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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Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Newly Released DVD Collection and Memoir James Garner Him Some Long-Overdue Recognition

My favorite actor of all time - from the first episode of Maverick to today, James Garner is the only celeb I would walk across the street to see.

The man is not only one of our finest actors - some have recognized that all along - but he is a man of integrity and honor.

These are traits you don't often find in one individual, but Jim Garner has it all. And so danged handsome!
Amplify’d from www.nj.com

James Garner's career spans decades, but a newly released DVD collection and memoir give him some long-overdue recognition

Pblished: Sunday, May 22, 2011, 8:03 AM

The Star-Ledger
Getty Images file photoActor James Garner, seen here after being honored with the 41st Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2005, is back in the spotlight with the release of a DVD collection featuring several of his '60s films and TV series, as well as the publication of his memoir later this year.
It is the old definition of a male movie star — someone men want to have a drink with, and women want to go to bed with.

Not many actors can project that kind of appeal.

Do guys really want to kick back with Tom Cruise? Do ladies really dream about Adam Sandler? Both actors make millions of dollars because they sell millions of tickets, but these days real cross-gender appeal is difficult.

James Garner made it look easy.

A big, square-shouldered country boy, the actor always looked at ease, whether in the razor-sharp uniform of a military man or the rumpled sports jacket of a weary private eye. And for half a century he appealed to both sexes, creating characters who walked the line between childish mischief and adult duty.

This may be the year he gets his long-overdue reappraisal.

The Warner Archive Collection has just debuted several of his ’60s titles on DVD — the offbeat amnesia drama “Mr. Buddwing,” the private-eye story “Marlowe,” and the huckster comedy “The Wheeler Dealers.” “Grand Prix” is out on Blu-ray, too, and Garner’s working on his memoirs, set for publication this winter.

“I’ve avoided writing a book until now because I feel like I’m really pretty average, and I didn’t think anyone would care about my life,” Simon & Schuster quoted him as saying. “I’m still a little uncomfortable, but I finally agreed, because people I trust persuaded me people might be interested and because I realized it would allow me to acknowledge those who’ve helped me along the way ... and even settle a score or two.”

And it’s that very American guy — the modest fellow who isn’t going to brag, but isn’t going to let you push him around, either — that Garner has been, onscreen and off, for his entire life.

He was born James Bumgarner in 1928 in Norman, Okla., with the Depression and the Dust Bowl straight ahead. His half-Cherokee mother died when he was 5, and his new stepmother beat him savagely — and would for nearly a decade, until Garner finally fought back. (He had his hands around her neck when his father walked in the door; the marriage ended that day.)

From barracks to broadway

At 16, Garner — who spent high school majoring in sports, and his spare time helping his father lay carpets — dropped out and enlisted in the Merchant Marine. Not a great choice for a boy who turned out to be chronically seasick; he left after a year, and went back to school. Still, stints in the National Guard and the Army followed, along with two Purple Hearts during his service in Korea.

“Marriage is like the Army,” he said later. “Everyone complains, but you’d be surprised by the large number of people who re-enlist.”

Actually, on the marital front, Garner signed up only once. In 1956, he met Lois Clarke at an Adlai Stevenson event; he took her out every night for two weeks, and on the 15th day, they tracked down a justice of the peace. They have been married, with two daughters and without a single scandal, ever since.

“I was just absolutely nuts about her,” he said about their quickie courtship. “I spent $77 on our honeymoon, and it about broke me.”

By this time, Garner was already acting. In high school, he’d done a few bathing suit ads; not long out of the service, he landed a job as an extra in Broadway’s “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.” Playing a judge, he didn’t have to do anything except sit onstage and watch Henry Fonda every night; it was, Garner said, like getting paid to go to drama school.

He must have learned something. He began landing TV commercials, and a few real roles; in 1957, he got a call for a humorous new TV western called “Maverick.” Garner’s job was to play a no-better-than-he-had-to-be gambler, a likeable rogue whose charm — and creative approach to the law — always saw him through.

