Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Godspeed George Maharis

George Maharis, best known for playing Buz Murdock on the classic TV show Route 66, died on May 24 2023 at the age of 94.

George Maharis was born on September 1 1928 in Astoria, Queens, New York. He attending Flushing High School. He served 18 months in the United States Marines. He initially wanted to be a singer, but found himself drawn to acting. He studied acting at the Actors Studio with Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg.

George Maharis made his television debut in an episode of Philco Television Playhouse. In the Fifties he guest starred on the shows Mister Peepers, Playwrights '56, Goodyear Television Playhouse, The Investigator, The Phil Silvers Show, Brenner, Deadline, Alcoa Theatre, and Naked City. One of the episodes of Naked City on which he appeared, "Four Sweet Corners," was a backdoor pilot for Route 66. He played the role of John Gary. a former serviceman who sets out to travel the country with fellow veteran Lincoln Ridgeway (Robert Morris). There would be several changes made before the pilot would lead to Route 66. The two leads were renamed Tod Stiles and Buz Murdock, with Martin Milner cast in the role of Tod. They were no longer ex-serviceman. Tod was a Yale dropout from a once wealthy family, while Buz was an orphan who grew up on the streets of New York City. Route 66 debuted on October 7 1960 and proved to be a hit. From 1960 to 1961 he briefly appeared on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. In the late Fifties George Maharis also made his movie debut in The Mugger (1958). He also appeared in the big screen adaptation of the novel Exodus (1960). He appeared in the off-Broadway play The Zoo Story in 1960.

In the early Sixties George Maharis continued to star on Route 66. He was nominated for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead) for his role as Buz Murdock in 1962. He left the show during its third season after he had contracted hepatitis. After taking a break to recover from the disease, he appeared in the movies Quick, Before It Metls (1964), Sylvia (1965), The Satan Bug (1965), A Covenant with Death (1967), The Happening (1967), Land Raiders (1969), The Desperadoes (1969), and El último día de la guerra (1970). He also continued to appear on television, guest starring on the shows, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Danny Thomas Hour, Journey to the Unknown, and Love Story. He starred in the short-lived show The Most Dangerous Game from 1970-1971.

In the Seventies George Maharis guest starred on the shows Night Gallery, Cade's County, Medical Center, Cannon, Mission: Impossible, Barnaby Jones, Shaft, Marcus Welby M.D., The Snoop Sisters, Thriller, The Wide World of Mystery, McMillan & Wife, Movin' On, Nakia, Ellery Queen, Good Heavens, Jigsaw John, Bert D'Angelo/Superstar, The Bionic Woman, Kojak, Police Story, The Feather and Father Gang, Switch, Gibbsville, Logan's Run, and Fantasy Island. He appeared in the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man.

In the Eighties he appeared in the movie The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982). He guest starred on Fantasy Island; Matt Houston; The Master; Superboy; and Murder, She Wrote. His last appearance on screen was in the movie Doppelganger in 1993.

George Maharis also had a recording career. Starting with George Maharis Sings!, he recorded seven albums from 1962 to 1966. He released several singles from 1962 to 1965, but only his cover of "Teach Me Tonight" was a hit. It went to no. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962.

George Maharis was a very talented actor. Both Buz Murdock and Tod Stiles on Route 66 rank among the greatest television characters of all time, all because of the performances of George Maharis and Martin Milner. He was also versatile. In The Satan Bug he played Lee Barrett, an outspoken private investigator who had earlier worked as an intelligence agent. In The Sword and the Sorcerer, he actually played a villain, Count Machelli, the War Chancellor to the evil Titus Cromwell (Richard Lynch). In the Ellery Queen episode "The Adventure of the Judas Tree," he played the family physician, Dr. Anthony Bender, of millionaire George Sherman. In The Desperadoes he played one of a band of raiders led by corrupt  Parson Josiah Galt (Jack Palance). George Maharis could play nearly any role he wanted, and he always gave performances. Such was his talent that he could convey emotion with just a look or his body language. While he will always be best remembered as Buz Murdock, he left behind many other great performances.

1 comment:

Marianne said...

Buz Murdock was (is!) a favorite of mine. If I recall correctly, George Maharis got the role of Buz because of his work on the television show Naked City. I have seen all the episodes of Route 66, but I haven't seen very many of Naked City. I have some catching up to do. Thanks for giving George Maharis his due. I always thought he was great in Route 66.