George Maharis

George Maharis (September 1, 1928 – May 24, 2023) was an American actor, singer, and visual artist who portrayed Buz Murdock in the first three seasons of the TV series Route 66.

Maharis also recorded several pop music albums at the height of his fame, and later starred in the TV series The Most Deadly Game.

George Maharis
George Maharis
Maharis in a 1962 publicity photo
Born(1928-09-01)September 1, 1928
DiedMay 24, 2023(2023-05-24) (aged 94)
Occupation(s)Actor, singer, artist
Years active1953–1993

Early life and education

Maharis was born in Astoria, Queens, the third of six children born to Vasidos (later William) Mahairas and Demetra Stranis, both immigrants from Greece. He was raised in Hell's Kitchen. His brother Robert was a production assistant on Route 66 and became a film location manager. Maharis attended Flushing High School, where his schoolmates recognized his talent as a singer. He left before graduating and served for 18 months in the United States Marine Corps and then earned his high school diploma. He worked odd jobs while trying to launch a singing career, and appeared in musicals outside of New York City. He got his first break as an actor on the television comedy series Mister Peepers, playing a parody of Marlon Brando. He subsequently studied at the Actors Studio with Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg.

Early career

After a short stint at the Cincinnati Playhouse, Maharis returned to New York and won recognition in off-Broadway productions. In 1955, Maharis received critical acclaim for his roles in John Van Druten's play Dancing in the Chequered Shade, and 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. In October 1958, a New York Times critic described his performance in Jean Genet's Deathwatch as "correctly volatile, harsh, soft and cunning". In 1960 he performed in the first U.S. production of a work by Edward Albee, The Zoo Story. Brooks Atkinson wrote that Maharis' performance as the "overwrought yet searching intruder" was "a first-rate piece of acting". Maharis won the Performance award at the Theatre World Awards for his role in The Zoo Story.

He later explained that his off-Broadway experience proved a handicap when seeking Broadway roles: "Off Broadway had a stigma. It was like admitting you played the Borscht Circuit." Instead he found work in television. He appeared on Studio One, Kraft Television Theater, Goodyear Television Playhouse and Stirling Silliphant's Naked City. In Search for Tomorrow, he played a gambler who mistreated his wife. He launched his film career with roles in William Berke's The Mugger (1958) and Otto Preminger's Exodus (1960).

One assessment of his early career put him in the "tough personality" tradition of Humphrey Bogart and John Garfield. Paul Gardner said:

He was the cad who left unwed mothers in rooming houses and socked his lady friends when they irritated him.... To mothers, he was an undisciplined kid they wanted to spank–and then give a piece of chocolate. To aging debutantes, he was the ideal Fourth of July date, especially when it came time for shooting firecrackers.

Route 66

Beginning in 1960, Maharis co-starred with Martin Milner in the CBS television series Route 66. His work earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Series in 1962.

After appearing in 82 episodes, Maharis left the series during the third season, citing health problems, including hepatitis. He attributed his prompt recovery to the fact that he did not drink. He returned to work in the spring of 1962 and filmed several shows, but complained he was being made to work excessive hours and left again. He told an interviewer: "If I keep going at the present pace, I'm a fool. Even if you have $4,000,000 in the bank, you can't buy another liver."

A legal battle and harsh words followed. At first Maharis sought no other employment, but once the producers replaced him for the next season he began to book other engagements. He was scheduled to sing on the Ed Sullivan Show on June 16, 1963, until the Route 66 producers, claiming he was still under exclusive contract to them, prevented his appearance by legal action. They claimed he was feigning illness to get out of his contract. One claimed Maharis cared only about a film career and had "no regard for this company, his co-star, Marty Milner, and the 50 or 60 other people on the show". Maharis countered that they needed to learn that "There isn't any more Old Hollywood where a company can buy movie stars like pieces of meat." Maharis soon won the legal argument that his contract was void and although the Route 66 producers attempted a reconciliation, he made his first post-Route 66 television appearance on July 2, 1963. After Maharis' departure, the show's appeal declined. Glenn Corbett acted in the role of Milner's new sidekick, Linc Case. Route 66 was canceled in March 1964.

In November 1963, Maharis described his work on Route 66:

Some actors wouldn't touch a series, but they're just like summer stock. A show a week jazz. The series taught how to maintain my integrity and not get sucked in by compromise. Guys wrote the show who had never seen it.... I worked with two-and-a-half years of directors but only five had talent. Usually they'd stick a camera in front of you and expect you to recite. You have to fight for your standards. Then what happens? They call you difficult. But that shouldn't make any difference. In the last analysis, it's your own standards, your own belief that you are doing something good, that sells a show.

