George Maharis, from ‘Route 66’ TV series in the 1960s, dies at 94

George Maharisa stage actor with rugged good looks who became an icon for American youth in the 1960s while touring the country in a Corvette convertible on the hit television series “Route 66,” has died.

Maharis’s friend and caretaker, Marc Bahan, said in a Facebook post that he died on Wednesday. Bahan told the Hollywood Reporter that he first reported the death of Maharis, who died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, after contracting hepatitis. He was 94.

In “Route 66,” Maharis played Buz Murdock, a hardened Hell’s Kitchen survivor from New York City. His co-star Martin Milner, who died in 2015, was Tod Stiles, a young man raised on wealth who, after his father’s death, was left with nothing but a shiny new Corvette.

The couple decided to travel the road that author John Steinbeck had called “The Mother Road.” Each week brought a new adventure in a new city, and the public tuned in in droves.

“Route 66” was the rare series at the time to film on location, moving to new towns and cities for each new episode. He guest-starred future stars such as Robert Redford, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Alan Alda in some of his early roles.

The historic road itself was as much a star of the show as Maharis and Milner. Since being bypassed in favor of larger, faster interstates, it stretched seamlessly from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean and was revered as a driving force behind the country’s westward migration in the 20th century.

“Route 66” was said to have been inspired by Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road”, and spawned its own hit song, an instrumental composed by Nelson Riddle. The more familiar tune, “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66”, was unrelated to the series.

Maharis left the show after the third season, would go on for one more without him, and never achieved the same fame again.

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He earned a name check that introduced him to later generations in director Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” when fictional actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, says he was considered for the role of Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape”. ” together with three Georges: “Peppard, Maharis and Chakiris”.

A New York native, one of seven children of Greek immigrants, Maharis actually grew up in Hell’s Kitchen. His parents ran a successful restaurant and wanted George to join the family business.

“Growing up in Hell’s Kitchen, at least for me, it was about ‘I’m not staying here,’” he said in a 2007 interview. “Life is all about the journey, the going. I have to go out.”

She had hoped to be a singer, but she damaged her vocal cords, so she switched to acting. After training with Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner at the Actors Studio, she began appearing in Off-Broadway plays.

Excellent notices for his work in Edward Albee’s play “Zoo Story” and appearances on the television drama “Naked City” garnered attention. After a small role in the 1960 movie “Exodus” and a few other parts, he got “Route 66.”

After leaving the series, Maharis was cast as a star in movies like “Quick Before It Melts”, “The Satan Bug”, “Sylvia”. “A pact with death.” “The event.” “The Desperadoes” and “Land Raiders.”

In 1970, he returned to weekly television, playing a criminologist on “The Most Deadly Game,” but the show lasted only one season.

Maharis continued acting in the following decades, appearing in TV movies such as “Escape to Mindanao” and “Murder on Flight 502”, “Disaster in the Sky”, “Crash of Flight 401”, “Death in Space” and in series of television. her including “Fantasy Island,” “The Bionic Woman,” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

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