"The Day They Hanged Bret Maverick" was the first episode of Maverick's second season, and marked the first use of Paul Francis Webster's familiar lyrics for the show's iconic theme song:
Who is the tall, dark stranger there?
Maverick is the name.
Riding the trail to who-knows-where.
Luck is his companion, gambling is his game.
Smooth as a handle on a gun.
Maverick is the name.
Wild as the wind in Oregon,
Blowing up a canyon, easier to tame.
Riverboat, ring your bell. Fare thee well, Annabelle.
Luck is the lady that he loves the best.
Natchez to New Orleans, living on jacks and queens,
Maverick is the legend of the West.
As familiar as the lyrics have become, it is surprising now to look back and realize that the entire first season only gave us only instrumental versions of the Maverick theme. This episode's rendition was a rather pokey version, simulating the clip-clop percussion of a trotting horse, but it established a major element of not only Maverick lore, but of the Maverick lifestyle.
Another interesting element of the episode is Bret Maverick's grave marker, which appears to give us the date of his birth. The date of April 7 was selected, based on James Garner's own birthday. At the time of the filming of the episode, Garner had just turned 30, so the writers projected back from 1876 to arrive at 1847 for the year of Bret's birth, suggesting he was 29 — at least to the townsfolk of Hallelujah. Neither the day nor the year can be correct, however, for reasons discussed in Wild Cards. The date of Bret's hanging, September 21, was based on the scheduled date of the episode's first airing, September 21, 1958.
Season 2, Episode 28
September 21, 1958
WRITER & DIRECTOR
Emile Avery (uncredited)
Director of Photography
Supervising Film Editor
01. All credits, unless otherwise noted: Maverick, The Day They Hanged Bret Maverick (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
02. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails
03. Robertson, Ed, Maverick: Legend of the West (1994), Pomegranate Press
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