Friday, August 13, 2010


Back on July 15, I paid tribute to the late actress Adele Mara by posting a theory about the three characters she played on 'Maverick'. (And it is three characters - according to the book by Ed Robertson, a trusted source for all things 'Maverick', she was not in "You Can't Beat The Percentage".) Since then, I've seen "Seed Of Deception" at the Paley Center For Media and was able to correct some of my earlier statements. (Mainly, I had pegged Myron Healey's character of Jim Mundy as June Mundy's father. Instead, Jim Mundy was passing himself off asher cousin, but in fact Adele Mara's character was really named June Collins and she was Mundy's lover.)

Having now seen all three episodes, I can now firm up my thoughts on their connections through her......

It's only been in the last thirty years, since 'Hill Street Blues' at least, that TV series have become less episodic and instead installed storylines that carried throughout the season, perhaps even through the whole series. And that means those series need to be seen in sequence in order for their overall arcs to make sense.

In the old days, there was just a general premise, and so it didn't matter if you showed episodes out of sequence once a series made it to syndication. And that holds true for 'Maverick'.

The three episodes in which Adele Mara appeared were broadcast in this order:

Seed of Deception
April 13, 1958

The Spanish Dancer
December 14, 1958

The Marquessa
January 3, 1960

But it's my contention that they are to be placed on the Toobworld timeline in the opposite order. When she was passing herself off as the Marquesa Luisa (which as it turned out, she really was - “Ruisenor” is Spanish for “Nightingale”), she was under the sway of the con man Manuel Ortiz. (He and his partners found her working as Lily Nightingale at the Silver Lode Saloon in Tombstone.) But thanks to Bart, she was able to break free of his influence and be herself - whoever that may have been. And she was a quick study of the con - she was able to get $5,000.00 out of Bart just before the cantina in contention burned down. Lily/Luisa planned to go back to Tombstone and use that $5,000.00 to buy into the Silver Lode Saloon. And although it seemed as though she and Bart were kind of sweet on each other when they parted at the end of ‘The Marquesa’, it looks as though they lost contact with each other - if we’re to assume Lily/Luisa and Elena Grande were the same person. (Bart would next meet Elena in the episode “The Spanish Dancer”.) There was a major change in the personality of Elena, if we are to believe that she was Lily/Luisa. And I think the episode gives us the basics to build a splainin not only for why she was now known as Elena Grande, why she was so angry, and why she had a new backstory, but also why she didn’t recognize Bart at first.

When she finally told Bart her story as to why she hated the “gringo”, Elena revealed her true background - her real name was Elena de Galindas and her family’s lands had been stolen by the Americanos. Her father and her older brother had been killed, and they weren’t even given the decency of burial on their own property. Bart guessed that this all happened when she was about ten years old, but I’m thinking it was even earlier - when she was four, about the same age as Luisa Ruisenor when she was supposedly left an orphan after the burning of her hacienda.

As Rod Roddy used to say in the opening narration for ‘Soap’, “Confused?” Hopefully you won’t be, once we take a look at the backstory of Adele Mara’s character of Luisa.

Luisa Ruisenor’s family had been given a land grant for that area near the border many generations ago, granted to the original Marquesa (who bore an amazing likeness to Luisa). It remained in the family, parcelled out to second sons and the like, to keep it all in the family. And one of those neighboring ranches belonged to such cousins, the de Galindas family.

The de Galindas family was driven off their lands and the father killed; the Ruisenors died in the fire that destroyed their hacienda.... It had to be a naked land grab by unscrupulous Texan ranchers.

So now to resolve the question of her identity: was she Luisa or Elena? Toobworld Central is going to claim a little of both.

Luisa Ruisenor and Elena de Galindas were cousins - identical cousins. They looked alike, they walked alike, they even laughed and talked alike. And they were best friends, often staying over at each other’s home. And that’s what happened the night of the fire - Elena was enjoying a sleep-over at the Ruisenor ranch. But if the attack on the de Galindas ranch happened that same night, then there was no one left alive who knew the truth. Save for the old nurse, but she must have come to the wrong conclusion when the horrible truth was learned - the only survivor of the fire was one small toddler, a girl. And everybody assumed it was Luisa Ruisenor.

According to the episode, that little girl was then raised in an orphanage run by nuns until she ran off to become a dancer under the name of Lily Nightingale. And all of her memories from when she was a little girl, which were already overshadowed by the spectre of the fire, were buried deeply in her subconscious. When they finally came back to the surface, coached along by Manuel Ortiz and Bufemia the nurse and, under the threats from Pepe, she came to believe that she was Luisa.But she was Elena de Galindas. She grew up knowing the same nursery rhymes, the same fairy stories as her identical cousin. It wouldn’t be so unbelievable, after the trauma of the fire and the guilt because she survived, that she would come to think that she was Luisa.

