James Garner April 7, 1928 - July 19, 2014

James Garner April 7, 1928 - July 19, 2014
James Garner April 7, 1928 - July 19, 2014 He wanted to be remembered with a smile.

The Garner Files

The Garner Files
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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot: Climb Outta My Tree

“Counter Gambit” is an entertaining con episode in which Rockford (James Garner) is framed for the theft of a pearl necklace, but manages to get off the hook when he tricks the real crooks into returning the necklace to the safe from which they stole it. Rockford is summoned to the state pen by Moss Williams (Eddie Fontaine), a thug who once tried to kill Jim in prison. Moss hires the reluctant detective to find out whether his girl, Maria Heller (Mary Frann, later Bob’s wife on NEWHART), is cheating on him. The smell of Williams’ retainer—and the rantings of Jim’s dentist, who threatens to repo the detective’s filling if his bill isn’t paid—convinces Jim to take the case, which, in true ROCKFORD FILES fashion, turns out to be nothing like it seems.

Read the entire review at Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot: Climb Outta My Tree

Monday, November 19, 2007

Film festival at Sooner honors James Garner’s visit to Norman

The Norman Transcript - Actor James Garner, who is best known to some for his roles as the Western man Brett Maverick and the cool private eye Jim Rockford, will pay his hometown, Norman, a visit Oct. 16-18. Weekend events with Garner will be hosted by the Norman Film Society, which includes OU, The City of Norman, the Downtowners Association, Campus Merchants and the Sooner Theatre.

The Sooner Theatre will host the James Garner Film Festival Oct. 17-18. The public is invited to a presentation for Garner as well as a double feature, with films chosen by Garner himself, Oct. 17 at 7:45 p.m. at the Sooner Theatre, 101 E. Main St.

Beginning at 7:45 p.m., Garner will be recognized for his invaluable contribution to films and will be presented with a key to the City by Mayor Ron Henderson. The double feature will follow at 8 p.m. and costs $20, which includes one free popcorn.

There is no confirmation Garner will be at the Sooner later than the award ceremony, said Amy Wood, marketing director of the Sooner Theatre. “Garner is a very private man, so it’s a great honor for him to agree to speak to the audience,” she said. “So many different generations know who James Garner is. From his TV career, to his older films to some of his newer films with Mel Gibson — he spans such an age group that it really hits a vast audience here in Norman."

The James Garner Film Festival will continue Oct. 18 at 9:30 a.m. with a showing of one of Garner’s favorite Westerns at the Sooner Theatre, which is open to the general public. Admission is free on a first-come, first-serve basis (555 seats are available).

Although Garner is not scheduled to be at Saturday’s film screening, the event is something the community of Norman has not had an opportunity to do, Wood said. “This is a unique opportunity for a native to come back to Norman, for us to celebrate his film career and for the public to show their appreciation of his success,” she said.

Wood said people of all ages are going to come see Garner for what they remember him for — “from 50 years ago to 15 years ago. It’s a neat variety and we’re thrilled,” she said.

Jennifer Heavner Baker, artistic director for the Sooner Theatre, said a committee at the Sooner Theatre chose Garner for the festival because he is one of Norman’s favorites. “We just brought back films to the Sooner Theatre a month ago and now we have James Garner,” she said. “It just seemed natural to start with Garner. I’m tickled pink.”

At first, Garner wasn’t sure he would be able to make it to the film festival because of his current production work in England; however, the filming was post-poned and he was able to come for the festival, Wood said.

“I think there are a number of different things people will enjoy about this film festival,” Wood said. “Number one, seeing a double feature in the historic theater. It brings it back what a lot of people remember the theater being — the moviehouse on Saturday afternoons. I think that will be a big draw. Number two, seeing James Garner himself. They’re going to be able to come watch and listen to him talk about his movies.”

The Sooner Theater is lending its space for free for the festival. The City of Norman also donated a film projector to the Sooner Theatre earlier this year, which makes events like the James Garner Film Festival possible, Wood said. “A lot of this would not happen if it were not for the support of the city,” she said. “It not only allows us to do our Sunday films, but we also can do film festivals like this now without any rental fees or costs.”

Although the film titles cannot be named due to advertising restrictions, a screening schedule for the James Garner Film Festival is available at the Sooner Theatre and at www.soonertheatre.net.

When asked which Garner flick was her all-time favorite, Heavner Baker was almost stumped. “Oh my goodness, that’s a hard question for me,” she said. “I love ‘Murphy’s Romance.’ That’s probably one of my favorites. I also love ‘Victor Victoria’ because, you know, I’m Miss Musical Theater.

”The James Garner Film Festival is sponsored by The City of Norman, the Sooner Theatre and the University of Oklahoma.

For more information or for tickets to next Friday’s double feature screening, call the Sooner Theatre at 321-8091 or visit www.soonertheatre.net.

BIOGRAPHY: Born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman in 1928 as the son of an Oklahoma carpet layer, James Garner dropped out of high school at 16 years of age to join the merchant marines. He worked in a variety of jobs and received the Purple Heart when he was wounded during the Korean War.

Garner had his first chance to act when a friend got him a non-speaking role in the Broadway stage play “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial” (1954). The play lead to small television roles, television commercials and a contact with Warner Brothers.

After co-starring in a handful of films from 1956-1957, Warner Brothers gave Garner a co-starring role in the television series “Maverick” (1957). Originally cast as an alternating series between Bart Maverick (Jack Kelly) and Bret Maverick (Garner), the show quickly turned into the Bret Maverick Show.

As Maverick, Garner was cool, good-natured, likeable and always ready to use his wits to get him in or out of trouble. In the early ‘60s, Garner portrayed many character roles similar to “Maverick.” His successful films included “The Thrill of It All” (1963) “Move Over, Darling” (1963) “The Great Escape” (1963) and “The Americanization of Emily” (1964). Garner appeared in the automobile racing movie “Grand Prix” in 1966 and got the bug to race professionally. Soon, this ambition turned to supporting a racing team, not unlike what Paul Newman would do in later years.

Garner found success with his role in a Western comedy “Support Your Local Sheriff!” (1969) and followed it up with “Support Your Local Gunfighter” (1971).

In 1974, Garner became the classic television private eye in “The Rockford Files” (1974), a role that made him a very well-know actor. In 1977, he won an Emmy for Best Actor in his portrayal of Rockford.

In 1985, Garner was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for “Murphy’s Romance.” Three years later, Garner returned to the Western mode and co-starred with the young Bruce Willis in “Sunset,” a mythical story of Wyatt Earp, Tom Mix and Hollywood in the 1920s.

In 1994, Garner reprised his role of the leading Western man in “Maverick,” a movie co-starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster.

Garner continues his acting career to this day. In 2002, he starred with Sandra Bullock in “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” Garner’s lastest project, “Notebook,” is due out sometime in 2004. The film, directed by Nick Cassavetes, stars Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling and Gena Rowlands and centers around a lost love from World War II.

— Pop staff

By Helen PryorThe Norman Transcript

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Happy To Give Back

I think it's fun - and revealing - to see what Jim's old friends and his hometown newspaper have to say about him.

