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
If you've read this book, click the image and tell the publisher what you thought about it. If you haven't read this book, what are you waiting for!

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.



TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference When H.G. Wells met Jack the Ripper:


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...

No comments:

Post a Comment