Monday, April 20, 2015

MAVERICK Mondays: "The Spanish Dancer" (1958)







MAVERICK Mondays: Number 15







MAVERICK: "The Spanish Dancer" (1958 Warner Brothers/ABC-TV) Starring Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick, Richard Long as Gentleman Jack Darby, Adele Mara as Elena Grande, Robert Bray as John Wilson, Tony Romano as Raoul Onate, Slim Pickens as Jed, Ben Morris as Harry, Mark Tapscott as Charlie, John Mitchum as Miner.  Directed by James V. Kern.  Teleplay by Robert Schaefer, Eric Freiwald and Robert Smith; Story by Edward Seabrook, Homer McCoy and Oscar Millard.


Dancer Elena Grande arrives to provide entertainment at the New Mexico mining town where Maverick and Darby have teamed to auction supplies to the prospectors.  The temporary salesmen both take a shine to Grande, while she cuts a deal to perform at the saloon owned by a third potential suitor, Wilson.  Miss Grande holds a grudge against gringos and prefers to keep the business arrangement platonic (she's raising the money to build her own cantina), but gringos Wilson, Maverick and Darby are undeterred--they all continue attempting to woo her.


In an effort to eliminate his competition, Wilson makes a $5,000 offer for the entire wagon of supplies.  That offer rejected, Wilson next attempts to bankrupt Maverick in a poker game--another failure that ends with Bart and Darby gaining control of Wilson's Blue Rock Mine.  When that mine turns out to be flooded, Wilson appears to have the last laugh--and Maverick's troubles deepen when Darby mysteriously disappears after publicly brawling with his business partner over Elena.


The Spanish Dancer is yet another winner from the landmark second season of MAVERICK.  Six writers collaborated on this twisting tale, which was re-worked as an episode of THE ALASKANS a season later (with future MAVERICK Roger Moore taking the Kelly role).


Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s availability to play Dandy Jim Buckley became limited after 77 SUNSET STRIP premiered--in fact, he made his final MAVERICK appearance (Shady Deal at Sunny Acres) the month before The Spanish Dancer aired.  In anticipation of the inevitable, Richard Long was introduced as Gentleman Jack Darby, becoming the first and most popular in a long line of Buckley surrogates.


Gentleman Jack's debut, Alias Bart Maverick, established Darby as essentially the same character as Buckley: assuming Bart's identity to escape reward seekers.  It was a script that probably was could have been written for Dandy Jim and Bret and filmed with Bart and Darby by changing only the names.  After briefly (his cameo lasts 20 seconds) assisting Bart in Denver during the Shady Deal, Long is able to establish his own identity as Gentleman Jack in The Spanish Dancer.


Darby's romantic interest in Grande (and stated weakness for the titular "type" in general) is unique to his character--Buckley's mind was always on the money.   Much more honorable in this return trip, Jack Darby is Bart's amicable business partner here, with their friendly cooperation in a remote mining town recalling Bart's arrangement with Buckley in High Card Hangs.  At least, they're completely friendly until Elena's arrival.  Long was popular enough in the role to be the only recurring foil from the Huggins Era to remain after Coles Trapnell took over as producer for the third season (returning for The Goose-Drownder).


The Spanish Dancer was the only series appearance for Bray (LASSIE), who comes across as more of a sore loser than a powerful bully.  Bray's an acceptable adversary, but the real standout in the guest cast is Mrs. Huggins herself, Adele Mara.  Elena Grande is the most intriguing of her MAVERICK characters, and she gets a better showcase for her formidable dancing talents than she had in Seed of Deception.


The episode was the first of three MAVERICKs for both Slim Pickens (amusingly the Judge in the camp's court) and director James V. Kern, who excels at staging Bart's fistfights with Darby and his muddy wrestling match with Wilson.  Kern makes other visually interesting choices (i.e. bookending the episode with Mara's dancing silhouette).  The director would get his chance to stage a deception utilizing both Maverick brothers in the very next outing, Game of Chance.


HOW'D BART DO AT POKER?

A full house beats a flush, and gives him a $5,000 pot in the only hand we see.


WISDOM FROM PAPPY?

No wise fatherly advice this time around, though Bart has a line worthy of Pappy.  "Money can't buy you friends. Money can't buy you happiness. Money can't buy you peace of mind. Confederate money, that is."


THE BOTTOM LINE:

Nicely developed con game almost rivals the aforementioned Shady Deal at Sunny Acres.  As it is, The Spanish Dancer is more than entertaining enough, keeping the audience guessing about Elena Grande's affections to the literally explosive denouement, which stands as one of the series' most memorable.  Bret and Dandy Jim aren't missed--Bart and Gentleman Jack handle this intriguing tale nicely without them, with the always stunning Mara in good support and Pickens providing some extra laughs.  (***1/2 out of four)

Gratuitous pic of Adele.  You knew this was coming.

MAVERICK currently airs Monday through Friday at 1 PM Central/2 PM Eastern without commercial interruption on Encore Westerns, and every Sunday night at 10 PM Central/11 PM Eastern on COZI TV.


13 comments:

Kim said...

I think my one issue with the Spanish Dancer is Elena's "change of heart" kind of comes out of nowhere. Even if they were trying to fool the audience too, I think I should of had an aha moment but I didn't and I am left confused a bit. I guess it comes after her talk with Bart but I wish the episode was clearer about this.

In contrast the part with Bart and Darby was really well done. I knew they were up to something but I didn't know what.

Anyways I like Darby but I always wish he had an episode like "Jail at Junction Flats" which was really just Bret and Dandy. In all of Darby's episodes there is so much else going on that I feel his character isn't given enough time to truly establish himself (although Richard Long's portrayal is highly enjoyable).