Later career

George Maharis
Maharis, circa 1972

A string of films followed, including Quick, Before It Melts (1964), The Satan Bug and Sylvia (both 1965), A Covenant with Death and The Happening (both 1967), and The Desperados (1969).

Returning to series television in 1970, Maharis starred as criminologist Jonathan Croft in The Most Deadly Game. The series lasted 13 episodes, ending in January 1971.

Maharis modeled fully nude for the centerfold of the July 1973 issue of Playgirl magazine, one of the first celebrities to do so. It was the magazine's second issue.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Maharis had featured roles in several television movies and also guest-starred on numerous television series, including Mission: Impossible, Fantasy Island, Kojak, McMillan & Wife, Barnaby Jones, Police Story, Cannon, Night Gallery, and The Bionic Woman. He also appeared in Murder, She Wrote.

Maharis appeared as Count Machelli in the cult classic film The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982). His occasional stage work included starring with the Kenley Players in productions of Barefoot in the Park (1967) and How the Other Half Loves (1973) and in touring company productions of Company (1972) and Guys and Dolls (1976). In the 1980s he performed in Las Vegas. Doppelganger (1993), also known as The Evil Within, was his last appearance in motion pictures.

Visual art and music

Maharis released albums and singles through Epic Records relatively early in his career. His debut album, "George Maharis Sings!", was on the Billboard's Album Chart for 29 weeks in 1962, peaking at number 10. It ended up as the number 41 album of 1962. Maharis had moderate success with his single, "Teach Me Tonight", which was on the Billboard magazine's charts for 11 weeks in 1962, reaching number 25 on the Hot 100, and number 8 on the Easy Listening chart. His single "Love Me as I Love You" charted at number 17 on the Easy Listening chart in September 1962. He made his singing debut on television in 1963, appearing on the The Judy Garland Show, singing "Side by Side" with her.

Later, he performed in nightclubs and pursued a secondary career as an impressionist painter. As of 2008, Maharis was still painting, splitting his time between New York City and Beverly Hills, California.

Maharis was arrested in 1967 on charges of lewd conduct, and in 1974 on charges of sex perversion for using men's bathrooms as venues to cruise for sex. However, both charges were later dismissed, and he pled guilty to misdemeanor offenses of disturbing the peace in 1967, and trespassing in 1975.


Maharis died at his Beverly Hills home on May 24, 2023, at the age of 94. Survivors included his brother Robert and a sister.