That slippery character would be one that Garner returned to, but with a twinkle that set him apart from other, more anguished anti-heroes.


James Garner in "The Rockford Files."

Garner’s guys were slick (which, not surprisingly, had been his high-school nickname) but they weren’t wounded, or wounding. Yes, they always snagged the best table, the prettiest girl — but they were so upfront about their schemes, you somehow didn’t mind.

In real life, the far-from-shifty Garner was bracingly blunt, and with a stubborn sense of justice. (He once got into a fight with Charles Bronson over a card game, because he thought Bronson was taking advantage of an extra.) And when the studio behind his new TV hit started pushing him around, Garner sued them for breach of contract — and won.

And then he quit the show.

People told him it would end his career, but old Slick kept working, finding a home in sturdy war movies like “Darby’s Rangers” and “Up Periscope.” He co-starred with Doris Day in two of her better comedies, “Move Over, Darling” and “The Thrill of it All” and although “The Wheeler Dealers” needed to be funnier, its character of a crafty businessman showed how endlessly adaptable that “Maverick” type could be.

It drove two of his best movies in the ’60s — both excellent in their way, both complements of the other.

America’s caliber of hero

In “The Great Escape,” we see Garner the operator at his best — caught in a German P.O.W. camp, he’s an American who can still somehow get anything. He’s integral to the escape effort, and yet suspect to the English prisoners — with his cynical smile and elastic morals, he really doesn’t seem to be “our sort.” And yet, of course, he’s as much a hero as anyone — and ultimately willing to risk everything for a friend.

In “The Americanization of Emily,” he’s another guy with an angle, an officer whose job is to keep the top brass happy in the weeks leading up to D-Day — something Garner does by pimping out every pretty Englishwoman he meets. He’s a coward, and proud of it — in the film’s finest, fiercest speech he tells a shocked Julie Andrews that it’s heroes who cause wars. But when push comes to shove, he too will push back — and try, at least in the film’s final moments, to do the right thing.

This was a great character for Garner and the times — the man who didn’t buy into conventional morality even as he stood up for a personal principle. But there were only so many parts like that, and the best ones went to his pals Paul Newman or Steve McQueen; although Garner grabbed a few good assignments (like “Grand Prix,” a racing picture either friend would have jumped at), too often the parts, like the cheaply made “Marlowe,” seemed second-tier.

So, by the late ’60s, did Garner’s career.

First, he returned to the genre that had made him famous, offbeat Westerns like “Support Your Local Sheriff” and the provocative “Skin Game” (which featured Garner and Lou Gossett as two tricksters working a slavery con); then, eventually, he went back to TV, reteaming with Roy Huggins, the creator of “Maverick.”

Their new show was called “The Rockford Files,” and while any number of writers passed through it (Stephen J. Cannell was a co-creator, and David Chase wrote 16 shows), Garner had already created this character; a man willing to bend (if not absolutely break) the rules, fond of women (but devoted to his souped-up Firebird), and a firm believer in self-preservation — until he finally had to take a stand.

Television has a ubiquity, and an intimacy, that the movies don’t, and although Garner did richer work onscreen, it will be the six entertaining seasons of “Rockford” that he’ll be most remembered for. But, eventually, six was enough — he did all his own stunts, and an old knee injury from his National Guard days began to trouble him.

When he went into the hospital with a bleeding ulcer in 1979, his doctors told him it was time to take a break.


Melissa Moseley/New LineJames Garner (left) stars as Duke and Gena Rowland (right) stars as Allie in "The Notebook."

Hanging tough

Still, Garner — typically — did not go quietly. When the studio held back his share of the profits, claiming there were none — despite half-a-dozen top seasons and a presumably lucrative syndication deal — Garner called his lawyers again. It took a decade, but he got his money. (The studio execs should be glad he handled it through the courts, too — when Garner once ran into a producer who’d been reportedly filching “Rockford” scripts and music, he knocked the guy down with a left hook.)

