Wednesday, August 27, 2014


As we've been doing all month, we're looking at the movie "Maverick" and its place in the TV Universe rather than in the Cineverse, all in memory of James Garner.

With all of the poker players we've connected to other TV Westerns, it's nice to finally be able to claim one was actually from the parent series of 'Maverick'.

[played by Leo Gordon]

To look at him, one might think Big Mike McComb was good for nothing more than hired muscle when it came to con games.  But the burly Irishman was adept at thinking on his feet and putting a little finesse into any game of poker in which he took part.

Big Mike was the first of Bret Maverick's "friends" whom we met - right from the very beginning in the "pilot"* episode of "War Of The Silver Kings".

Here is the rundown of the 'Maverick' episodes in which Big Mike McComb appeared:

- War of the Silver Kings (1957) 

- According to Hoyle (1957)

- Plunder of Paradise (1958)

- Shady Deal at Sunny Acres (1958)

- The Strange Journey of Jenny Hill (1959) 

Of the others, the most important entry would be "Shady Deal At Sunny Acres" in which Bret's friends (and his brother Bart) rallied to Bret's aid when he needed to put one over on the crooked banker in town.  Big Mike showed up as did Miss Samantha Crawford, Dandy Jim Buckley, Gentleman Jack Darby, and the aforementioned Bart Maverick.

So I'm quite comfortable in claiming that Big Mike McComb was the poker player portrayed by Leo Gordon at the Crystal Palace in Crystal River.  He was in the game with Maverick, Mrs. Bransford, Johnny Hardin, Angel and two other men.

But if he was Big Mike McComb, how come there was no recognition or acknowledgement of Bret Maverick Junior when he introduced himself to the other players?  I can only think that there had to have been bad blood between Big Mike and Bret Maverick Senior at some point which led to a falling out.

If this supposed feud happened before Bret Junior was born, Big Mike might not have even known of Junior's existence.  But he probably wasn't in the mood to bring up that he knew his father, especially if it meant having to explain what had happened between Bret Senior and himself.  And why waste that effort when he was just there to play poker?  (If their quarrel happened after Bret Junior was born, the same argument would apply.)  

But there was always the possibility that Big Mike didn't know about Bret Junior's existence and might have figured that this young'un was trading in on Bret Senior's reputation as a gambler.  The Old West of Toobworld was full of gunfighter impersonators, mostly of Doc Holliday.  And once there was even a Charles Dickens impersonator who visited Carson City in Nevada when the real Dickens never even made it past the Mississippi River.  So why not an impersonator of a famous gambler?  (Although it's plain to see that the others at the table never heard of this Bret Maverick.)

But by the time Bret had shown up to play, Big Mike had already met one other impersonator - the kid claiming to be John Wesley Hardin.  Big Mike must have figured that calling out Bret might lead to accusations against "Johnny Hardin"... and who needed that.  Like I said, Big Mike was just there to play poker.

Happy Trails To You!

* Warner Brothers forced the show's creator Roy Huggins to use "War Of The Silver Kings" as the first episode because it was very loosely inspired by a book in the WB library.  That way the studio was able to cheat Huggins out of his monetary due as the creator of 'Maverick'.

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