, after all.