The Norman Transcript -

Best known for his roles in the popular television series “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files,” actor James Garner won over a whole slew of new fans Thursday when he made a $500,000 donation to the University of Oklahoma to create an endowed faculty chair within the School of Drama.

OU will request matching funds from the State Regents for Higher Education to create the James Garner Chair in Drama, the first endowed position in the drama school’s history. The position will be designated for the director of the school.

As OU President David Boren made the announcement to a packed Weitzenhoffer Theatre, drama students and faculty members jumped from their seats and offered up a standing ovation accompanied by loud cheers.

“I don’t think anyone would dispute he’s Oklahoma’s favorite son,” said Boren. “We’re so proud of him. We’re especially proud to claim him because of the kind of person he is. He has never forgotten his roots.”

Garner, a Norman native and former OU student who still keeps up with the Sooners, choked back tears — hidden by dark sunglasses — and requested a box of Kleenex as he addressed the crowd.

“Oh dear. I’m not good at this,” Garner said, voice cracking and admitting he suffers from agoraphobia. “It’s touching to me, as you can see, that I’m at a time in my life where I can come back here and do this.

”The gift to the university was originally something Garner intended to leave in his will, but longtime friend and OU graduate Bill Saxon convinced him about two months ago to go ahead and make the donation.

Garner said he felt privileged and honored to have the means to make the contribution to his alma mater. He said his family members, former high school teachers and a lot of former Norman business owners would be surprised to learn of the gift.

“Having been raised here and watched this university grow, I’m so proud of it,” he said. “It never entered my mind that I’d be able to do this.”

Garner ended his visit by answering questions from OU drama students, offering them words of advice and signing autographs.

“Acting professionally can break your heart,” he told the students. “If you have it in you and you want it, you’ll do it. Just keep in mind who you are.”

Throughout his 50-year acting career, Garner has kept close ties to Oklahoma, Norman and OU. Several members of his family — the Bumgarners — have been active in the community.

Garner has made gifts to OU since 1979 and lends his stardom to OU’s annual Sooners in the Desert golf event in California, served on OU’s Reach for Excellence Committee and as an honorary member of the Campaign Council to build the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. OU awarded him an honorary doctorate of human letters in 1995.

Garner is scheduled to be in Norman again in October when Norman holds its first film festival. The actor said he may not be able to make the engagement, however, because he’ll possibly be in England shooting his next film.

Transcript Entertainment Editor Tami Watson can be reached at 366-3533 or via e-mail at tamiwatson@normantranscript.com.Tami Watson
The Norman Transcript

Fortunately, Jim was able to make the Film Festival. Details later...

James Garner Is Norman's Gem

The Norman Transcript - 10/20/03

I am sure many people in Norman already know what a down-to-earth, likable, geniunly nice man James Garner is, but I had a first-hand chance to witness it this week during his visit to Norman.

And it’s true. Jim Garner really is Norman’s gem. I spoke with Mr. Garner over the phone for a short interview before his trip to Norman this weekend. His voice and geniune laugh were just as sweet as they are in all of his movies. He was very kind and cooperative to do the interview over the phone, especially since he’s known as a very private man who does not do many interviews. After our conversation, I was beaming.

Garner’s private reception at the depot Friday night was a delight for the star and for all those lucky enough to be invited. Garner graciously chatted with friends, old and new, and even strangers like myself.

Although I had talked with Mr. Garner over the phone, I thought it might be a good idea to introduce myself. I have not met many celebrities in my lifetime, but the ones I have had the pleasure of meeting always stay celebrities in my mind, not real people.When I walked up to Mr. Garner and shook his hand, I felt very at ease. He was a real person to me, a person who grew up in Norman just as I did. He smiled and told me it was nice to meet me and that he remembered our phone conversation. He and his brother Jack, who accompanied Garner on his trip to Norman, were both very gracious, appreciative and friendly to every Norman resident who came their way.

Despite the impression Garner left upon me during the reception at the depot and following at the Sooner Theatre, I know older generations who grew up during Garner’s era appreciate his visits even more. I am more familiar with his later movies such as \“Maverick,” \“Space Cowboys” and \“The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” and have missed out on his earlier works when he portrayed the Western icon Bret Maverick and the cool private eye Jim Rockford.

I missed out on \“Murphy’s Romance” and \“Victor/Victoria” at the Sooner Theatre because I had to work, but now that I’ve met Mr. Garner I have a hankering urge to rent his earlier flicks. I tend to think many people in Norman, especially those who lived in Norman during Garner’s childhood, identify with the actor’s earlier work. Not only do they identify with his early works as an actor, they identify with the person Garner was (and still is) when he roamed the halls of Norman High School and ran down the aisles of the Sooner Theatre.

What a treat to have Jim Garner revisit Norman again. This actor and Normanite spans so many generations it’s hard to think who wouldn’t know him or have seen at least one of his movies. And the added bonus? Despite the initial assumption the star is hiding under those Jack Nicholson red glasses, Norman native Jim Garner completely opens up to the people who share his memories and love of Norman.

Entertainment Editor Helen Pryor can be reached at 366-3533 or via E-mail at helen@normantranscript.comBy Helen Pryor
The Norman Transcript

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Norman Transcript - Dream of Veterans Memorial getting closer to reality

Dream of Veterans Memorial getting closer to reality
The Norman Transcript

Transcript Staff Writer

Don Schulenberg was looking for a hero.

He's found plenty in his quest to build the Cleveland County Veterans Memorial in the southwest corner of Reaves Park. Schulenberg just needs a few more for the dream of a memorial to honor area veterans to begin coming true.

The American Legion state membership chairman and Norman resident has talked to everyone who will listen to promote building the memorial. It's planned to honor Cleveland County's veterans who have served the United States in war and peace and those who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedom enjoyed by every American.

Schulenberg and Roy Hamilton told Norman Kiwanis Club members Tuesday that about $200,000 has been raised toward building the memorial, with about $50,000 left to be raised to get started. The memorial is estimated to total about $350,000 according to the City of Norman's Web site at www.NormanOK.gov.

Schulenberg has found heroes like Norman actor James Garner, who was the first draftee from Oklahoma into the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. While in Korea, Garner was wounded twice and awarded two purple hearts.

Garner has supported the project with his own funds to help honor other veterans as well.

Hundreds of others have contributed funds and even profits from the Moore Bingo facility have helped.

And for all Schulenberg's contributor heroes who have written checks to move the project closer to reality, it's America's military heroes -- its veterans -- that he most wants to honor.

"We want the sacrifices the veterans have made to never be forgotten, and this memorial will honor their names for generations to come," Schulenberg said last year.

The concept for the Cleveland County Veterans Memorial was created by Norman engineer Bob Goins and Marine veteran Clarence Powell and designed by the architectural team of Rick McKinney, Nathan Coffey, Toni Bragg and Bryan Rainbow of the McKinney Architects Partnership.

"We are just trying to provide a space and a palette where they can include all the men and women from as far back as they can go, as far back as they have records," McKinney said.

The concept was to create a five-faceted granite and bronze sculpture.

"And they've settled on this wonderful eagle with an American flag and it's on an about 11-foot high pylon that's a five-sided pentagon. And it refers to the five branches of our service," McKinney said. "There are sloped granite walls around the perimeter. The plaza itself is a large blue-and-white star out of pavers. And the pylon is in the middle with the eagle in the middle."

Veterans who were killed in action or missing in action starting with World War I will be listed on the center pylon in the center of a five-pointed star about 30 feet across. The plaza as a whole will be about 45 feet in diameter and will be constructed in the first phase.

The names of other veterans in wars will be on smaller monoliths that form a wall around the plaza. Forty-six smaller stars will represent Oklahoma as the 46th state of the United States.

It will be sited in the southwest corner of Reaves Park.

"We've worked it among the big oak trees and it sets in that grassy area very nicely. And it will be fully accessible with parking for handicapped and there will be monuments and introductory plaques that will describe the process," McKinney said. "There will be some very large flags that will be illuminated. The whole plaza will be lit up at night 24/7 and it won't go dark. ... It's coming together very nicely."

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to Cleveland County Veterans Memorial, P.O. Box 249, Norman OK 73070, in the form of checks, money orders or cashiers checks. Checks may be made payable to the Norman Parks Foundation, Inc. a 501 (c)3 not-for-profit organization, noting CCVM in the memo section.

Applications to nominate honorably discharged veterans or those who were killed or went missing in the performance of their duty for inclusion on the memorial may be downloaded at the City of Norman's Web site at www.normanok.gov/parks/veterans_memorial.htm. Veterans should have lived or served in Cleveland County. Qualifying documents are requested to review, which could include assignment orders discharge orders, decoration or award orders or other documents to verify service.

For more information, call Schulenberg at 364-7258 or 615-7813.

The Norman Transcript - Dream of Veterans Memorial getting closer to reality

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Review of Rockford Files - Season Two

TV Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

The Rockford Files: Season Two (1975)
James Garner, Noah Beery, Jr., Joe Santos, Gretchen Corbett, Stuart Margolin, Tom Atkins
Director: Various
Category: Drama

As strong as the first season of “The Rockford Files” may have been, it’s interesting to note that, within just a few episodes of season two, the viewer becomes quickly aware that not only has the show truly found its footing, it’s in possession of some of the strongest scripts to hit television during the 1970s.

Just to offer a quick, one-paragraph summary, James Garner is Jim Rockford, an ex-con turned private investigator. He’s not afraid to use his fists, but, then, he’s not really that tough a guy, so he’s just as likely to end up on his ass as kick yours; he’s also not afraid to use chicanery, trickery, or subterfuge to follow a lead or solve a case…which means that his buddy in the police department, Detective Dennis Becker, is always chastising him for his methods, even though he begrudgingly looks the other way on occasion. Jim’s dad, known as Rocky (and played by Noah Beery, Jr.), lives in the area and has been known to get into some of his son’s cases, as does Angel (Stuart Margolin), a former prison buddy of Jim’s…although he’s usually pretty reluctant to get involved. Oh, yes, and Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett) is Jim’s attorney…but is she more?

Actually, before the second season is over, she is. We learn that she and Jim came close to having a relationship before, but it didn’t take; before this season is over, however, they successfully start one. Angel also ends up being the focus of more episodes this time around, and he’s always good for a laugh; it’s amazing that Jim keeps him in his circle of friends, given that Angel proves on a regular basis that, history or no history, he’s always willing to sell Jim down the river if it’ll save his own skin.

There are some particularly funny episodes in season two, one of which stars Rob Reiner as a professional football player with an ego that’s a good size larger than most of the fields on which he plays; Louis Gossett, Jr. also has a slightly comedic turn as Rockford’s former parole officer. Surprisingly, though, the most effective dramatic episode is one starring the man who wrote the theme from “Shaft” but won greater fame as the voice of Chef.

Isaac Hayes plays Gandolph “Gandy” Fitch, one of Rockford’s many former prison buddies. Gandy’s just gotten out of the joint after a 20-year stint, and he’s on the lookout for the person who was really responsible for the crime that got him locked away. (Although Hayes was decidedly younger than the character he was playing at the time, his always-shaven head lent him an older look, so all they really had to do was sprinkle some grey in his beard and voila!) Was he really innocent? Well, you’ll have to watch the episode, won’t you? And trust me, you want to. It’s an impressively emotional performance from Hayes, one that will remind you that, although he’s best known for his comedic appearances these days, he’s actually a pretty good dramatic actor, too.

The special features this time around are marginally more impressive than on the first season set. Instead of an interview with Garner, this time we get a conversation with co-creator Stephen J. Cannell, although it’s inaccurately described as Cannell reflecting on the second season; what he really does is reflect on the show as a whole. If he discusses the second season specifically, it’s only briefly and is in no way the main topic of conversation. Also included is the original series pilot, which really should’ve been on the first set, but it also works better here, as it really demonstrates how far the show has come in just one short year. (It’s also interesting to see that the show’s original concept involved Rockford only tackling closed cases from the police files.)

Amazingly, “The Rockford Files” would get even better in its third year, when “Sopranos” creator David Chase took over as executive producer, but there’s still no denying that this was a five-star season for the series.

~Will Harris



Written February, 2003, for Gannett Newspapers

Carrollshelby_2 Buick. Chevrolet. Oldsmobile. Ford. Rolls-Royce. Toyota. Peugeot. Chrysler. Honda. Mercedes-Benz. Bentley.
And there are more. All great car companies bearing the names of their founders or important figures in their history.

Why doesn’t that happen anymore? A social event we attended in Los Angeles recently got me thinking about it.
We were visiting the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The gala that evening was a tribute to a short-lived race team which was owned by actor James Garner, organized in the late 1960s after he filmed the feature movie “Grand Prix”, which, along with Steve McQueen’s “LeMans”, are considered the two best racing movies of all time.
In “Grand Prix”, Garner portrayed an American racer driving for a Japanese car company just getting started in Formula 1, or Grand Prix, racing. The story was borrowed from the true-life exploits of American F1 racer Richie Ginther and his association with the (at that time) fledgling Honda F1 race team. Yves Montand played another F1 driver, Toshiro Mifune’s character (Mifune his first big English-speaking movie) was modeled after the founder Honda, and Eva Marie Saint played the always-necessary “love interest” shared between Garner and Montand.

Jamesgarnerhead Also in the film were race drivers Richie Ginther, Bob Bondurant, Jim Clark, Bruce McLaren, American F1 World Champion Phil Hill and Brit racer Graham Hill, “Black Jack” Brabham and Dan Gurney. The 1966 movie, directed by John Frankenheimer, contains some of the most fantastic racing scenes ever recorded, featuring all the drivers mentioned above in their F1 race cars of the time.

Garner was at the Petersen Museum event, and there was a showing of a 1969 documentary produced and starring Garner called “The Racing Scene”, which was directed by Andy Sidaris, who headed up ABC-TV’s “Wide World of Sports” racing coverage for many years. Sidaris spoke at the event and introduced the film, which chronicled Garner’s road racing and more successful off-road exploits.
We spoke with Garner and also with Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones and legendary racer/race car builder/promoter Carroll Shelby.

