Bruce Boxleitner co-stars in the 1980 TV-movie that spawned a franchise.
As The Boot reports: “Forty-three years ago today (Nov. 15, 1978) was a life-altering day for Kenny Rogers: It was on that date that the singer’s multi-platinum-selling album The Gambler was released. Rogers was already one of the most successful male vocalists in country music by the time he released The Gambler, but the record catapulted him to superstar status, becoming a worldwide hit and even launching a string of TV movies.”
So today might a good time to celebrate the occasion by watching Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, the popular 1980 TV-movie – inspired by Rogers’ smash-hit recording of the song written by Don Schlitz – that spawned four sequels over a 14-year period. It’s now available on Peacock, The Roku Channel, Tubi and other streaming platforms:
Rogers stars as Brady Hawkes, a Wild West cardsharp who sets out to meet the son he never knew he had. During his journey, he befriends Billy Montana (Bruce Boxleitner), a novice gambler who needs to learn when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, when to walk away – and when to run.
In a 2011 interview with C&I, Rogers admitted that, despite his success in the Gambler franchise and other movies, “I never really wanted to be an actor. It’s like I told somebody the other day: ‘There are actors, and then there are people who can act.’ You give an actor unbelievable dialogue, and they can make it believable. If you give me believable dialogue, I can keep it believable. There are a lot of people who can’t do that.
“There’s a great story about an old western actor who went to join a Beverly Hills country club. They told him, ‘We’re very sorry, sir, but we don’t let actors in here.’ And he said, ‘I’m no actor — and I’ve got 42 movies to prove it.’ That’s how I feel.”
Still, Rogers has fond memories of playing cowboy in the first Gambler film. “I loved riding the horses,” he said, “and I loved being out in the West. And being in gunfights where I knew I couldn’t really get shot. It was a great time, and I’m so glad that I did that.”
Later films in the Gambler franchise — including Kenny Rogers as The Gambler: The Adventure Continues (1983), Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues (1987), The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991). and Gambler V: Playing for Keeps (1994) — also are available on various streaming platforms.