Yet for a man who burned a lot of bridges, Garner kept working, and doing good work. He did fine TV movies like “Barbarians at the Gate” and “My Name Is Bill W.” He reunited with Julie Andrews for the very funny “Victor/Victoria,” and got an Oscar nomination for the offbeat love story “Murphy’s Romance.” The dopey “Space Cowboys” provided some nostalgic thrills with Garner as a called-back-into-service astronaut; 2004’s sweetly sentimental “The Notebook” showed the weathered old guy still had it.

Not that vanity ever was one of his Garner’s vices; when his hairline receded, he didn’t chase it, and when his eyesight began to go, he simply got glasses.

He is a well-worn 83 now, and has had plenty of health problems over the years, including multiple knee operations, a quintuple bypass in 1988, and a stroke in 2008. His last credits have been voice-overs for cartoons.

But his old movies are still in great shape, and so is the character he created — the man’s man who was also a ladies’ man, the rascal who wasn’t quite as dishonest as he pretended to be, the laid-back fellow who let it all roll off his back, until he didn’t. It was a great, modern and very American hero, and it worked because it wasn’t a persona.

It was a person named James Garner, and we’ve been lucky to have him.
 Read more at www.nj.com

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Friday, May 27, 2011

TV Weekend; James Garner as a Curmudgeon Pulled Back Into Life

This is one of my very favorite of Jim's films. I totally agree with John O'Connor in his description of Jim as an actor, and about this excellent Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. It's no accident that Jim picked up a Golden Globe for this.

New York Times Articles

The DVD cover of Decoration Day (TV film), dir...Image via Wikipedia

Published: November 30, 1990

James Garner is an old-fashioned actor. Like Gary Cooper and James Stewart, he conveys the impression that he is always playing himself with uncommonly easy grace. As it happens, Mr. Garner has done most of his best work in television. In recent years, the mature actor has excelled in such "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentations as "Promise" and "My Name Is Bill W."

Now, on Sunday at 9 P.M. on NBC , he's back in still another "Hallmark" production, "Decoration Day," and, by golly, he's doing it again, imbuing what could have been a fairly pedestrian role with remarkable weight and insight.

On paper, there's not all that much to "Decoration Day," adapted by Robert W. Lenski from a novella by John William Corrington. Albert Sidney Finch, a retired Georgia judge, decides to help a boyhood friend named Gaspar (Gee) Penniwell, a black World War II veteran from whom Finch has been estranged for 30 years. Gee is refusing to accept a Medal of Honor that the Government has finally decided he deserves; he feels that the Government has waited too long. Mr. Garner as the judge and Bill Cobbs as Gee are just splendid.
Finch is something of a curmudgeon, increasingly reclusive since the death of his wife and content to sit in a rowboat fishing all day on the lake within sight of his home. He and his housekeeper, Rowena (Ruby Dee), have been together for 50 years and can spar openly like old friends. Becoming involved with Gee's case brings Finch out into the world again, pulling him reluctantly into the lives of young Billy Wendell, the son of another old friend (Norm Skaggs); Billy's wife, Loreen (Jo Anderson), and his supposed lover, Terry Novis (Judith Ivey). There is also Michael Waring (Larry Fishburne), a black lawyer from Washington, who suspects racist motives behind Finch's efforts to help Gee refuse the medal.Directed with all deliberate thoughtfulness by Robert Markowitz, "Decoration Day" proceeds without fireworks, taking its time and carefully revealing its gentle insights into memory, friendship, race relations and the simple fact that time passes and things change. Surrounded by an impeccable supporting cast, Mr. Garner brings to television still another uncommonly fine performance.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

James Garner - Marlowe, 1969

I really enjoyed this film when it came out. In retrospect, it's a great "preview" of The Rockford Files that came a few years later.

Trivia Quiz: What line in this film was also used in an episode of The Rockford Files in a similar situation?

