The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner – Book Review
- Oct 25, 2011
- Francine Brokaw
- The Garner Files: A Memoir - Simon & Schuster
The veteran actor of film and TV details all aspects of his life in this mesmerizing autobiography.The Garner Files: A Memoir is the telling story of the life of actor James Garner who starred in Maverick, The Rockford Files, The Great Escape, Grand Prix, The Americanization of Emily and other notable shows. Having had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Garner, I was anxious to read this book and learn more about this man who has had an incredible career and life. The book did not disappoint me. When I interviewed James Garner he did not hold back about his experiences and he does not hold back in the book either.
James Garner discusses his childhood in Oklahoma – which was riddled with abuse, his co-stars, his movies, his television career, his love of cars and car racing, his adoration for the game of golf, his politics and his temperament. Although he has a co-writer (Jon Winokur), Garner’s voice comes through loud and clear. While reading the book I felt as though Mr. Garner was right there talking to me.
James Garner’s Acting Career
As stated, the man does not hold back. “Charlie Bronson was a pain in the ass, too.” (p. 81) Garner says about his co-star in The Great Escape, after first detailing a problem with Steve McQueen.
Another fun anecdote about his Maverick days involves Natalie Wood who suggested that Garner take acting lessons. “Why would I want to do that?” (p. 170) He had a hit TV series and a budding career. He decided not to fix something that wasn’t broken.
In the book Garner talks about his fellow actors and lays it on the line, giving his opinion about the talent of specific actors. Some were great, but he does let the readers know which ones he thinks are not good at their craft. He also discusses the crafts of comedy, drama, and humor. And the actor gives a good description of how fame and being on television often interfered with his personal life, namely having a quiet meal out in public with his family, which became non-existent after the success of Maverick.
James Garner was part of the old studio system, and does not hold back when discussing the studio bosses. And he dishes on the integrity of others high on the studio echelon ladder after the system folded, namely Lew Wasserman, one of Hollywood’s moguls.
Readers will get an inside look at the making of his television shows and movies. Grand Prix, a film about Formula One racing is discussed in detail, and Mr. Garner explains about how the filmmakers created the sounds that accompanied the video of the racing cars. It’s an interesting lesson on filmmaking.
Cars, Car Racing, and Golf
Grand Prix was a highlight of Mr. Garner’s acting career and boosted his love of car racing. He was always interested in cars, as readers will discover, and became an avid fan and participant in the sport of racing.
Golf is another sport in which Mr. Garner excelled and which he loved. He has some pretty good memories of his years as a golfer, which now are over due to physical problems.
James Garner has always been outspoken about his feelings and in the book he continues his straightforwardness. He definitely has strong feelings about many issues and at one time was approached about running for Governor of California.
The book ends with input from people who have known the actor, including his wife, daughters, friends, and fellow actors. After reading this section readers will realize the high regard in which Mr. Garner is held.
As Garner writes, “You have to take the risk. You may fail, but at least you’ve given it your best shot.” (p. 39) and that is exactly what he did. He gave it – his career and his life – his best shot.
His childhood, war stories, acting career, friendships, temper, and good humor are all laid out in this wonderful autobiography. Any fan of this actor will enjoy every chapter.
- The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- ISBN: 9781451642605
- Hardback: November 1, 2011
- Pages: 288