Saturday, August 23, 2014


So we're looking at the movie "Maverick" all this month.  For this particular post, you might as well settle in and get comfortable; we're going to be here a while.....

In the riverboat poker competition, Denver Pyle played the elderly poker player exposed as a cheater who was tossed into the river.

If we wanted to find one of his already established TV Western characters who could have been this poker player, we wouldn't have far to look.  Off the top of my head, it looks like the only Westerns he didn't appear in were 'The Wild, Wild West', 'Alias Smith and Jones', 'The Big Valley' and 'Sugarfoot'.

Just look over this list of only a FEW of the Westerns in which he was a guest star:
  • 'How the West Was Won'
  • 'Dirty Sally' 
  • 'Here Come the Brides'
  • 'The Guns of Will Sonnett' 
  • 'Cimarron Strip' 
  • 'Hondo' 
  • 'The High Chaparral'
  • 'Rawhide'
  • 'The Virginian'
  • 'Maverick'
  • 'Stagecoach West'
  • 'The Tall Man'
  • 'Wrangler'
  • 'Tombstone Territory'
  • 'Hotel de Paree'
  • 'Pony Express'
  • 'Wichita Town'
  • 'Law of the Plainsman'
  • 'Shotgun Slade'
  • 'Jefferson Drum'
  • 'Tales of the Texas Rangers'
  • 'Broken Arrow'
  • 'Man Without a Gun'
  • 'Casey Jones'
 Admit it: your eyes started to glaze over from the sheer volume.

As I said, those were just a "few" of the Westerns in which he acted.  Those were all the shows in which he only played one character, in one episode.

But as with any character actor in high demand, Denver Pyle sometimes came back to play other characters during the course of a show's run, sometimes quite a few more than "just a handful"......

The number in the parenthesis is the number of characters he played in each series:
  • 'Gunsmoke' (14)
  • 'The Range Rider' (14)
  • 'The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp' (10)
  • 'The Gene Autry Show' (10) 
  • 'Bonanza' (8)
  • 'Death Valley Days' (7)
  • 'Have Gun - Will Travel' (7) 
  • 'Zane Grey Theater' (7) 
  • 'The Lone Ranger' (7)
  • 'The Adventures of Kit Carson' (7) 
  • 'Laramie' (5)
  • 'The Rifleman' (5) 
  • 'Bronco' (4) 
  • 'The Texan' (4) 
  • 'Cheyenne' (3)
  • 'The Deputy' (2) 
  • 'Bat Masterson' (2)
  • 'Frontier' (2)
  • 'Buffalo Bill, Jr.' (2) 
  • 'Wagon Train' (2) 
  • 'Empire' (2)
  • 'Kung Fu' (2)
  • 'Overland Trail' (2)
  • 'Tales of Wells Fargo' (2) 
  • '26 Men' (2) 
  • 'The Restless Gun' (2)
  • 'Lawman' (2) 
  • 'Hopalong Cassidy' (2) 
  • 'The Cisco Kid' (2) 
  • 'Annie Oakley' (2) 
  • 'The Cisco Kid' (2)
If there was one TV Western which I think would have to be disqualified, it would be 'The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams'.  I just don't see Mad Jack getting all gussied up in fancy go-to-meeting clothes even for the chance to win a big poker stake.

The only thing that might have disqualified any of Denver Pyle's characters from being on that riverboat in the early years of the 20th Century would have been death or a lengthy prison term dictated by the demands of the show's script.

But there were a few characters with names that made me think they might have been right for the elderly poker player:

  • Colonel Celine from 'Have Gun Will Travel'
  • Dr. Henry S. Bland from 'Gunsmoke'
  • Dr. Barnes from 'Annie Oakley'
  • Judge Amos Blunt from 'Hondo'
  • Professor Jerry Roark from 'The Cisco Kid'  (However, considering the episode's title was "Hypnotist Murder", I get this feeling that Professor Roark would not have had the freedom to travel.....
But if there is any one TV Western character played by Denver Pyle who would be my personal favorite to be that poker player, it would be the character he played in "Family Pride", an episode of 'Maverick'.

First off, it's an episode from the show which inspired the movie.  But even more important than that, Denver Pyle was playing Jerry O'Brien.

Once Bret Senior saw who it was, he wouold have had no choice but to accuse the old-timer and throw him off the boat and into the waters below. 

Not that he would have recognized Bret - Jerry O'Brien dealt with Cousin Beau Maverick.  But Bret couldn't take that chance.  So it was off the boat and into the drink for Jerry O'Brien.


"Family Pride" indeed!

We could also look forward and make claims of "relateeveety" for him in which he could have been the forefather of any number of family trees - most especially tempting for Buck Webb of 'The Doris Day Show' and Uncle Jesse of 'The Dukes of Hazzard'.  But there were possibilities with some of his single episode characters as well.  (I'm partial to Uncle George Petrie of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' and Hollywood director Jackson Sidemark from a case handled by 'Perry Mason'.

Happy Trails to you! 


No comments: