Jack Kelly (actor)

John Augustus Kelly Jr. (September 16, 1927 November 7, 1992), best known as Jack Kelly, was an American film and television actor most noted for the role of "Bart Maverick" in the television series Maverick, which ran on ABC from 1957-62.

Jack Kelly
1957 publicity photo announcing Maverick role
John Augustus Kelly Jr.

(1927-09-16)September 16, 1927
DiedNovember 7, 1992(1992-11-07) (aged 65)
OccupationActor, politician
Years active19391992
Spouse(s)May Wynn (m. 195664)
Jo Ann Smith (m. 196992; his death)
ChildrenNicole Kelly
Mayor of Huntington Beach, California
In office

Kelly shared the series, rotating as the lead from week to week, first with James Garner as Bret Maverick (1957–1960) then with Roger Moore as Beau Maverick (1960–1961) and Robert Colbert as Brent Maverick (1961, for two episodes), before becoming the only Maverick (alternating with repeats from the Garner era) in the fifth season.

Kelly later became a politician, having served from 1983 to 1986 as the mayor of Huntington Beach, California.[1]

Early life

John Augustus Kelly Jr.[2][3] was born in Astoria, Queens, New York, one of four children, to Ann Mary (née Walsh) and John Augustus Kelly Sr. "Jackie", as he was called as a child,[4] came from a prominent theatrical family. His mother, Ann "Nan" Kelly, had been a popular stage actress and John Robert Powers model. Kelly Senior was a theater ticket broker, and after he moved the family to Hollywood, entered the real estate business.[5]

His sister, Oscar-nominated actress Nancy Kelly, was a prominent leading lady opposite Spencer Tracy, Tyrone Power, and Henry Fonda among many others across a 36-film span. His other two siblings, Carole and William Clement (July 25, 1934 – April 6, 1983), also tried show business.[6][4] Kelly served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II.


Kelly made his film debut in an uncredited role in the 1939 biopic The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, opposite Don Ameche and Loretta Young. On July 15, 1954, Kelly played the gunfighter, cattleman, and bandit Clay Allison in the syndicated television series Stories of the Century, starring and narrated by Jim Davis.[7]

In 1955-1956 television season, Kelly starred in a series based on the 1942 feature film Kings Row. He played Dr. Parris Mitchell, a young psychiatrist coping with the narrow-minded environment of his small town.

King's Row was one-third of the Warner Bros. Presents wheel series, hosted by Gig Young. It rotated at the scheduled hour of 7:30 Eastern on Tuesday with a similar television version of the popular movie Casablanca as well as the new ABC Western series Cheyenne starring Clint Walker. After the series ended in 1956, Kelly appeared in Forbidden Planet (1956) and She-Devil (1957), along with guest roles on Fireside Theater, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Lux Video Theatre, and Gunsmoke.

Maverick (1957–1962)

The various anti-heroic Mavericks were dapper professional poker-players roaming the Old West with the benefit of superb scripts. The series had an enormous cultural impact during a time when there were only three television networks and most cities had only three TV channels to choose from.

Maverick's demanding filming schedule had caused production to lag behind early on. The producers decided to give Bret Maverick (James Garner) a brother so as not to run out of episodes long before the end of the season. Thus, Kelly was introduced as Bart Maverick in "Hostage!", the eighth episode of the series.

Kelly shared the lead with James Garner in one of the show's most-discussed episodes, "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres", on which the first half of the 1973 movie The Sting appears to be based. The pair also co-starred in the famous "Pappy" episode in which Garner played the brothers' much-quoted father Beauregard "Pappy" Maverick, in addition to his regular role of Bret. Aided by trick photography, Bret and Pappy play cards together in one scene (Kelly had a dual role in the episode as well, playing Bart and elderly Uncle Bentley Maverick). Bart rescued Bret at the climax of "Duel at Sundown", in which Garner first fought guest star Clint Eastwood.

Garner had first choice of which part he would play in the two-brother episodes, which delineated the brothers as "Maverick 1" and "Maverick 2" in the scripts, giving him an enormous advantage. All but one script during the show's first two years were written with Garner in mind regardless of which actor would eventually be cast. Roy Huggins insisted that the writers visualize Garner as Maverick while writing the scripts.

Although the "solo" episodes in which Bart appeared tended to be somewhat more dramatic than the Bret episodes, Kelly displayed his comedic skills in lighter Maverick outings such as "Hadley's Hunters" and "The People's Friend." Kelly actually appeared in more episodes of Maverick than James Garner, who left the show following a contract dispute in 1960. Kelly appeared in 83 episodes; Garner in only 65.

In the wake of Garner's departure, Roger Moore stepped in to play Bart's cousin Beau Maverick in fourteen episodes, sharing the screen with Kelly in three of them, while Robert Colbert appeared in two installments as a third brother named Brent, one of which briefly featured Kelly.

Later career

When Maverick ended in 1962, Kelly continued acting with roles in a number of films and television shows. In 1962, he played the lead in Red Nightmare (also known as The Commies Are Coming, the Commies Are Coming in its derisive 1985 video re-release incarnation) a Cold War film narrated by Jack Webb in which Kelly's character wakes up one morning to discover that America has been taken over by Communists.

