‘Maverick’ Starring James Garner Makes Series Premiere on This Day in 1957

by Anna Dunn

Maverick starring James Garner made its series premiere on this day in 1957 it aired on ABC and lead an incredibly successful run. The show was a staple in the western genre at the time. The series was created by Roy Huggins. It ran for five seasons

James Garner initially starred as Bret Maverick. Bret Maverick was a poker player traveling around the American frontier. Eight episodes into the first season, the show introduced another key character in the series, Bart Maverick, played by Jack Kelly. From then on out, the two actors would alternate the leading role week to week. They’d occasionally team up for an episode.

Maverick also spawned multiple spinoffs and crossover events since its end.

The show was a part of a wide array of westerns made by Warner Bros. But the show is iconic in part to the performance of the legendary James Garner. When he left the series, ratings took a major hit.

While fans adored Garner on Maverick, his departure from the show was quite intense. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Garner sued the show in 1960. A writer’s strike caused Garner to get suspended from Warner Bros. This lead him to battle with the studio and claim his contract with them void.

The issue actually wound up in court, where James Garner won his case. It was appealed, but the Maverick actor won again.

An attorney Neville Johnson, wrote in the Hollywood Reporter that the legal battles he underwent both with Maverick and in a future battle with Universal were a key part of his legacy.

Garner was far from the first to end up in a legal dispute like this, but he made a major impact by being the first to go public with it. He even spoke to 60 Minutes about the legal battle and in a way, plead his case to the American public.

“As we honor James Garner as a great actor, talent should also tip their hats to him for having the courage to take a risk to see that those fortunate enough to be in productions that achieve real profits get paid them,” Johnson wrote. “Mr. Garner’s legacy is on film and in the lawbooks.”

Garner passed away in 2014 at 86 years old. His role on Maverick defined the historically important western genre for years to come. Not to mention, his dispute with Warner Bros set an important precedent that said actors should be paid their dues from major production companies. That precedent has allowed countless actors to have successful contract disputes.

If you want to watch old episodes of Maverick, the whole series is available on Amazon.