It’s all fine and well to speak with some of the past stars and heroes of the automotive world, but when it comes to accomplishing some of the feats these men did (and there were, unfortunately, not many women in the auto business at that time), who are the future great stars? Where are the Shelby’s, Jones’s, Iacocca’s and DeLorean’s, even the James Garner’s, of tomorrow?

The sad truth is, they are few and far between.

Today’s worldwide auto industry is one of committees and stockholders, not individuals. Carroll Shelby told me years ago that what he had accomplished would never be done again, simply because no one person or even medium-sized company has the money and equipment to develop a vehicle from scratch. Even if they did, the costs involved with building and then crash-testing test cars or trucks and then meeting the safety, fuel and emissions requirements of countries around the world is prohibitive for any company except the largest.

Parnellijoneshead_2 Think about it….when was the last time anyone started a car company under their own name? There have been a few sporadic attempts over the years, and the DeLorean project got a lot of press because of the overall fiasco it turned out to be (all that interest about a not-very-good car), but today’s automotive all-stars tend to be people like Carlos Ghosn, the head of Renault, which bought Nissan a few years ago and has managed to turn the company into a money-maker.

One of the last of the “old-timers” still working in the business is 72 year old Bob Lutz, now essentially in charge of cars and trucks for General Motors in North America. Lutz, when he was a top executive at Chrysler, before Daimler took them over, gave the go-ahead for wildly successful and sexy projects like the Viper, Prowler and PT Cruiser. A former Marine fighter pilot who collects, restores and flies European fighter jets as a hobby, is just about the final executive at a major car company who has the authority to make far-ranging decisions and is willing to live with their consequences.

(Interesting aside: The “merger of equals” which Daimler claimed their relationship with Chrysler would be when they bought-out the perennially-struggling automaker a few years has turned into anything but that. In fact, on the new-look DaimlerChrysler Board of Directors, there is but a single American left. Daimler, a notoriously conservative company, now loses almost any American-style zest it may have had. One executive once told me that “casual day” at Daimler in Germany meant taking your suit jacket off during lunch.)

The auto world moved more and more towards being run by “the bean counters” in the late 1960s, when government regulations and the prospect of oil shortages hit the industry hard. Suddenly, egos were out the door (one of the prime reasons DeLorean never became president of General Motors), and executives not taking responsibility became an art form. A degree from the Wharton School of Business is now a ticket to the top of the management heap at any car company worldwide, where in the past an engineer, stylist, race car driver or slick promoter could carry a car from concept to production.

Another prime reason for this sad bureaucratic state of affairs is the sheer complexity of modern cars and trucks themselves. No one person, companies believe, can master all the knowledge necessary to bring a project to market, and therefore a committee-upon-committee system is used to create today’s vehicles. And you know the old joke about a camel being a horse designed by a committee. Think about that the next time you see, say, a Pontiac Aztek!

If Bob Lutz achieves a great degree of success at GM, perhaps the pendulum will swing back towards the power of the individual in the automotive world. But the days of John DeLorean meeting casually Saturday mornings with his engineering staff at Pontiac, taking a 389 cubic inch engine from their big Bonneville and putting it into their small LeMans and calling it a GTO, and doing it all on a lark, as sort of a “neat idea at the time”, well, those days are over.

It’s a shame, too, as I am sure we can all agree. What we can do now is learn about our automotive history, appreciate the characters who populated it and turned it into the greatest and most important industrial movement the world has ever seen. And if we’re lucky enough, sometimes sit at the feet of those who had a hand in it, as we did recently at the Petersen Museum, and --- just listen.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Barbarians At The Gate

Barbarians At The Gates (1993) *** 1/2
11.09, 2007 Author: MMM

Director: Glenn Jordan

Starring: James Garner, Jonathan Pryce, Peter Riegert, Joanna Cassidy, Fred Dalton Thompson, Leilani Sarelle, Matt Clark

This Emmy-winning made-for-TV movie takes a humorous look at actual events in a big 1980s takeover war. It falls somewhere between a light drama and a comedy, but the seasoned professional acting (particularly lead James Garner) and experienced direction is far above usual TV standards. There is a pretty good story about excess and the battle for big bucks.

James Garner is F. Ross Johnson, who has gone from being a hardworking paperboy in Winnipeg, Canada to a jet setting, big spending CEO in NYC. When Johnson is faced with an expensive project that seems headed for failure, he chooses to deflect shareholder backlash by trying to raise the money to buy the company himself. It might have worked, but when a couple other green sharks get the whiff of possible profit, the bidding war is on. What follows is corporate juggling, scrambling, and general skulduggery in a world where all the numbers have nine zeroes.

Imagine a Wall Street where Gordon Gekko is a charming, nice guy (but greed is still good) and with a comedy slant, and you will have some idea of what to expect here. All in all, this is a pretty fun way to learn the difference between a corporate takeover and a hostile takeover. Admit it. You have always wanted to know.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Rockford Files DVD news: Announcement for The Rockford Files - Season 5 | TVShowsOnDVD.com

The Rockford Files spent six seasons on the air (not counting the eight post-series telefilms which reunited the majority of the cast), and on DVD we're getting close to the end. This morning Universal has announced the January 15th release of The Rockford Files - Season 5. This package will have 20 episodes (two of them double-length: "Black Mirror" and "Never Send a Boy King to Do a Man's Job") running 1045 minutes. Cost is $39.98 SRP for this 5-disc set (all single-sided). Video and audio is as originally shown: full-frame with English mono. There are also English subtitles present, but no word yet on any extras. Stay tuned and we'll update you with cover art and anything else we get from the studio, just as soon as we can! UPDATE: The studio has quickly provided us with box art for this release:Rockford Files - Season 5 box art Link to this page:http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Rockford-Files-Season-5/8284 All news for this show:http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/shownews/Rockford-Files/3585 More info on this show:The Rockford Files

The Rockford Files DVD news: Announcement for The Rockford Files - Season 5 | TVShowsOnDVD.com

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Norman's James Garner To Lead State Centennial Parade

The Norman Transcript - Norman's James Garner will lead state Centennial Parade

Norman native James Garner will serve as the grand marshal of the Oklahoma Centennial Parade, officials with the Oklahoma Centennial Commission announced this week.

The prarade is scheduled for at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 14 in downtown Oklahoma City.

Presented by Noble Corporation, the parade centers around the theme, “Celebrate Oklahoma! A Unique History. An Extraordinary Future.”

The parade will fill downtown Oklahoma City streets with floats, giant helium-filled balloons of state icons and children's favorite characters, performance groups and marching bands.

“Throughout the years, James Garner has been a wonderful ambassador for our state, not only spreading the word about his home state, but also returning frequently to contribute to Oklahoma projects,” said Lee Allan Smith, chairman of Centennial projects and events. “We are proud to feature this Oklahoma treasure in the parade of a century.”

Best known for his roles in television's Maverick and Rockford Files, Garner was born on April 7, 1928 in Norman.

His father, Weldon Bumgarner, was of European ancestry and his mother, Mildred, was one-half Cherokee. After a brief stint in the Merchant Marines at 16-years-old, Garner moved to Los Angeles to join his father.

After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Garner — who won two purple hearts — decided to try his hand at acting. His first on-camera appearance was with Clint Walker on the TV series Cheyenne. His feature film debut came in Toward the Unknown.

He also gave an acclaimed performance as Marlon Brando's friend in the hit film, Sayonara, which led to his first big break - the starring role in the television series Maverick, which brought him true stardom. He shortened his last name to “Garner,” after a studio miscredited him in a film.

Since then, he has starred in roughly 40 films, including The Children's Hour, The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily (his personal favorite), Grand Prix, Cash McCall, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, The Great Escape, Move Over, The Notebook, Support Your Local Sheriff, The Skin Game, The Thrill of It All, Victor/Victoria. Next up for Garner will be the 2008 release of the animated feature Terra in which he is the voice of the character Doron.

Garner has also received his share of state honors.

In 1986, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and three years later, was named Ambassador of Cultural Arts for the State of Oklahoma. Graner was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in March 1990 and received the Western Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement in Film and Television from the Gene Autry Museum.

In 1995 he received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the University of Oklahoma. In April 2006 a statue of Garner depicting him as “Maverick” was created by the noted artist, Shan Gray. A Centennial project, the statue is now a destination for visitors from all over the world.

The Centennial Parade is free and open to the public. For information about the parade route, parking and shuttles, please visit www.okcentennialparade.com.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sooner Ties Help Bind Family-Friendly Ultimate Gift

By Matthew Price
Staff Writer

"The Ultimate Gift” has a message for everyone. But the film may find special favor with Oklahomans, as star James Garner and Jim Stovall, author of the original book, both hail from the state.

Garner plays Red Stevens, the benevolent businessman who wants to leave his grandson more than simply money.

Stovall, a fan of "The Rockford Files” and "Maverick,” said Garner's casting was serendipitous, with the movie coming out during Oklahoma's Centennial, and shortly after Garner was honored with a statue in his hometown of Norman.

"When our casting people brought him to me as a selection, I don't think they ever thought about the fact that we were both Oklahomans, but it was such a tremendous thing,” Stovall, of Tulsa, said.

"He has been just everything you would hope he would be,” Stovall said. "He just instantly became Red Stevens to me.”

"The Ultimate Gift” is the story of Red Stevens and his grandson, Jason. When Red dies, he leaves Jason a mysterious inheritance. To receive the inheritance, Jason must complete 12 "gifts,” to learn lessons imparted by Red in his will.

"Since nearly 4 million people have read the book now, it was very important to me to get all 12 of the gifts in there,” Stovall said. "One of the things we did, while the credits are rolling at the end: Each of the gifts, there's a little vignette that plays from the movie showing what the gift was, just so people know it's all really still there.

"But obviously, to have a commercial movie, we had to have a little romance and a little danger.”

At the heart of the romance, and the danger, is Drew Fuller, who was cast as Jason Stevens. Fuller bought into the "Ultimate Gift” message, and in fact, still takes part in special events promoting the book and the message.

Stovall talks to students across the country about "The Ultimate Gift,” which is taught in many curriculums. Fuller recently appeared with Stovall to talk to the students about the message.

"These are people who made this movie over a year ago, but they still believe in what we're doing and they come out and do things with us,” Stovall said.

Also starring in the movie are Brian Dennehy, Lee Meriwether, Bill Cobbs and Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine.”)

"Abigail Breslin, who plays little Emily, when we got her to do this film, it was really before ‘Little Miss Sunshine' had hit and earned an Academy Award nomination, and that was a real gift to us,” Stovall said. "Because right now, we probably couldn't afford to get Abby on a film like this, so that was a great opportunity.”

Stovall said Dennehy's portrayal of Texas rancher Gus Caldwell motivated Stovall to add the Gus character into the sequel to "The Ultimate Gift.”

"Gus was not going to appear in the next book, but once I experienced Brian playing Gus, now he's in the new book,” Stovall said.

The next book, called "The Ultimate Life,” is due out in October and follows the continuing adventures of Jason Stevens.

Stovall was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disorder at age 17; by age 29, he lost his sight. He is founder of the Narrative Television Network, which makes movies and television accessible for the nation's 13 million blind and visually impaired people and their families.

"As a blind person myself, my characters are kind of sketchy to me,” Stovall said. "These characters, since I was involved in making the movie, they came to life and were real people to me. So, it was more fun for me to write the next book.”

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Terrorism In The Heartland

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Bombing From James Garner's 1995 Commencement speech at Oklahoma University ~

"If this tragedy has one bright spot, its that its shown the character, dignity, and strength of the Oklahoma people as they go about their lives. It makes every Oklahoman, no matter where they are, proud to be from Oklahoma. "

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Small Trivia Quiz

Quite a few trivia sites mention that Jim had the nickname "Slick" when he was a teen. Ah, but does anyone know how he came to have that moniker?

If I don't get any guesses - right or wrong - I guess you'll never know...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Quote From The Notebook

I am nothing special; just a common man with common thoughts, and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who's ever lived: I've loved another with all my heart and soul; and to me, this has always been enough.

-- Noah (James Garner) in The Notebook

Monday, May 7, 2007

Another Maverick?

I've been reading this - and numerous variations thereof - for days. All I can say is, don't get your hopes up - or start worrying, depending on your point of view - until you hear it from Jim.

IGN: Mel Making More Maverick

Mel Making More Maverick Gibson and Garner to reteam? by IGN Staff May 1, 2007 - In this day and age, Hollywood will make a sequel to just about anything. But here's one we bet you never saw coming... Mel Gibson, according to a report from the World Entertainment News Network, is plotting a follow-up to Maverick. The 1994 Western comedy starred Gibson along with James Garner and Jodie Foster. And now, Gibson says he's keen to get back in the saddle. "There's talk of doing another Maverick," the actor-filmmaker tells WENN. "Garner and I have been looking at that for a while." "It'd be fun to play that character again. I think audiences would probably like to see him again too," Gibson says. "We really cooked the first time. We've got some great ideas--I think audiences will enjoy what we've got in mind." Despite the audacity of this project, Gibson asserts that he has no plans to pull a Stallone and bring back his two most famous franchises. He says, "We've put Mad Max and Lethal Weapon behind us now. There's nowhere to move with those characters. We were pushing it with the last ones."

Monday, April 16, 2007

When H.G. Wells met Jack the Ripper

One of my favorite actors talking about one of my very favorite actors:

I also loved working with James Garner, who is so unsung. When we were shooting the scene where we have lunch together, I'm throwing grapes up in the air, catching them with my mouth, and he's just sitting there. "Doncha want a cuppa coffee?" I ask him, and he says, "No, you're doing it all." I'd love to work with him again. He's in the same league with Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Gielgud, in a different way. All of them are coming from the inside, and all their thoughts have to be right. James Garner makes acting look effortless – that's hard work.

That's Malcolm McDowelll talking about working with Garner in Sunset. Quote's from an interview McDowell did with N.P. Thompson of The House Next Door. Thompson was focused on McDowell, naturally, so he didn't chase that down---Garner in the same league as those three great British hams? What did McDowell mean?