Somehow she must have learned the truth when she returned to Tombstone. Perhaps one of the patrons of the Silver Lode Saloon, someone who knew both girls when they were toddlers, recognized some physical feature that could only be found on Elena, and not Luisa.

And this person would have also been able to tell her the truth about her family, and how they died. From that point, Elena was filled with hatred for the “gringos” and with a desire to reclaim what was rightfully hers. Perhaps subconsciously she wanted nothing to do with the claim on the Ruisenor land grant because she knew she was not Luisa. But as Elena, she had a God-given right to the de Galindas estates.

So full of the rage and desire for revenge was she, and with her newly restored memories as Elena, everything she knew from her brief “life” as Luisa was overwhelmed and forgotten - including knowledge of Bart Maverick. This is why she didn’t remember him when she met him again on the road to the Riverhead mining camp in the Sacramento mountains of New Mexico. As to why Bart didn’t remember her at first? Those Maverick boys worked their way through a lot of the women in the wild wild West. If they were going to remember the details when they counted cards, something had to give - like memories of past conquests.....

I imagine that in one of those scenes which the Trueniverse audience never gets to see, Bart and Elena realized that they knew each other during their trip to the mining camp of Riverhead. For whatever reason, they decided to play it as if they had just met and so Bart always addressed her as Elena. Not that it mattered - Elena's anger towards the Americanos now spilled over to Bart as well.

(If you ever get the chance, check out the episode "The Spanish Dancer"; it's the best of the three for Adele Mara. The highlight is the dance in which her anger seethes through her choreography.)

But she decided to throw in with his plan, along with Gentleman Jack Darby, to fleece Riverhead camp boss John Wilson into draining the Blue Rock Mine for them, a flooded mine he lost to Maverick in a poker game. Elena would get an equal third in any profits after their ruse worked. But when Wilson tried to turn the tables on them, it only made them richer - his detonation of the dam brought quartz gold to the surface, which was supposedly worth far more. Now Elena was rich enough to buy back her family's ranchlands and re-establish the de Galindas family name. And once again, Bart lost touch with her, even though their attraction to each other was now more pronounced. And with Bart out of her love life, Elena turned to a rancher near Bonita, California, for her needs.

Since he lost contact with her, there was no way for Bart to know that somehow Elena didn't have enough to get that ranch back, and therefore she had to go along with Jim Mundy's scheme to rob the bank in Bonita - and just her luck, she ran into Bart Maverick a third time. And to make matters worse - his brother Bret was in town as well. When Bart saw "June Mundy" arrive on the stage in the town of Bonita, he introduced himself to her in such a way as to suggest there was no history between them... just in case she wanted to play it on the "down-low". Referring to her careers as a dancer, Bart told her that he thought he saw her perform in Abilene. "Abilene" may have been a pre-arranged code word between them, since that's where her former partner's brother shared a jail cell with Maverick's "friend" Nobby Ned Wingate.

But as I said, some time had passed since the last time they saw each other. Now going by the name June Collins (perhaps because it was more socially acceptable among the mostly white population in those border towns), the dancer understood the sub-text of Bart's greeting/warning. But Elena still decided the gamble was worth it. In that intervening time period, she may have become more jaded, more hardened, and saw that Jim Mundy's plan to rob the bank was her only way to achieve her goal of reclaiming the de Galindas' ranch.

Even though she carried through with her part of the plan (by dancing in the bar across the street in such a way that the hootin' and hollerin' of the cowboys would drown out the sounds of the bank break-in) "June" wasn't so cold-hearted that she would allow anything to happen to Bart. She even tried to warn him away, as well as plead with her co-conspirators not to hurt him when they thought he heard what was going on from his hotel room next door.

After that misadventure in Bonita, we never saw any characters in 'Maverick' who looked like Adele Mara, even though she was the boss' wife (married to the series producer/creator Roy Huggins), and that's because June Collins - the former Elena de Galindas, the former Elena Grande, the former Doña Luisa de Ruisenor, the former Lily Nightingale - was serving a prison sentence in California.....

As to the roles played by Adele Mara in other Westerns, it may well be that June/Elena/Luis had identical cousins. If I can ever track down those episodes*, I'll see if they can fit into this general theory. The idea I'm toying with now is that she was offered a pardon by the Governor - maybe even the President! - if in return she worked for the government as an undercover agent. I'd even bring in Artemus Gordon as her tutor!

But like I said, it will depend on other episodes I find.......

BCnU! * And after writing that in the morning, I saw two of her 'Cheyenne' episodes in the afternoon, courtesy of Netflix online. Although I could make the case for both of them being part of this same scenario, acting as bookends as a matter of fact, I think I'll save that for another post.......

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