This is from Rock! Shock! Pop!.com



Released by: Warner Archive
Released on: 4/26/2011
Director: Paul Bogart
Cast: James Garner, Carroll O’Connor, Bruce Lee, Gayle Hunnicut, Rita Moreno
Year: 1969

The Movie:

Based on the character created by the late, great Raymond Chandler (and in turn his book The Little Sister), Paul Bogart’s 1969 film Marlowe stars James Garner as the titular private investigator who, when we meet him, is working out of his dingy office in Los Angeles. He takes a case offered to him by a pretty blonde named Orfamay Quest (Sharon Farrell) who gives him a fifty-five dollar retainer to get him to head out to the coast to try and find her missing brother, Orrin (Roger Newman). When he gets there and finds Orrin’s room, he finds that Orrin is missing but that a man named Grant Hicks (Jackie Coogan) is in his room in his place. He asks Grant some questions, hands him his business card, and is on his way.

The next day Marlowe gets a call from Hicks he wants him to come by and visit – but when he arrives, Hicks is dead, an ice pick in the back of his head. One thing leads to another and Marlowe finds himself in possession of some incriminating photographs of an actress named Mavis Weld (Gayle Hunnicutt) who he offers to help. She’s not interested, though her mob boss boyfriend, Mr. Steelgrave (H.M. Wynant), apparently is and before you know it he’s sent a man named Winslow Wong (Bruce Lee) to try and buy him off or, failing that, at least wreck his office. Marlowe’s trying to figure out who the ice pick killer and how this all ties in with the Orfamay’s, all while avoiding various hitmen and nefarious types – and on top of that he’s got to deal with the cops (lead by Carroll O'Connor and Kenneth Tobey). The only one who seems to be on Marlowe’s side is Mavis’ friend, Delores (Rita Moreno), but can he trust her?

While Marlowe may not be the most original private eye character to ever hit the screen, in fact, most things about him are either clichés or stereotypes, but Garner plays him so well that you won’t mind, and in fact, the one liners and smart talk turn out to be half the fun of the movie. Plenty entertaining in the lead, he carries the film easily and shows both good screen presence and likeable charisma. Supporting efforts from an interesting cast of characters help flesh out the cast and with the likes of Rita Moreno, Carroll O’Connor and Bruce Lee in the cast it’s hard to ask for a better crew of actors to work alongside.

Story wise the film is concerned less with the hardboiled style of earlier Chandler adaptations and while not quite a comedy in the truest sense of the word, there are scenes that are definitely played for laughs – a perfect example being a remarkably politically incorrect bit where Garner’s Marlowe accuses Lee’s Winslow Wong of being ‘a bit gay’, at which point Wong does a flying jump kick towards him only to fly off the roof when Marlowe deftly moves out of the way.

A few good laughs, some strong performances, a fair bit of visual style and a great late sixties era sound track all add up to a fun movie. There are moments where it’s a bit tough to suspend our disbelief and it’s not a perfect picture in terms of plotting or pacing but it gets enough right that, hey, if nothing else, it’s just a really fun and entertaining way to kill an hour and a half.


The packaging on this Warner Archive release says that it’s remastered and the 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer does look pretty good on this DVD. Colors are nice and bright and bold and well defined but never bleed while black levels remain generally strong. Skin tones look good and detail is better than most will probably expect. As far as print damage goes, there are some specks here and there but overall the picture is clean and clear without any evidence of digital scrubbing to note – all in all, a pretty decent effort from Warner in the visuals department.

The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound mix on the disc is fine – dialogue is clean, clear and well balanced and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion of note. The film’s fuzzed out late sixties soundtrack comes through nice and clear as well. No alternate language options or subtitles are offered.

In addition to the standard static menu and chapter selection, this disc includes the film’s original theatrical trailer in non-anamorphic widescreen.

The Final Word:

It might be a bit clichéd and it might be a little bit predictable but Garner’s excellent lead performance and a fantastic supporting cast more than make up for those flaws and Marlowe turns out to be a whole lot of sleuthy fun. Warner Archives’ DVD-R release is not surprisingly light on extra features, but it looks good and sounds good and those with an interest in or pre-existing appreciation for this particular film should be fairly pleased with the results.

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