Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Posted 1 day ago
The opening scene of the 1966 flick Grand Prix featured actor James Garner in one of the most memorable movie moments of all time.
The green flag drops amid a deafening roar of Formula One machinery. A blur of drivers in their tube-shaped metal envelopes begin their full-scale assault on the streets of Monte Carlo. Split-screen images projected onto the oversized curved Cinerama screen provides an
all-too-real sense of riding along with the drivers as they frantically jockey for position. Suddenly, in a split-second, two cars collide and you're watching, wide-eyed, as one car violently catapults off course - straight into Monaco's yacht-filled harbour. Fortunately, the hero Pete
Aron, played in his usual easy-going style by James Garner, escapes his metal coffin, gasping for air as a trio of scuba divers swims to his aid.
Pure Hollywood fantasy? Well, not exactly. What Grand Prix director John Frankenheimer chose for his movie's opening sequence happened to real-life driver Alberto Ascari at that very spot 11 years earlier while he was leading the event.
For Garner, working on Grand Prix became an example of life imitating art. As a result of the movie he would become hooked on racing and remain actively involved in the sport for many years after this ground-breaking movie was in the can.
Garner's interest in fast cars goes back to his pre-acting days. Born James Scott Bumgarner in 1928, the Norman, Okla., native was driving hot rods around town as a teenager. But this carpet layer's son couldn't afford his own wheels, so he was usually piloting one of his
buddies' modified jalopies.
Following minor stage and small-screen roles, Garner's first of many breaks came in 1957 when he starred in the TV western series, Maverick. After four successful years, he moved to the big screen, where he played the leading man in a number of fluffy romantic comedies
before landing a major role in The Great Escape. This real-life movie vaulted the suave and debonair Garner into bona fide superstar status.
Grand Prix director Frankenheimer actually wanted Steve McQueen for lead roll as Pete Aron, but the deal fell through after a rocky interview that Frankenheimer was unable to attend.
Garner, who badly wanted the part, was picked.
Before shooting began, Garner took lessons from Bob Bondurant, a successful Grand Prix and sports car driver who would eventually begin his own high-performance driving school. Garner followed that with a session at the Jim Russell Driving School in England where he was
joined by some of the other principal actors. The Russell experience taught him plenty, including the fact that the lanky six-foot-three actor was too big to comfortably fit inside the cockpit of a Grand Prix race car. Garner immediately went on a diet, managing to lose nearly 10 kilograms. Even then, he had to drive with the seat removed from the car so his head would be lower than the roll bar.
Frankenheimer's $8-million epic began shooting in late May 1966. The director employed many well-known Formula One stars as background actors, including Graham Hill, Dan Gurney, Jochen Rindt, Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren.Some of these drivers were also hired to drive camera vehicles that would chase the mostly fake Grand Prix race cars specially constructed by Jim Russell for the movie.
During production, Garner's skill behind the wheel impressed many of the racers involved in the project. Grand Prix opened in late 1966 to rave reviews. Not only was the film exciting to watch on the giant screen, its special effects and camera techniques created specifically for the movie were technical breakthroughs that are still in use today.
Article ID# 977843
clipped from www.nationalledger.com
Monday, April 7, 2008
On the occasion of your 80th birthday, Mr. Jim Garner, I just want to thank you. When I became a fan of yours during the first episode of Maverick, I was just turning 13. Instant crush!
Over the years though, a teen crush developed into a deep admiration for you as a person. Not only are you the most fun to watch of any of the actors I've ever seen, you are a genuinely good man. In fact, you were my male role model growing up, and I still think I made a pretty good choice.
So, thank you - not only for all the truly unparalleled performances over the years - but for proving that there really are people worthy of admiration in the way they conduct themselves and live their lives.
I know you'd never think of yourself as a hero, but you are.
Happy birthday, and may there be many, many more.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
36 Hours (1965)
36 Hours takes the typical concept of a war movie and tosses it out the window, instead giving us a cynical, suspenseful, psycho-thriller that will make you smirk, think, and it will surprise you.
James Garner plays US Army Major Jeff Pike, who's dispatched to Portugal on a mission just before D-Day. He's privy to the details of operation Overlord, and the Germans know it. Through their nasty network of Nazi spies they manage to kidnap him, and then the real fun begins.
Read the rest of this great review of 36 Hours at 36 Hours (1965) starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Taylor
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Heartsounds (1984) – Glenn Jordan helmed one of the finest telemovies of the last thirty years with this delicately-handled yet emotionally charged docudrama about the difficult experiences of Martha Weinman Lear, when her husband, Harold, suffers an ongoing series of heart attacks. As the leads, Mary Tyler Moore and James Garner are nothing short of perfection. Working with Jordan, from a script by Fay Kanin (adapted from Weinman's bestselling memoir) the two actors bring to fruition a series of moments dazzlingly poignant and authentic; seldom has a film struck so many real and deeply resonant chords, mirroring the tensions and emotional contradictions of real life experience. Screens on the Encore Love Stories Channel, 4/1 at 5:45am, 4/5 at 9:10am, 4/15 at 9:30am, 4/25 at 7:15am.
I remember seeing this when it was first broadcast. It is incredible. It's so unfortunate that this wonderful telemovie doesn't seem to be available anywhere - even to watch, let alone purchase. In fact, this is the first time in all these years I've seen it listed at all. If you haven't seen it, don't miss a chance.
This is the very vehicle in fact that made the "big time" critics sit up and take notice of what they had been missing in James Garner's performances. Since then, they've been moaning about how underrated he is as an actor because he makes it look so easy that he doesn't get the credit he deserves for the enormous talent it takes to do that.
So, how come we, his ignoramus fans, knew this all along, while the elite, professional critics missed it for almost 30 years? Makes you wonder, doesn't it...