Television shows

Year Title Role Notes Refs
1953 The Philco Television Playhouse Dancer at the Dance Club Episode: 'Marty'
1955 Mister Peepers Marlon Brando Episode: 'The Wally Cox Story'
1957 Goodyear Television Playhouse American anthology series
1959 Brenner Alex Episode: 'Word of Honor'
1959 Naked City Johnny Gary Episode: 'Four Sweet Corners'
1960 Alcoa Theatre Johnny Cesare Episode: 'Action Off Screen'
1960–61 Search for Tomorrow Bud Gardner American television soap opera
1960–63 Route 66 Buz Murdock American adventure crime drama
1962 PM West Guest Interviewed by Mike Wallace
1963 The Hy Gardner Show Guest Interviewed by Hy Gardner
1963 The Judy Garland Show Himself Guest star
1965 Hullabaloo Himself Host and performer
1966 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Ex-athlete Episode 14: The Eighth Day
1967 The Danny Thomas Hour Phil Pearson Episode: 'The Demon Under the Bed'
1968 Journey to the Unknown Drake Episode: 'Miss Belle'
1970 The Dick Cavett Show Guest Interviewed by Dick Cavett
1970 The Most Deadly Game Jonathan Croft Episode: 'War Games'
1971 Night Gallery Peter Lacland Segment: 'The Hand of Borgus Weems'
1971 Cade's County Deck Minty Episode: 'The Mustangers'
1971 Medical Center Evan Kenbrook Episode: 'The Pawn'
1972 Cannon Paul Stubber Episode: 'The Rip Off'
1972 & 1973 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Guest Interviewed by Johnny Carson
1973 Mission: Impossible Thomas Bachman Episode: 'The Fountain'
1973 Barnaby Jones Warren Davis Episode: 'The Deadly Prize'
1973–77 Police Story Sgt. Hank Delany; J.R. Peters; Salter 3 episodes, 1973, 1975, 1977
1974 Movin' On Harry Armour Episode 7: The Good Life
1974 The Wide World of Mystery Walter Episode: 'Come Die with Me'
1974 Shaft Wally Doyle Episode: 'Cop Killer'
1974 Marcus Welby, M.D. Curtis Haynes Episode: 'Out of Control'
1974 The Snoop Sisters Robert Duware Episode: 'The Devil Made Me Do It!'
1974 Thriller Mark Fields Episode: 'Death To Sister Mary'
1974 McMillan & Wife Walter Webley Episode: 'The Game of Survival'
1974 Nakia Joe Arnold Episode: 'Pete'
1976 Ellery Queen Dr. Tony Bender Episode: 'The Adventure Of The Judas Tree'
1976 Rich Man, Poor Man Joey Quales TV miniseries
1976 Good Heavens Gary Lawrence Episode: 'See Jane Run'
1976 Jigsaw John Robert Derek Episode: 'Plastique'
1976 Bert D'Angelo/Superstar Lee Mitchell Episode: 'Scag'
1976 Gibbsville Episode: 'The Price of Everything'
1976 The Bionic Woman Sgt. Bob Welton Episode: 'Jamie's Shield'
1977 Kojak Ringer Episode: 'Lady In The Squadroom'
1977 The Feather and Father Gang Sherwin Episode: 'Flight to Mexico'
1977 Switch Clouston Episode: 'Legend of the Macunas'
1978 Logan's Run Gavin Episode: 'Night Visitors'
1979–82 Fantasy Island Joe Capos; Prof. Alan Blair; Mario Ferini; Dr. Hal Workman; Jack Becker 6 episodes
1984 Matt Houston Dr. Charles Brockway Episode: 'The Bikini Murders'
1984 The Master Simon Garrett Episode: 'The Good, the Bad, and the Priceless'
1989 Murder, She Wrote Alec Burton Episode: 'Appointment in Athens'
1989 Superboy Jack McAlister Episode: 'Programmed For Death'
1990 Murder, She Wrote Charlie Cosmo Episode: 'Trials and Tribulations' (last television role)


Year Title Role Notes Refs
1958 The Mugger Nicholas Grecco American noir-crime film
1960 Exodus Yaov American film about the founding of the State of Israel
1964 Quick, Before It Melts Peter Santelli American comedy film
1965 Sylvia Alan Macklin American drama film
1965 The Satan Bug Lee Barrett American crime suspense film
1966 A Small Rebellion Michael Kolinos TV film
1967 A Covenant with Death Ben Lewis American legal drama film
1967 The Happening Taurus American crime comedy film
1968 Escape to Mindanao Joe Walden TV film
1969 The Desperados Jacob Galt American Western film
1969 The Monk Gus Monk TV film
1970 Land Raiders Paul Cardenas American Western film
1970 The Last Day of the War Sgt. Chip Slater Premiered in Spain as El Último Día de la Guerra in August 1970; aired on US television in September 1970
1972 The Victim Ben Chapel TV film
1974 Death in Space Dr. Dan Summit TV film
1975 Murder on Flight 502 Robert Davenport TV film
1976 Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby Guy Woodhouse TV film
1977 SST: Death Flight Les Phillips TV film
1978 Return to Fantasy Island Benson TV film
1978 The Crash of Flight 401 Evan Walsh TV film
1982 The Sword and the Sorcerer Machelli, Cromwell War Chancellor American sword and sorcery fantasy film
1993 Doppelganger Mike Wallace American supernatural horror film (also known as The Evil Within)

Selected discography


Original releases

  • 1962 – George Maharis Sings! – Epic LN 24001/BN 26001
  • 1962 – Portrait in Music – Epic LN 24021/BN 26021
  • 1963 – Just Turn Me Loose! – Epic LN 24037/BN 26037
  • 1963 – Where Can You Go For a Broken Heart? – Epic LN 24064/BN 26064
  • 1964 – Make Love to Me – Epic LN 24079/BN 26079
  • 1964 – Tonight You Belong to Me – Epic LN 24111/BN 26111
  • 1966 – New Route: George Maharis – Epic LN 24191/BN 26191


Original releases


  • 1964 – "Teach Me Tonight"/"Baby Has Gone Bye Bye" – Memory Lane (Epic) 5-2223[citation needed]
  • 1965 – "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66!/Can't Help Falling In Love" – Memory Lane (Epic) 5-2227


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Early life and education George Maharis

Early career George Maharis

Route 66 George Maharis

Buz Murdock

Route 66 (TV series)

The Most Deadly Game

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