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March 24

Throwback To The Gambler Movie Series That Thrilled Us All During The 80s and 90s

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The Gambler movie series is one massive proof of how a big star Kenny Rogers is!

In 1980, Kenny Rogers as The Gambler premiered on CBS, and it turned out to be such a massive-ratings hit – taking home the Eddie Award for Best Edited Television Special. It also generated two Emmy nominations for its outstanding cinematography and film editing.

The movie series was so good that due to popular demand, Rogers’s beloved character came back on CBS three years later – which generated even better ratings and earned another two Emmy Awards nominations. Three more installments followed, carrying on Hawke’s thrilling escapades – with his friend Bill Montana and his son Jeremiah usually tagging along. 

Let’s take a look back at these five films in the widely known TV series!

Kenny Rogers as The Gambler (1980)

Kenny Rogers as The Gambler first hit the airwaves on April 8, 1980. The made-for-television Old West film was heavily based on one of Rogers’ most cherished songs of all time – the Grammy-award-winning song “The Gambler.” 

The music icon played the role of gambler Brady Hawkes who has seen it all, except for the young son – Jeremiah – he didn’t know about. One day, Hawkes surprisingly received a letter from Jeremiah; so, he set out on a journey to finally meet his child. During his trip, Hawkes crossed paths with the reckless Billy Montana, whom he quickly became friends with.

Montana thinks of himself as a professional gambler, but he keeps making poor judgments along the way, and Hawkes got some very friendly advice for him. 

Though the show was the usual low-budget TV fare, it was well-received and managed to draw plenty of viewers to CBS than any other TV show had in the previous two years.

Kenny Rogers as The Gambler: The Adventure Continues (1983)

Indeed, Rogers has successfully developed the Gambler persona! The country singer came back once again as Brady Hawkes for the show’s sequel, which debuted on CBS in November 1983.

It now tells the tale of Hawkes’ journey with Billy Montana and his son Jeremiah. The trio traveled to San Francisco to join a gambling event when they clashed with the ferocious McCourt gang, who forcibly stopped the train they were riding and took Jeremiah as a hostage. The gang then demanded for a million-dollar as ransom.

Hawkes and Montana were very determined to take Jeremiah back! With the help of a female bounty hunter named Kate Muldoon, they formed a group together with a mission of saving Jeremiah.

This exciting plot made the show even more successful than the first one! 

Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues (1987)

Kenny Rogers came back for the third installment in 1987! Brady Hawkes and Bill Montana’s journey continues as they find themselves protecting the Sioux Indians from the government and even fighting the cattle thieves.

The duo also joined forces in uncovering the corruption inside the government outpost, which led Hawkes and Montana in a dangerous position.

The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) 

Kenny Rogers reprised his role in 1991 for the show’s fourth installment – but this time, it aired on NBC. And joining the cast is another country superstar, Reba McEntire, who played the role of bubbly Burgundy Jones. 

It was set in 1906 wherein professional gambling will soon be considered illegal – three weeks left to be exact! It was Jones’ mission to safely bring Hawkes to San Francisco for the ultimate poker tournament against a special mystery player. But the big challenge was that Hawkes finds himself losing the fighting spirit he used to have.

Gambler V: Playing for Keeps (1994)

The series returned to its original home in CBS for its final episode in 1994! 

The now-grown Jeremiah is also back in the scene; unfortunately, he is making poor life choices, joining the renowned outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Hawkes did all he could to track Jeremiah down and save him before he winds up in jail or ends up dying.

Gambler V: Playing for Keeps is the only film that Dick Lowry did not direct as Jack Bender took the helm.

Though the last film received a lukewarm reception, some fans were waiting for a brand new installment. In 2011, Rogers graced the Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and told Fallon that he got a hypothetical idea for how he might reprise Brady Hawkes in another The Gambler series. The Grammy Award-winning singer thought as far as getting his character injured during a shootout at the start of the film, hence justifying his restricted movement in the show.

However, in 2017, Rogers finally called it a day – retiring from show business after more than six decades. 

A year later, Rogers’ signature hit “The Gambler” was chosen as one of the songs to be preserved in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. Indeed, Kenny Rogers’ songs within his illustrious career and The Gambler movie series are the gems we will forever treasure.


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