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THE most entertaining episode of "Maverick" ever made, and that's saying a whole bunch. Brother Bret (James Garner) gets fleeced by John Dehner and summons just about every marvelous, larcenous Warner Brother's stock character actor who ever appeared on the show to implement an elaborate scheme to get his money back. Throughout the entire program, all Bret does is rock on a rocking chair on his front porch and whittle. Whenever the townsfolk stop by to inquire on his progress, he simply says, "I'm workin' on it." In the meantime, a rogues' gallery of, well, rogues, initiate a convoluted scam worthy of "The Sting" to con the con artist out of the money he stole from Bret. Dandy Jim Buckley (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.), Gentleman Jack Darby (Richard Long), Big Mike McComb (Leo Gordon), Samantha Crawford (Diane Brewster), and, of course, Brother Bart (Jack Kelly) are all in town for this one. How did they forget Peter Breck and Andrew Duggan?? Best of all, it's available on DVD! And it holds up as if time has stood still.
Despite the fact this was my first look in many, many years at the old
Maverick television show, I always remembered that line and darned if
it didn't pop up in this episode. The villain, played by John Dehner,
used it here several times.
First of all, though, wow - what a shock to see such a young-looking James Garner, star of the show. I saw the 1994 film and Mel Gibson was a great substitute for Garner (who had a cameo in the film.) Gibson pretty much looked like the latter looked back in the late 1950s, the greatest period for TV westerns.
This episode has poor Brett Maverick getting swindled right off the bat by a crooked bank employee named "Bates," the guy played by Dehner.
The story is how Brett gets his $15,000 back. None of this episode has any gun-play or violence; it's all Maverick - with help from family and friends - getting justice. This is pure humor, not an episode featuring a lot of adventure. That was Maverick, a guy who used his brains and humor better than his fists or guns.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I loved this episode as a kid in 1958, and I still do after watching it
numerous times as an adult. James Garner's genius for comedy has never
been better displayed. He spends most of his time sitting and rocking,
so his humor must depend solely on his talk and facial expressions,
unadulterated by physical action (Jim's humor has always been
essentially nonphysical, even though there's lots of action in his
series). Watching and listening to him as he sunnily responds to the
bemused town folk of Sunny Acres is simply priceless.
That the writers could pack this smoothly flowing, clever, funny and complicated plot -- a precursor to The Sting -- into 50 minutes is amazing, especially given the number of characters involved. Of course, many were already familiar to viewers of the series, so there was no need to spend time "explaining" them. We already knew that Samantha Crawford, Dandy Jim Buckley and Gentleman Jack Darby (and for that matter, Jack's girlfriend, the beautiful Cindy Lou Brown) were always ready and eager to pull off a swindle at a moment's notice.
Indeed, what's most astonishing is that this group of crooks could all be induced to work together to help Bret recover his stolen money, by cooperating in a complicated con of the thief. After all, Bret's (and Bart's, for that matter) many prior encounters with each of these lovable scoundrels were always problematic to say the least, as each managed to pick one or both brothers' pockets numerous times. Moreover, Bret's relationship with Dandy Jim was never anything but acrimonious. Even though in a strange, wary way they and the Mavericks all seemed to like each other, one would have assumed from this bunch's past behavior that, when brought together by Bart to pull off this sting of the dishonest banker, John Bates, each of them would immediately have begun scheming to use it as an opportunity to con Bret and/or Bart once again, or to con each other somehow, or both. (True to form, Samantha does try this a little, and one can only imagine what Bart had to do to induce the amoral Dandy Jim to play his part "honestly".) Aside from Bart, the only remotely trustworthy participant in the sting is Big Mike McComb. Perhaps it was a matter of honor among thieves, or that, while OK for each of them regularly to swindle the Mavericks on his or her own, heaven help an outsider like Bates who dares to try it.
This episode, and others like it in which wit and not outdoor action carried the day, were what made Maverick such a great, groundbreaking show.