I'm guessing that when he says that, like those three, James Garner is "coming from the inside" he means that when you watch Garner you have to look into his eyes. He makes you read his thoughts. His characters don't move about much (neither do Olivier's but he vibrates so intensely when he's just standing still you feel as if he's moving as much as Gene Kelly does when he's dancing) but they're always thinking. You can see their minds working, which is how Garner can dominate a scene in which he has few lines, he's playing opposite an actor as volatile as McDowell, and that other actor is doing something as flamboyant as tossing grapes up in the air and catching them in his mouth. McDowell appears to have been worried about upstaging Garner but Garner knew. He can afford to give away space to anyone who's onscreen with him.

Garner once said he learned everything he knows about acting from watching Henry Fonda in the stage version of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. It was one of Garner's first acting jobs. He played a member of the panel of naval officers trying the case and he had no lines. He kept himself occupied by studying Fonda, another actor who I'd say worked "from inside."

That's my guess. I'll find out. I'm making Sunset family movie night next week. Tonight's family movie night is, coincidentally, Time After Time, which stars McDowell as H.G. Wells who, movies being movies, turns out to have actually invented and built the time machine that's at the center of his novel. And, movies being movies, it turns out that Jack the Ripper uses the time machine to escape from the police and Wells jumps in it after him and chases him into the 20th Century to bring him back to justice. Wells, who thinks of himself as a visionary, is shocked but then enthralled by all the things he never envisioned, particularly Mary Steenburgen.



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I remember thinking Time After Time was a great flick, but haven't seen it in awhile. I've never seen Sunset, but don't remember ever being disappointed by James Garner's portrayals.

Malcolm McDowell always reminded me of something George Carlin said about cats... Cats he said, always looked like they were getting used to new contact lenses. I always thought Malcolm looked the same way... those kind of bloodshot, wide open eyes with deliberate blinks...

Love love love Malcom McDowell. I always thought he shot his career by doing Caligula, but apparently it didn't hurt Helen Mirren, so I don't know.

My favorite scene in Time After Time was when Wells walked into a McDonalds and imitated the redneck in front of him to order food. He picked up his fries, looked at them quizzically, and tasted one. His face lit up. "Pomme fritte!" he exclaimed joyfully.

Also, James Garner is not just an actor. He's a MAN. In all capital letters. I don't care how old he gets, he does me in every time.


Watch Twilight to see Garner, Gene Hackman, Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon in a well-modulated little film about getting old in a town where being young is so important. It might not be family night material, but it's a good movie.

Funny... I haven't seen Sunset in an age, and I didn't even remember McDowell being in it(unusual, because he's one of my favorites as well), and probably wouldn't have remembered Bruce Willis being in it if he hadn't been on the poster, but Garner... the one scene that I remember clearly from the movie is where they're shooting the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and someone asks Earp (Garner) if they've gotten it right, and Earp remembers the way it really was... I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it.

Jennifer--have you seen the remake of Cat People, the one with Nastassja Kinski and the Giorgio Moroder soundtrack (Bowie sings the theme song; that version is much better than the one on Let's Dance)? McDowell plays... wait for it... a werecat. Best thing in the movie, really; McDowell can sometimes be the only thing worth watching in an otherwise shitty movie, and frankly, he's done quite a few of those, as well.

Almost 30 years on, "Time After Time" is still one of my favorite movies ever.

And as the sadly canceled "Joan of Arcadia" showed, Steenburgen is still Teh Hot.

James Garner really was/is the picture of a pro. If nothing else, we owe him honors for The Rockford Files, one of the first private detective shows actually made for adults. (I mean, Mannix? Come on.) A terrific show, Rockford, the best of that wave of more comedic (and occasionally existential) PI fare that included Harry O and even Cannon, a show that dared you to disbelieve in an obese man's power to fight crime as well as anyone.

But Rockford! A man who often didn't carry a gun. Burdened with no-good ex-con friends. Drove a creaky old American road monster as big as a city block. Way above-average writing for the genre, but everything rode on Garner's likablity and obvious-yet-never-overbearing masculinity. And all those episodes of a one-hour show equal how many movies?

Malcolm McDowell.... he shoulda been a contender. How I wish that someone around 1985 had shaken him by the shoulders and declared, "You're Malcolm McDowell! Stop with this (&@(*^# you're making! No more Blue Thunders!"

I'm with KC45s on James Garner in the Rockford Files. I loved it as a kid and have begun watching it on DVD again. As Rockford he can make his character believable as a self-centered coward and as a reluctant, but tough hero. You always believed that he might actually give up when things got hard, even though, he never did, of course. His relationship with Noah Beery seemed natural and tender as well. I will disagree with KC on Mannix though; I used to love that show, but maybe, it was more for the theme song and Mike Connors' hair.

Love both Malcolm McDowell and James Garner. So have put "Sunset" in my Netflix que, not having seen it. I'd expected to not care for "Time After Time" so was surprised at how much fun it was, yet haven't viewed it but once.

The Siren did an essay on how Brit actors aged; well, McDowell did well, unlike so many of that generation. Garner to me will always be part Bret Maverick, part Charley Madison. Get Emily for a family night.

James Garner has always been one of my very favorite actors. Wild, Wild, West was an absolutely wonderful show, because Garner made it so easy to suspend disbelief. And The Rockford Files was just awesome. Athough, I have to admit that I enjoyed them immensly as a child. It is notable, that it is one of the few shows that I really liked when I was a child, that I can watch now and actually sit through an episode or two, or more.

I definately think it is presence. I cannot remember the nae fo the movie, it was a bad one, that we went to see as a family in the mid-eighties. He was in substantial portion of the movie - but very rarely said anything. As I say, it was a bad movie - but worth watching, just to see Garner, saying and doing very little - but dominating the screen anyway.

Absolutely agree about James Garner. He's been my personal hfavorite since the original Maverick in 1957.

I don't care how old he gets either - James is still THE MAN!

ditto on garner. always a great favorite. also enjoyed very much 1994s maverick, in which he played maverick sr to mel gibson's
maverick jr. they (and jodie foster) were magical together.
i have a videotape of tombstone/butch cassidy/maverick. whenever i get too sick of things i play it and am renewed.

James Garner, "Murphy's Romance"...sigh.

JD -

I think that might be the one I was thinking of. Did I say bad. . .Ummm, well, I was only nine when I saw it. . .

Lance, I've mentioned The Rockford Files here previously, though I can't quite remember why. Perhaps my all-time favorite TV show. Superb writing and then James Garner to make it happen.

I've never seen Sunset, and have not heard good things about it (until now). Perhaps I'll give it a shot anyway...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More 'Nam

Enlargement: Jeanne A. Markle: Experiencing War: Veterans History Project (Library of Congress

Unidentified patient and actor James Garner, Post Op 2, 24th Evacuation Hospital, Long Binh, Vietnam.

Image: page 1

Stars & Stripes: From the S&S archives:

U.S. foils 'burglar' in Vietnam, says actor James Garner

U.S. foils 'burglar' in Vietnam, says actor James Garner

By Wally Beene, S&S staff writer

Pacific edition, Monday, April 17, 1967

Bill Becker / S&S

Actor James Garner, interviewed in Saigon in April, 1967. Garner, a Korean War veteran, was visiting servicemembers in South Vietnam.

Purchase reprint

SAIGON — James Garner, the latest Hollywood actor to play the USO Borscht Circuit in Vietnam, feels that the main reason the U.S. public hasn't been sold on the war is because the United States was not attacked.

