Saturday, August 9, 2014


With the various connections I'm making to old TV Westerns via the various poker players in the movie "Maverick", I don't always want to take the easy path.  Sure, I'm going to claim Doug McClure was playing Trampas, and Henry Darrow was playing Manolito, But there were a few actors on board who had a variety of options from which to choose.  (And then there's Denver Pyle, who had a plethora of Western characters who could have been thrown off that riverboat.)

With this post, I'm taking a look at the role played by Robert Fuller.  His character made it to the penultimate round, the last to be trumped by Mrs. Annabelle Bransford.  He was magnanimous about the loss, unlike a few of his rival players, and was very courtly to the woman who vanquished him.  His only regret was that he played out his entire bank and thus had nothing left to tip the dealer.  

Now, the O'Bvious choices would have been to claim that Fuller was playing either Jess Harper of 'Laramie' or Cooper Smith from 'Wagon Train'.  Perhaps he might even have been Kenyon Drummond from two episodes of 'The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr.'.  (Drummond was certainly rich enough to have joined the Big Game.)

Some TV Western aficionados may not remember this, but Robert Fuller played two other roles on 'Wagon Train' before he joined the team as Coop.  And one of those two roles just might fit the bill....

From Wikipedia:

On May 6, 1959, just four months before he joined the new series 'Laramie' on NBC, later 'Wagon Train' costar Robert Fuller appears with Ruta Lee as a happily married young couple in the episode "The Kate Parker Story", with Virginia Grey in the starring role. Fuller as Chris Finley seeks to turn from gambling and become a responsible husband. Evvie, his wife, is seriously injured in a wagon accident. The Finleys contrast strikingly with an older couple on the wagon train, Kate Parker and her husband, Jonas, played by Warren Stevens, who have a loveless marriage. Trapped in snow in the mountains, presumably the Sierra Nevadas, the greedy Jonas leaves the Finleys behind to wait for reinforcements, and he forces the unwilling Kate to drive their wagon. Kate wrecks the wagon and Jonas leaves on foot with her money. Kate is given essential shelter by illiterate mountain man Boone Caulder, played by Royal Dano, whom she finds wise despite his lack of education.

So I'm going to claim that Fuller was playing Chris Finley in "Maverick".  And I don't think it violates the premise promised in the 'Wagon Train' episode.  While Evvie Finley lived, her husband Chris was a man of his word - he foreswore gambling and became a responsible husband, perhaps making his money in retail dry goods out West.

But after she died, Chris Finley had no reason not to resuscitate his old gambling skills, making enough to qualify for entry into the Big Game......

I have to admit, however, I don't really know how that episode of 'Wagon Train' ended for Mr. & Mrs. Finley......


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