On December 30, 1963, Kelly appeared with Barbara Bain in "The Fenton Canaby Story" on ABC's Wagon Train. Canaby is a former trailmaster with a dark secret he refuses to discuss. He is attracted to Lucy Garrison, a young woman with her own questionable past played by Barbara Bain, long before Mission: Impossible!.[8]

Kelly co-starred in Commandos (1968) opposite Lee Van Cleef, and as a villain dressed almost exactly like Bart Maverick in Young Billy Young (1969) with Robert Mitchum. From 1969 to 1971, Kelly hosted the NBC daytime game show Sale of the Century but was eventually replaced by Joe Garagiola. He was also briefly a series regular in Get Christie Love! (1974) and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1978), and performed many lucrative television commercial voice-overs.

In 1977 Kelly appeared as obstreperous villains for a few moments in two episodes of James Garner's series Rockford Files. The first appearance was in the season 3 episode, "The Becker Connection," and the second was the first show of season 4, "Beamer's Last Case" as a jealous husband. In 1978, he briefly appeared as Bart Maverick and was again paired with Garner in the TV-movie The New Maverick and in Garner's TV series Bret Maverick (1981; Kelly appeared momentarily at the end of the final episode of the show and would have become a regular had it been renewed). He showed up on a 1983 episode of The Fall Guy, costumed as Maverick but basically playing himself in a storyline that rounded up many classic TV cowboys. In 1991, he reprised the role of Bart Maverick one last time in the Kenny Rogers vehicle, The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw.

Business and politics

Kelly's acting roles became less frequent in the late 1970s as he became more involved in real estate and local politics. He started buying real estate in Huntington Beach in the mid 1960s and moved there permanently in 1971.[9]

He formed August II, Inc., to hold the real estate assets in June 1965 in Huntington Beach.[10]

His wife, Jo, became a real estate broker and did much of the business management of the real estate business, especially while Kelly was involved with Huntington Beach city government.[5]

During the 1980s and early 1990s he served as Huntington Beach city councilman and mayor,[1] campaigning with the slogan "Let Maverick Solve Your Problems."[11]

Personal life and death

Kelly married actress May Wynn (real name: Donna Lee Hickey) on October 14, 1956. They separated in February 1964 and were divorced on October 19, 1964. She stated in court that they had been arguing a lot the last two years and he started staying out all night.[12]

Following the divorce he later dated Karen Steele for a short time.[13]

He married Jo Ann Smith in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 16, 1969.[14] The following November their daughter Nicole was born.

On April 28, 1992 he suffered a heart attack.[15] Jack Kelly died of a stroke at Humana Hospital in Huntington Beach, California, November 7, 1992. His daughter by his second wife, Nicole, is the founder of and executive producer at August II Productions.[10][1]

Jo Kelly became an "extra" in film and television productions, helped others learn the business, and wrote a book about it, The Truth about Being an Extra (2006).[16]

A Republican, he supported Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election.[17]


Year Title Role Notes
1939 The Story of Alexander Graham Bell Banker's Son Uncredited
1939 Young Mr. Lincoln Matt Clay as a boy Uncredited
1949 Fighting Man of the Plains Cattleman Uncredited
1949 Holiday Affair Drunk on train Uncredited
1949 Peggy Lex - O.S.U. Player Uncredited
1950 Where Danger Lives Dr. James Mullenbach
1950 The West Point Story Officer-in-Charge Uncredited
1951 Call Me Mister Marching Soldier Uncredited
1951 New Mexico Pvt. Clifton Uncredited
1951 People Will Talk Student in Classroom Uncredited
1951 The Wild Blue Yonder Lt. Jessup
1951 Submarine Command Lt. Paul Barton Alternative title: The Submarine Story
1952 Bronco Buster Photographer Uncredited
1952 No Room for the Groom Will Stubbins
1952 Red Ball Express Pvt. John Heyman
1952 Sally and Saint Anne Mike O'Moyne
1953 The Redhead from Wyoming Sandy
1953 Gunsmoke Curly Mather
1953 Law and Order Jed
1953 Column South Trooper Vaness
1953 The Stand at Apache River Hatcher
1953 The Glass Web TBC Engineer Uncredited
1954 Drive a Crooked Road Harold Baker
1954 Magnificent Obsession First Mechanic Uncredited
1954 Stories of the Century Clay Allison Episode: "Clay Allison"
1954 They Rode West Lt. Raymond
1954 Black Tuesday Frank Carson
1954 The Bamboo Prison Slade
1955 The Violent Men De Rosa, Parrish Rider
1955 Cult of the Cobra Carl Turner
1955 Double Jeopardy Jeff Calder
1955 The Night Holds Terror Gene Courtier
1955 To Hell and Back Kerrigan
1955 Frontier Jubal Dolan Episode: "The Return of Jubal Dolan" and two other episodes
1956 Forbidden Planet Jerry Farman
1956 The Millionaire Fred Graham Episode: "The Fred Graham Story"
1956 Julie Jack
1956 Canasta de cuentos mexicanos Eddie Winthrop (segment "Canasta")
1957 She Devil Dan Scott
1957 Taming Sutton's Gal Jugger Phelps
1957 Gunsmoke Cam Durbin Episode: "Jealousy"
1957-1962 Maverick Bart Maverick 83 episodes
1958 Sugarfoot Bart Maverick Episode: "Price on His Head"
1958 Hong Kong Affair Steven Whalen
1961 A Fever in the Blood Dan Callahan
1962 FBI Code 98 Robert P. Cannon
1963 Kraft Mystery Theatre Sam Greenlee Episode: "Shadow of a Man"
1963 Wagon Train Fenton Canaby Episode: "The Fenton Canaby Story"
1964 The Lucy Show Detective Bill Baker Episode: "Lucy Makes a Pinch"
1965 Love and Kisses Jeff Pringle
1966 Batman Jack O'Shea 2 episodes
1966 Laredo Lance Mabry "The Deadliest Kid in the West"
1967 Run for Your Life Harry Bevins Episode: "Baby, the World's on Fire"
1967 The High Chaparral Doc Holliday Episode: "The Doctor from Dodge"
1967 Laredo Bart Cutler / Frank Parmalee "Enemies and Brothers"
1968 Commandos Capt. Valli
1969 Young Billy Young John Behan
1971 Alias Smith and Jones Dr. Chauncey Beauregard Episode: "Night of the Red Dog"
1974 McCloud Manny Donner Episode: "This Must Be the Alamo"
1974 Lucas Tanner Ted Lefferts Episode: "Look the Other Way"
1974 Banacek Lou Wayne Episode: "Fly Me — If You Can Find Me"
1975 Ellery Queen Attorney J. T. Latimer Episode: "The Adventure of the Lover's Leap"
1976 The Human Tornado Captain Ryan Alternative title: Dolemite II
1976 Hawaii Five-O Jim Spier Episode: "Let Death Do Us Part"
1977 Quincy, M.E. Peter Devlin Episode: "Visitors in Paradise"
1978 Vega$ Merle Ochs Episode: "High Roller"
1978 The Incredible Hulk Tony Kelly Episode: "The Waterfront Story"
1978 Spawn of the Slithis Radio Announcer Voice
1978-1979 The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries Harry Hammond / Helms 11 episodes
1979 B. J. and the Bear Nichols Episode: "The Murphy Contingent"
1982 Bret Maverick Brother Bart Maverick Episode: "The Hidalgo Thing"
1983 The Fall Guy Bart Maverick Episode: "Happy Trails"
1984 The Master Brian Kirkwood Episode: "Kunoichi"
1991 The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw Bart Maverick Television movie, (final film role)


  1. "Jack Kelly, an Actor On 'Maverick' Series And a Politician, 65". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. November 9, 1992. Retrieved 2009-11-30.
  2. California Death Records. - California Department of Health Services Office of Health Information and Research.
  3. Alexander, Linda (2011). A Maverick Life: The Jack Kelly Story. BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-678-5.
  4. "Son, Two Daughters of Illinois Woman Gain Fame by Acting and Picture Posing", The Owosso Argus-Press, NEA Service, February 23, 1934
  5. Wride, Nancy (December 5, 1988), "Political Maverick Hopes to Take Act to Wider Audience", Los Angeles Times, p. 1 (section 2; Metro)
  6. Neville, Lucy (March 12, 1939). "It's Nice To Be A Star and Vice Versa". The Lima News.
  7. "Stories of the Century: "Clay Allison"". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  8. "The Fenton Canaby Story". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  9. Holderman, Jerry; Janet Eastman (January 1981). "Rich man, poor man, beggar man...". Orange Coast Magazine. Emmis Communications. 7 (1): 148. ISSN 0279-0483.
  10. About Us, August II Productions, LLC, archived from the original on 2012-03-16
  11. Garner, James; Jon Winokur, introduction by Julie Andrews (2011), The Garner Files: A Memoir, Simon & Schuster, p. 65, ISBN 978-1-4516-4260-5CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. "Actress Divorces Ex-maverick", Deseret News, United Press International, October 20, 1964
    "Divorce Granted to May Wynn", Los Angeles Times, p. B15, October 20, 1964
  13. "Bardot for Parliament? Ooo la la!", Hartford Courant, December 9, 1964
  14. Clark County, Nevada Marriage Records. - Clark County Clerk, County of Clark.
  15. Billiter, Bill (November 6, 1992). "Huntington Beach Councilman Kelly Has Massive Stroke". Los Angeles Times. p. 1 (Section: Metro; PART-B).
  16. Kelly, Jo (2006). The Truth About Being an Extra: How to Become a Good Background Actor. Background Actors Seminars. ISBN 978-0-9771878-0-5.
  17. Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 34, Ideal Publishers

Further reading

  • Alexander, Linda (2011). A Maverick Life: The Jack Kelly Story. BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-678-5.
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