I love Bret, but Bart is my favorite so I never miss Bret in a solo Bart episode.

Hal Horn said...

Hi, Kim, and thanks for reading and commenting!

After repeat viewings:
I think that Elena was in on the scam with Bart and Darby from the beginning (after Wilson tricked them with the flooded well). Mara's line to Bart after the fight with Darby (like it, conveniently in front of the entire camp) seemed just a tad phony seeing it again. This would also fit with her intentionally delivering false information about Bart's late night "delivery" to the well at exactly the right moment for the Spanish speaking man to hear.

Just my best guess, and only after a a few more viewings. I couldn't think of another way to do it and keep the audience guessing, anyway. :)

I really appreciate Jack Kelly's work on the show myself.

Max Allan Collins said...

Another great write-up. A really strong Bart episode. I haven't watched much of the last two seasons (though saw them as a kid) and would love a list of particularly strong episodes from the post-Bret period.

Hal Horn said...

Thanks Max!

Obviously I'll be getting to them all eventually, but I'll say that Season 5 is stronger than S. 4 IMO, probably because only 13 episodes were produced and the script quality was much more consistent. From S. 5: A Technical Error, The Golden Fleecing, Dade City Dodge & The Maverick Report are my top 4, but really there's only a couple of outright duds IMO.
S. 4: Hadley's Hunters, Triple Indemnity (Peter Breck's debut as Doc Holliday), Last Wire from Stop Gap & Dodge City or Bust would be my picks, with Family Pride and Bold Fenian Men being good Beau eps. S. 4 is the weakest season IMO.

Max Allan Collins said...

Thanks so much for that. I'm writing a western novel right now and am immersing myself in western TV and movies to build the mood.

Kim said...

I guess I will have to rewatch Spanish Dancer one of these days to see if there was something I missed. :)

As for season 4 other episodes I enjoy are the two parter the Devil's Necklace, the Maverick Line (although that has Bret) and the Witch of Hound Dog (although that one is quite silly so your mileage may vary) but I agree that season 5 is the superior later season.

Anyways I am a new Maverick fan but have gotten really into it so I was very happy to see a blog that actually reviews episodes.




Hal Horn said...

Max: Cool. I hope to read it when its finished. :) More Mavericks and Hondos coming up here. F Troop too.

Kim: Glad you're getting into Maverick; it's one of my faves. I like Witch of Hound Dog w/Anita Sands also; Kelly started getting more comedy after Garner's departure (Arizona Black Maria is another S.4 ep with a lot of offbeat humor).

I don't think you missed anything, btw. I think the audience was purposely kept in the dark for the 'reveal'; of course what that would mean is that Darby was being a really good sport to go along with this scheme after Elena informed him her choice was Bart--but then, Darby did have his chunk of that mine as a consolation prize. :) Fun to mull over all the possibilities. Thanks again for reading and I am going to get some S. 5 and S. 4 up in the near future too.

Max Allan Collins said...

The western novel I'm working on is a sequel to a book that's coming out from Kensington in about a week -- THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK -- developed from an unproduced 1950s screenplay Mickey Spillane wrote for his friend John Wayne. I am very much operating in a late 1950s TV/movie western world.

Are you aware that I wrote the novelization of the MAVERICK movie? As a kid, MAVERICK was my favorite show and I relished the opportunity, though I frankly thought the Goldman script was surprisingly disappointing. While I worked on it, my wife and I watched two or three MAVERICK episodes each evening (the Columbia House VHS tapes) and I took notes of Pappyisms that I sprinkled through the book. I also gradually inserted every line of the theme song, and had Bret narrate the story, using first-person throughout (a rarity for a movie novel). I mention Bart and a number of the recurring characters from the series. The only thing I really liked about the movie was the ending (which I had predicted just knowing Garner was in the film) but I think I wrote a pretty fair MAVERICK novel. Certainly it was clearly a tribute to my favorite show.

Kim said...

Sorry to butt in but that is really cool about the novelization. I still have not watched the 1994 movie, not a big fan of Mel Gibson and I know it is going to annoy me that they don't even mention Bart in the movie (so I like that you did in your novel). I may look into getting it through ILL.

I would love if the series could of had novels (like the Star Trek ones) but I guess it wasn't quite popular enough for that. Although there were some comics.

Hal Horn said...

Max:
I didn't know that before (that you wrote the tie-in novel for the Maverick movie) but I'm glad to find it out! Haven't read any of the comics, or even the "guide to poker" that came out while the original series was on either; but just ordered it on Amazon and will be checking it out! I thought the '94 movie was a bit of a letdown too; I agree--I think it was a little more of a Mel Gibson vehicle than a true Maverick feature.

I still have my VHS tapes of the complete Columbia House run too; was disappointed at the lack of Bart solo eps. :(

The Gibson feature was still better than how Bart was treated in that Kenny Rogers/Gambler movie in '91. As if either Maverick brother would have lost to Grady Hawkes....

Hal Horn said...

Brady Hawkes, I mean. Hit the wrong key.

Max Allan Collins said...

I bought the comics when the show as first airing. Some of them are based on episodes.

POKER ACCORDING TO MAVERICK is a great book, possibly by Huggins.

There's a young adult book from Whitman, MAVERICK, from Whitman (1959) written by Charles I. Coombs that has a great cover painting of Garner as Bret and wonderful illos by the highly regarded Alex Toth. A pretty good little western, as I recall, though not really very overtly Maverick.

Hal Horn said...

That's the one I was trying to think of--Poker According to Maverick. Regardless, looking forward to reading your novelization of the '94 film. :) I have the F Troop comics, but not the Maverick ones, though I did see the Relic of Fort Tejon one for sale awhile back.