Mike Connors bought a $4,000 Bentley that landed him the lead role on Mannix
An impromptu car purchase in Colorado led to the role of a lifetime.
A British couple had a vacation routine in the 1960s. The young lovers would buy a cheap vintage automobile and ship it across the Atlantic to New York City. The two would jet to America, hop in the car, and drive across the continent to Los Angeles, where they would flip their ride and fly home.
In 1966, the couple picked up a 1937 Bentley convertible. The Brits were about 1,800 miles into their trip when they stopped in the middle of Colorado around the Arapaho National Forest, outside Boulder. It just so happened a major Hollywood production was underway.
Bing Crosby and Ann-Margret were headlining a remake of the classic Western film Stagecoach. The sprawling cast also included Slim Pickens, Red Buttons and a certain car enthusiast named Mike Connors, who at that point was perhaps best known for starring in the crime series Tightrope.
Connors, particularly fond of vintage vehicles, spotted the drop-top Bentley and approached the couple. He asked the foreigners what the heck brought them all the way out to the Rocky Mountains, in that car. They explained their annual road-trip ritual. The actor made them an offer on the spot. He'd buy the car from them for $4,000. Connors only asked that they deliver the car to him back in L.A. Hands were shaken, a deal was made.
Cut to a year later. Connors hopped in what was now his Bentley and cruised over to the Desilu studio lot for an interview. Desilu Productions was, of course, owned by Lucille Ball. After conducting his business for the day, Connors headed back to the parking lot. As he was settling back into the driver's seat, he heard a voice shouting his name.
"Mike Connors, wait a minute!" a man called. "I want to talk to you!"
The voice belonged to Gary Morton, who just so happened to be married to Lucille Ball at the time. Morton also had his eyes on the beautiful old English automobile. "If you want to see it, let me know," Morton told Connors.
Connors was not exactly ready to let go of the gem he discovered by chance in Colorado. Another idea then suddenly popped in Morton's head.
"Hey, wait a minute! I've got a script you'd be perfect for," Morton said. "Let me go get it and see if you like it."
Morton shuffled back to his office and soon returned with a pilot script for a series called Mannix. Like Tightrope, it was a gritty action series with a hard-boiled hero. Mannix even drove a cool car.
"A 1937 Bentley convertible got me Mannix," Connors confessed years later in the book Hollywood Heyday: 75 Candid Interviews with Golden Age Legends.
If that British couple had not found that car… if they had not stopped in Colorado… if Mike Connors had not been filming Stagecoach… had he not offered to buy the car… had the Brits not agreed to sell the car… had Connors not driven to Desilu that day, at that very moment… had the Bentley not caught the eye of Morton, as well… well, Connors would likely have not been Mannix. And that is hard to imagine.