Garner, a Purple Heart veteran of Korea, says that he personally feels the situation is much like it was in Korea when General Matthew Ridgway addressed the troops and asked, "If you see a burglar coming, do you want to stop him at the back fence or wait until he gets into the house?"

"Here in Vietnam we couldn't wait for some sensational incident to happen or it would have been too late to help these people save their country from communism," Garner added.

The prospect of making a Vietnam tour caught Garner off guard, he readily admits. "I asked them what they thought I could do — no songs, no dances, no jokes. But here I am."

Traveling solo around the country, he has arrived at the conclusion that "the morale here is about 100 percent higher than it was in Korea."

Occasionally Garner runs across a GI who wants to try him for size. "They might ask if I was over here on some tax writeoff, or how much I get paid. When I explain that I'm an ex-rifleman private with the 24th Inf. Div.'s 5th Regimental Combat: Team, and came over for nothing, everything is OK."

As for Hollywood and the war, Garner feels it will be some time before any pictures based on the Vietnam war are produced.

"There are a lot of technical problems — getting the right equipment, finding the right locations and such, but above all it is too soon. The pictures made about the Korean War didn't do well at the boxoffice, but World War II pictures are well received now."

Garner is not worried about his most recently released film doing well. "Grand Prix," the story of European auto racing, seems well along the road toward soaking up 40 or 50 million at the boxoffice.

This was a labor of love for Garner, who was a California hot-rodder in his youth.

While he developed a great admiration and respect for the men who drive the powerful Formula I cars, Garner doesn't hesitate to admit that it isn't for him.

Garner, star of the highly successful "Maverick" TV series, is getting ready to mount up again soon when he plays Wyatt Earp to Jason Robards Jr.'s Doc Holliday in a picture that takes up the great lawman's career after the battle of the OK Corral.

Note: Jim has since stopped smoking. :o)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Post After My Own Heart!

Check this out, folks. WOW!

Vox Hunt: Mistletoe Kisses -

Vox Hunt: Mistletoe Kisses

Show us who you'd like to kiss under the mistletoe.




Sally Field told Rita Braver on CBS News Sunday Morning that James Garner gave her "the best kiss I ever had in my life, which was on camera, believe it or not" (in a scene from "Murphy's Romance").

Presented with this information in a separate interview with Braver, Garner said, "She’s such a dear. Poor thing. She must not get out very much. But that's nice for her to say. I've had a couple of them say that. I might not be a bad kisser after all."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What A Memory!

Check out this post on Pioneer Woman's Blog. There are a ton of fantastic comments!

Confessions of a Pioneer Woman: I Kissed James Garner in an Elevator

Apr 10, 2007

I Kissed James Garner in an Elevator

You heard me. I was a week into my freshman year at U.S.C. and was deep into exploring The City of Angels with Collin, my cute boyfriend who later turned out to be gay. And when I say "exploring," I mean exploring. School hadn't even started yet and already we'd been to the beach in Malibu, walked the Sunset Strip, shopped on Rodeo Drive, and eaten at every "it" restaurant we could find.

The night before school started, Collin and I stopped off at a hotel somewhere in Greater Los Angeles. We wanted to have a drink, you see, and continue to revel in our delicious new eighteen-year-old independence. The hotel had a top-floor bar, so Collin and I stopped giggling and frolicking long enough to push the "up" button and wait for the doors to open.

And when they did, I saw James Garner standing there. James Garner, in all his Rockford Files glory.

And yes, I know James Garner had a long, distinguished career way before he played Jim Rockford, but "The Rockford Files" was in my era and that's what I was watching when I first fell in love with his confident, swaggering manliness. James Garner is Jim Rockford, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator. It's just one of those eternal truths.

And there he was, standing a mere three feet in front of me. He was still every bit as appealing as I remembered him from the TV show. As he stepped off the elevator and Collin and I began to step on, I didn't even think about reining in my enthusiastic awe. "Oh my gosh," I sputtered. "JAMES GARNER???!!!???" I was blinded by the light of celebrity before me. My eyes were, I'm sure, the size of dinner plates and I'm fairly certain my pounding heart was visible, just like that cartoon character whose red heart comes thrusting out of its chest. I continued. "I just LOVE YOU!" I hadn't yet learned skills of subtelty.

By now Collin was in the elevator, frantically pushing the top-floor button so the doors would close and separate us not only from James Garner but from the abject embarrassment he was feeling over my complete lack of discretion. I was halfway in and the elevator doors about to close when James Garner reached into the elevator and pulled me off at the very last minute. The elevator closed and sent Collin on his merry way. "You stay down here with me, darlin'," James Garner said to me. I had seven coronary infarctions and my hiney completely inverted as I casually answered, "Um. Okay!" We stood in front of the elevator and chatted about where we were both from, what I was doing in Los Angeles, and what an unusually hot evening it was for southern California. A minute later, the elevator opened back up.

Collin's sweet little face---carrying just a hint of hostility---greeted me. "You comin' up?" he asked. James Garner gave me a little nudge. "Aww, you better get back on, sweetheart." But I didn't want to. I wanted to stay with James Garner. He was strong and handsome and much more like my dad than any of the U.S.C. boys I'd met so far. And though I was ready to be independent and grown up, I was homesick. And I missed my grandmother, at whose house I faithfully watched "The Rockford Files" during my blissful childhood in the seventies. She might as well have been standing there in front of me, too. James Garner, though a celebrity, was familiar to me. And secure. And steadfast. And really, really handsome.

I think James Garner sensed that I'd need a little coaxing to get back onto the elevator with my measly eighteen-year-old boyfriend and that if he didn't do something proactive, I'd stow away in the trunk of his Cadillac Seville and refuse to leave his yard. So James Garner gave me a bear hug from behind, escorted me onto the elevator, turned me around...and gave me a great big smack on the lips. And as he exited the elevator he turned, gave me a wink and said, "Goodbye, darlin'." And I fainted inside. And died seventeen times, too. It took me a long time to find Collin interesting after that. I'd looked into the face of Jim Rockford, and things had changed forever.

James Garner? Are you reading this? I'm pretty sure you think about me at least once a week. No, I think you do. No, you do; you just don't know it. I think that deep down you remember our time in the elevator as a moment in life that passed you by, a moment that could have turned into a lifelong love story if I hadn't been eighteen and my cute gay boyfriend hadn't been there to spoil all the fun. Oh? You were married back then? Oh. Never mind. 'Cause I don't want to go down in history as the person who came between James Garner and his wife. I've got a lot of laundry to do and I just don't need that one.

Goodbye forever, James Garner.

I love you,

P.S. Call me sometime!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Viet Nam 1967

Unlike many stars of the era, Jim Garner did not protest the war by refusing to support our troops. Himself a veteran of 14 months of combat - with two Purple Hearts - in Korea, he knew all to well what fighting a war is all about.

This is one picture of him visiting a hospital in Viet Nam. More shots to come.

May 8, 1967

Soldiers, Stars and Smiles

James Garner

MAVERICK – James Garner , also known as Bret Maverick, jokes
with a patient
at the 12th Evac. Hosp. Garner spoke to almost every
patient in Tropic Lightning
medical facilities during his 36-hour stay
at the Cu Chi base camp.