Pure Maverick. If this one didn't establish the series' cult following,
I don't know what did. it's an all-star line-up of favorite con-men and
women, from brother Bart to Dandy Jim to Gentleman Jack to sly
Samantha, with shambling muscle-man Leo Gordon for good measure.
Somehow, I expected a curtain call instead of the usual credit crawl.
Of course, these characters, colorful as they are, would be no more
than ornamentation without a good story.
And a good story it is. Banker Bates (John Dehner) has stolen $15,000 from Bret and hamstrung any legal way of getting the money back. Since Bret can't get the money back by fair means, there's always the foul. And of course in the best Maverick tradition that means outwitting your opponent instead of shooting or clubbing him in the custom of the day.
So what does Bret do. He leans back on a Main Street chair and whittles. All day, every day. It seems the townsfolk get curious as to how such a casual attitude and inert posture can possibly win back his money, to which Bret answers with a grin, "I'm working on it." And indeed he is. Because as we know, but the town folks don't-- this great cast is not assembled for nothing.
The script is from writer Marion Hargrove and producer-writer Roy Huggins who began his career as a screenwriter. In fact, many of the best of these early scripts come from their collaboration and this one is no exception. It's a great episode all the way from the clever title to the gratifying conclusion. And as we all end up finding out, Bret is indeed working on it.
This has to be one of the greatest TV episodes of all time, ranking with "Sweet Prince of Delancey Street" ( Naked City), "Fly Away Home"(Route 66) "All The Time In the World"( The Twilight Zone-in fact, I can list about seven Twilight Zones on That list) "Who Do you kill", (East Side/West Side), the "Turkey episode" in WKRP, The finale of M.A.S.H, a few Lost's, "Opie The Bridman" and about a dozen others. In it ,Bret has his revenge on a crooked, greedy banker, played by the superb John Dehner, by enlisting ALL of the other con artists in a perfect scam. Dehner, whose character is no fool, almost catches on at one point, but his greed and vanity defeat his intelligence. Hilarious, fast-paced and acted brilliantly by the whole cast.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the all-time-best episodes of the hit show, "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" tells the story of how Bret is cheated by a small town banker and gets his $15,000 back. For most of the episode Bret sits outside the hotel whittling and telling people, "I'm working on it." Meanwhile, Brother Bart rides into town and convinces the banker that he has a sure-fire scheme to make a bundle of money. Banker Bates, played brilliantly by John Denher, is taken in completely and, and after an audit suggested by Bret, ends up in jail when the bank's funds turn up $15,000 shy. As Bret leaves town everybody turns to look at the rocking chair Bret had been sitting in and trying to figure out how he did it. I remember watching this when it first aired and it has always been my favorite episode.
Unfortunately the information on Joan Young who plays Susan Granville
is totally wrong. The bio has her being born in 1903. This episode from
1959 has her at about twenty!! Obviously a different person.
I have written IMDb but have been ignored.
This episode, and Waco Williams are my all time favorite Mavericks. "You sure he can count all the way to ten, Colonel?"
Wonderful ENCORE TV is now showing all the Mavericks in order, every day at 6PM. DON"T MISS A ONE!
Now all we have to do is wait for them to come out on DVD.
Plys all the other Warner Bros TV shows from the fifties.
"I'm working on it!," Bret insists 10 times as Brother Bart, Dandy Jim Buckley, Gentleman Jack Darby, Big Mike McComb, Samantha Crawford and Cindy Lou Brown join him in a sting operation against an unscrupulous banker. The whole gang is here, and this episode is a favorite among Maverick fans. Bret ensures the townspeople that he will get his $15,000 back. Bart arrives on the stagecoach using the name "Mansfield" and initiates a scheme involving worthless stock. Samantha does her part, and Bart gives her a kiss. Ironically, the banker asks, "If you can't trust your banker, who can you trust?" Someone asks Bret if whittling is his hobby, and he replies, "No. Money is." The Mavericks may not drink, but they do light up an occasional cigar. Produced by Roy Huggins. Story by Douglas Heyes.
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