Kenny Rogers as The Gambler (105 min) debuted on CBS on April 8, 1980. It was a ratings and critical success that has spawned four sequels. The show won a Best Edited Television Special Eddie Award and garnered two Emmy nominations (for cinematography and editing of a limited series).
Kenny Rogers stars as Brady Hawkes, the titular gambler, who embarks on a journey to meet Jeremiah (Ronnie Scribner), the young son he never knew after Jeremiah sends him a letter. Along the way, Brady meets Billy Montana (Bruce Boxleitner) and the two become friends. Billy (while trying to help Brady in his quest) fancies himself as a professional poker player on his own. Although Billy makes mistakes along the way (some of these include: trying to find a way to cheat or do some smooth talking), Brady makes sure that he stays on good behavior during a train ride to Yuma, CA. The duo help Jennie Reed (Lee Purcell), a prostitute who has trouble with a train baron. At the end, Brady's son's stepfather (Clu Gulager) is confronted.Production
The movie was produced by the fledgling Kragon and Co. production company. The ranch headquarters at Valle Grande in Valles Caldera, New Mexico was used as a filming location.
Kenny Rogers again stars as Brady Hawkes in Kenny Rogers as The Gambler: The Adventure Continues (200 min) which premiered on November 28 and 29, 1983. The show was an even bigger ratings success than the first and was nominated for two Emmy Awards (sound editing and sound mixing of a limited series).
Billy Montana, Brady, and his son Jeremiah (now played by Charles Fields) are traveling to a gambling event in San Francisco when they encounter the vicious McCourt gang. The McCourt gang force the train to stop and they take Jeremiah hostage and demand a $1 million ransom. Brady and Billy are determined to get Jeremiah back as well as the $1 million ransom which belonged to the train boss. Brady and Billy find help in their mission and meet a female bounty hunter played by Linda Evans as Kate Muldoon. Kate is the fastest female gun in the west. They form a posse together in a race to save Jeremiah.
Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues (240 min) was broadcast on November 22, 1987.
In this installment, Brady Hawkes and Billy Montana help protect some Sioux Indians from the government and some cattle thieves.
The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw is a 1991 television film starring Kenny Rogers and Reba McEntire. Rogers reprises his "Gambler" character, Brady Hawkes ("...know when to fold 'em..."), in the fourth installment of the series. The film originally aired on NBC on November 3, 1991. It was nominated for a Costume Design Emmy.
It's 1906 and professional gambling will be outlawed in just three weeks. Therefore, Burgundy Jones(McEntire) has just that long to get Brady Hawkes safely to San Francisco for the last poker tournament, with a very special mystery player. This is made more difficult, as Hawkes is still smarting after a hard fought loss to another professional poker player in England, who will also be at the tournament.
The film features Rogers' character running across a galaxy of old TV western characters played by the original actors, including Gene Barry as Bat Masterson, Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp, Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick, Clint Walker as Cheyenne Bodie, David Carradine as Kung Fu's Caine, Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford from The Rifleman, Brian Keith as The Westerner, James Drury and Doug McClure from The Virginian, Paul Brinegar from Rawhide, and Reba McEntire as Burgundy Jones.
The characters are attending a poker game said to be in honor of "the late Mr. Paladin" from Have Gun - Will Travel (the actor who played him, Richard Boone, had died in 1981). The game was played at the hotel at which Paladin lived. The game's dealer is "Hey Girl", Paladin's friend. As each veteran video hero appears, a few bars from his original series' theme momentarily plays in the background, reminiscent of a doorbell. Everyone in the film, including President Theodore Roosevelt (Claude Akins), seems openly thrilled to encounter Brady Hawkes.
The Gambler Returns was directed by Dick Lowry and inspired by the song "The Gambler" written by Don Schlitz.
About 16 years later Reba McEntire and Christopher Rich would star together in her hit television series, Reba.
Gambler V: Playing for Keeps is the fifth installment of The Gambler series and the first not directed by Dick Lowry, with Jack Bender taking the helm. The movie premiered on October 2, 1994.
Brady Hawkes' son, Jeremiah (with Kris Kamm as the third actor in the role) gets involved with outlaws Butch Cassidy (Scott Paulin) and The Sundance Kid (Brett Cullen). Brady tries to save him before he winds up in jail or dead.
On March 15, 2011 Kenny Rogers told Jimmy Fallon on his TV show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, that he was asked if he would want to be in another Gambler movie. He began by saying that he had a bad knee and thought it would be hard for him but continued and said that the first scene in the movie would be a shootout. Supposedly he would get shot in the shoulder and knee to cover his physical disabilities. This looks unlikely, however, as in the years that followed Rogers announced his retirement from show business and stated that his 2016 tour would be his last and after this he would be spending his time with family.Pirtle, Caleb, III; Dobbs, Frank Q. (1996). Jokers Are Wild. Kenny Rogers' The Gambler. 1. Penguin Group. ISBN 9781572970533. Pirtle, Caleb, III; Dobbs, Frank Q. (1996). Dead Man's Hand. Kenny Rogers' The Gambler. 2. Boulevard Books. ISBN 9781572970939. Pirtle, Caleb, III; Dobbs, Frank Q. (1998). Dying Man's Bluff. Kenny Rogers' The Gambler. Berkley Publishing Group. ISBN 9781572971813.
A video slot machine based on The Gambler can be found in most Las Vegas casinos. It was manufactured by International Game Technology.