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Another Birthday Tribute

The Rap Sheet: Happy Birthday, Jimbo

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Birthday, Jimbo

I’ve been thinking a lot about James Garner lately, not just because he is among my favorite actors, but because one of the characters he’s best known for having portrayed--Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files--is contending in The Rap Sheet’s second online poll for the title of “best TV private eye in history.” It’s Garner’s 79th birthday today, and that got me to thinking about a short tribute to him I penned last year for my other blog, Limbo. I’ve used that post as the basis for this longer panegyric.

Born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman, Oklahoma, on this date in 1928, the man who would be Rockford was the son of a carpet layer. His mother (through whom Garner is one quarter Cherokee--a fact recalled in the name of his film and TV production company, Cherokee Productions) died when young James was just 4 years old, and he and his two older brothers, Jack and Charles, were sent to live with relatives. Only after their father remarried in 1934, was the family reunited--but by no means peacefully. According to Wikipedia, “Garner grew to hate his stepmother, Wilma, who beat all three boys, but especially young James. When he was 14, James finally had enough of his ‘wicked stepmother’ and after a particularly heated battle, she left for good. As James’ brother Jack commented, ‘She was a damn no-good woman.’”

At age 16, James Bumgarner joined the United States Merchant Marine, but he had to leave after a year, due to chronic seasickness. He moved west to Los Angeles, where his dad was living since the breakup of his second marriage. There he attended Hollywood High School and modeled for Portland, Oregon-based swimsuit manufacturer Jantzen (at $25 an hour), but he “hated” modeling and returned to Norman, where he played high school football and basketball (“If there was a ball, I played it”) before joining the U.S. Army as an infantryman during the Korean War. (He would receive two Purple Hearts for his military service.)

As the story goes, his first acting experience came while he was still attending Hollywood High. A friend persuaded him to take a non-speaking role in the Broadway production of Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. After that he starred in TV commercials and eventually captured roles on such series as Zane Grey Theater, Conflict, and Cheyenne. His earliest movie appearances were in 1956, when he could be seen in both Toward the Unknown (with William Holden) and The Girl He Left Behind (with Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood). As to why he changed his surname ... the explanation is that one of the film studios he worked for abbreviated “Baumgarner” to “Garner” (without permission), and he eventually went along with it. (He changed his name legally in the late 1950s.)

I was first introduced to Garner’s work during weekend reruns of the renowned Roy Huggins-created TV western, Maverick, one of my father’s favorite programs and also among the inspirations for my continuing interest in the history of the American West. Garner of course played Bret Maverick (1957-1960), a not too rough-and-tumble riverboat gambler who roamed the dusty, sometimes lusty U.S. frontier as much for fast bucks as adventure, becoming--as the theme song goes--“a legend of the west.” After that, I followed his career through a tumbling succession of memorable films--from The Great Escape (1963), The Wheeler Dealers (1963) and The Americanization of Emily (1964), to the better-remembered Support Your Local Sheriff (1969), Marlowe (an underappreciated 1969 film based on one of Raymond Chandler’s private eye novels, The Little Sister), Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) and Skin Game (1971). Along the way, Garner starred in an unfortunately short-lived NBC-TV series called Nichols, which found him in the comfortable role of a cowardly, apathetic drifter (not so very different from the parts he’d played in Gunfighter and Skin Game) who, in 1914, leaves the army and returns to his small Arizona hometown ... only to be promptly blackmailed into taking the job of sheriff. Garner, who was extremely fond of Nichols, took its cancellation hard; the only good thing about it was that it left him free to take the lead three years later in The Rockford Files, another Huggins-created series.

Rockford cast Garner as a resourceful, smooth-talking, but distinctly unheroic Los Angeles private eye who never seemed to find an easy-paying client, a regular girlfriend, or a decent place to hang his hat (he lived in a dilapidated Nashua trailer in a Malibu parking lot). James Scott Rockford was effectively Bret Maverick for the 1970s, but with all of his horses under a Pontiac Firebird hood and a father who (unlike the philosophizing “Pappy” in Maverick) showed up more often than not, in the kindly person of Noah Beery Jr., the nephew of film legend Wallace Beery. During its six-year run (1974-1980)--which would have been longer, had Garner not been forced to pull out after injuring himself in the course of doing too many of his own stunts--Rockford picked up an impressive five Emmy Awards (including a Best Actor commendation for Garner) and was ranked by TV Guide as one the 50 finest American television shows ever. “When it came to private eyes--at least, the ones on movies and TV--Jim Rockford ... stood out like a slow curve in a world of fast balls,” opines Ed Robertson, who literally wrote the book on Garner’s gumshoe drama (Thirty Years of The Rockford Files, 2005).

After Rockford signed off as a series for the last time (only to spawn a sequence of popular TV movies during the Clinton era), the then 53-year-old Garner sought to return to his other most familiar small-screen role in NBC’s Bret Maverick (1981), which reimagined the former card sharp and con man semi-retiring to a backwater Arizona town. Sadly, that series--which I thought went a long way toward recapturing the vitality and humor of the original--lasted only a year, after which Garner returned to the silver screen, appearing in Victor/Victoria (1982, along with Julie Andrews), Murphy’s Romance (1985, with Sally Field), Sunset (1988, which had him portraying a crusty-but-romantic Wyatt Earp to Bruce Willis’ cowboy actor Tom Mix), Maverick (1994, in which he played the role of an impatient marshal, while Mel Gibson--in his pre-zealot days--assumed the part of brother Bret), Twilight (1998, with Paul Newman), and Space Cowboys (2000, with Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones). He also signed on for a few TV movies, including Barbarians at the Gate (1993), Breathing Lessons (1994), and Legalese (1998, which included the casually stunning Mary-Louise Parker as Garner’s sexy, thoroughly ambitious junior law partner).

Following The West Wing’s award-winning early success, Garner made another stab at series television, working opposite Joe Mantegna on First Monday (2002), about the U.S. Supreme Court. Garner portrayed a football-loving conservative Chief Justice of the United States (a funny role for Garner, who’s a staunch Democrat, and was briefly courted to run for the 1990 Democratic nomination for governor of California). Unfortunately, audiences didn’t seem to care about earnest debate in the High Court the way they did about political strategizing and character assassination in the White House. First Monday didn’t make it into a second year. Garner went on to play a classically crusty grandfather on 8 Simple Rules ... for Dating My Teenage Daughter, an unremarkable part he took on after the untimely, 2003 death of lead John Ritter. The Internet Movie Database says he’ll be starring in a 2008 film called The Magic Shoe and doing voice work for an animated flick, Terra.

I’ve never met James Garner, and I am sure that he isn’t to be confused with the easygoing, lovable characters he has so often portrayed. But he’s given me four decades of enjoyment on screens large and small, and for that, he earns my best wishes on 79 years down, and many more to come.

SEE IT NOW: In March 1999, Garner was interviewed on-camera for the Archive of American Television. That candid and informative, six-part appearance is currently available on Google Video. Part one can be found here, together with links to the other five installments. It’s not to be missed by Garner fans.

posted by J. Kingston Pierce at 4:58 PM