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GreekReporter.comDiasporaStar of TV’s ‘Route 66’ Greek American George Maharis Dies

Star of TV’s ‘Route 66’ Greek American George Maharis Dies

Route 66 Maharis
One of seven children, Maharis was born on September 1, 1928, in Astoria, Queens. His parents were Greek immigrants. Public Domain

Greek American actor George Maharis, the star of TV’s “Route 66” in the 1960’s, has died at the age of 94.

One of seven children, Maharis was born on September 1, 1928, in Astoria, Queens. His parents were Greek immigrants.

He became an icon to American youth in the 1960s as he cruised the country in a Corvette convertible in the hit television series “Route 66.”

Beginning in 1960, Maharis appeared as Buz Murdock in the TV series Route 66, which co-starred Martin Milner. Maharis was 32 at the time the series started, although the character he was playing was only 23. His work earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Series in 1962.

The pair decided to travel the highway author John Steinbeck had dubbed “The Mother Road.” Each week brought a new adventure in a new city, and audiences tuned in in droves.

At the time “Route 66” was the rare series that was filmed on location, moving to new towns and cities for each new episode. It featured as guest stars future stars including Robert Redford, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Alan Alda in some of their earliest roles.

The storied highway itself was as much a star of the show as Maharis and Milner. Since bypassed in favor of bigger, faster interstates, it stretched unbroken from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean and was venerated as a facilitator of the country’s 20th-century westward migration.

Maharis said he left Route 66 for health reasons

Maharis departed without completing his third season of the series, citing health problems including hepatitis, long working hours and grueling conditions while shooting on location.

“I have to protect my future”, Maharis said in a 1963 interview. “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.”

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 me 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.”

After leaving Route 66, Maharis was cast as a star in such films as “Quick Before It Melts,” “The Satan Bug,” “Sylvia.” “A Covenant with Death.” “The Happening.” “The Desperadoes” and “Land Raiders.”

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

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

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