“One of the toughest parts of aging is losing your friends.” -Jack Nicholson
1. Mr Garner
2. With Sally Field in “Murphy’s Romance”
3. The Unbridled Fury of Animala
4. Ms King
5. The Memoir
6. Land Rush of 1889
7. In Korea
8. The Play that got James Started
9. The cast of “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial,” surrounding Adlai Stevenson, I’m thinking the 2nd, former Governors of Illinois and presidential candidate. I don’t know why. Lloyd Nolan, (third from left), Henry Fonda, (seventh from left), Herbert Anderson, (top left), Mel Gibson (top right), John Hodiak, (second from right), James Garner, (right), Plymouth Theater, New York, 1954-1955
10. His first film, “Toward the Unknown,” 1956
11. With Brando in “Sayonara”
12. James, GiGi, Kimberly, and Lois, 1961
13. Bret Maverick
14. With Jack Kelly in “Maverick”
15. With the future Nurse Ratched, Louise Fletcher in “Maverick,” 1959
16. James’ Star
17. Where it’s at
18. His first leading role, “Darby’s Rangers”
19. “Up Periscope”
20. With Natalie Wood in “Cash McCall”
21. “The Children’s Hour,” with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine
22. Publicity poster for “The Thrill of it All”
23. With Doris Day in “Move Over, Darling”
24. With Lee Remick in “The Wheeler Dealers”
25. In “The Great Escape”
26. With Donald Pleasence
27. With Marlon Brando and James Baldwin at the March on Washington, August 27, 1963
28. With Julie Andrews in “The Americanization of Emily”
29. After toking one up.
30. In “Grand Prix” 1966
31. With Joan Hackett in “Support Your Local Sheriff!” 1969
32. With Bruce Lee in “Marlowe” 1969
33. Sucker Kick
34. “The Rockford Files”
35. Polaroid Commercial with Mariette Hartley
36. Mariette Explaining
37. With Julie Andrews in “Victor Victoria” 1982
38. With James Woods in “My Name is Bill W.” 1989
39. “Barbarians at the Gate” 1993
40. As Bret Maverick’s dad, in “Maverick,” 1994
41. With Paul Newman in “Twilight” 1998
42. With Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and Clinton Eastwood in “Space Cowboys” 2000
43. With Gena Rowlands in “The Notebook” 2004
44. With the cast of “8 Simple Rules”
Currently I’m enjoying a James Garner film festival in the evenings after work. I watched 1985's “Murphy’s Romance,” for the first time last Tuesday night. This was the only film that Mr. Garner was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor (William Hurt won for “Kiss of the Spider Woman”). Columbia Pictures, which produced the film, didn’t want to make the film at all, and they didn’t want James Garner in it. They considered him a “T.V. actor,” no doubt due to his successful series, “The Rockford Files,” which aired from 1974 until January of 1980, and despite the fact that he had a distinguished movie career during the 1960s, and despite the fact that he had starred with Julie Andrews in “Victor Victoria,” two years previously. Columbia wanted Marlon Brando. At first the director, Martin Ritt, Sally Fields, and the writers, the husband and wife team, Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch, wanted Paul Newman, because Ritt, Frank Jr., and Ravetch had worked with him in 1963‘s “Hud,” and Field, had a good working relationship with Paul in 1981‘s “Absence of Malice.” Mr. Newman passed on the project and James was the only other actor that Ritt and Field asked, and then had to fight the studio for him to get the part. They succeeded because Field, Ritt, Frank, and Ravetch had also made 1979's “Norma Rae,” which had been a financial and critical success for 20th Century Fox, and had earned an Academy Award for Best Actress for Sally.
And the rest is history, as they say. The film cost $13 million to make, and grossed $30,762,621.42 in 1985 dollars, which at the time was considered reasonably profitable. Reviews were generally favorable. James was nominated for an Oscar, as well as a nomination for Best Cinematography (“Out of Africa” won). Sally and James were both nominated for Golden Globes as well (Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner won for “Prizzi's Honor”).
I only watched the movie because I thought a tank was involved. That’s right, a military tank. I had confused “Murphy’s Romance,” with “Tank,” which Mr. Garner had made the year before, and which involved Mr. Garner and a tank.
I watched “Tank,” Wednesday night. And “The Americanization of Emily” (which James said was the favorite of all of his films) Thursday night, and watched “Twilight” (the non-vampire “Twilight”) Friday night, “The Children’s Hour,” Saturday, “Barbarians at the Gate,” tonight, “Support Your Local Sheriff,” tomorrow (if I live that long), and “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra,” on Tuesday, which Mr. Garner, as far as I can tell, had absolutely nothing to do with, but happens to be one of the greatest films ever made, starring my lovely friend Jennifer Blaire as the ever intoxicating, Animala (nobody can resist the mesmerizing allure of Animala, and her Rock Dance. “Rowr”).
I don’t know what the hell I’ll do on Wednesday... miniature golf maybe.
“Murphy’s Romance,” quite frankly, irritated me. Sally Field plays a 33 year old single mom of a 12 year old (played by future teen idol, Corey Haim, who unfortunately left us in 2010, at the age of 38), who has moved to a nice big ranch in rural Arizona, to make a living by training and boarding horses. Their lack of funds was emphasized, which led me to wonder how it was they were able to afford a nice big ranch. Be that as it may, she becomes friends with the nearby town’s pharmacist, Murphy Jones, played by Garner, who befriends Sally. It becomes obvious to everyone but Sally that Murphy is attracted to her, but he’s about 27 years older than she is, and they continue on in a platonic relationship. Her slacker ex-husband shows up to mooch and steal from her, which she allows. That’s the first thing that irritated me. This guy didn’t bring anything to their non-relationship, but she let him stay, and non-physically abuse her, all the while counting on Murphy to bring some semblance of rationality and decency to her life.
The main irritating factor for me was the stringing along of Murphy, by Sally (who looked like a deer hypnotized by oncoming headlights, or a women coming off a month long acid trip, for most of the film), who was actually using him, to a degree, to balance out her shaky relationship with her ex. Again, Murphy was obviously attracted to her, and she showed a goodly degree of interest in him, despite their age difference, but she let the awkward situation continue, for what seemed an eternity, and for no good reason.
I invite you, dear readers, to watch the film and tell me what you think. I calmly await your reasoned response.
The film's theme song, "Love for the Last Time," is performed by someone named Carole King, who I’m told had gained a certain degree of notoriety in the early 70s with something to do with a wall hanging of heavy woven fabric with pictorial designs.
She also had a small role in the film.
At one point in “Murphy’s Romance,” Sally calls Murphy “a bleeding heart liberal,” to which he replies, and I paraphrase, “The last I checked it was still beating.”
James Garner once said, “I’m a ‘bleeding-heart liberal,’ one of those card-carrying Democrats that Rush Limbaugh thinks is a communist. And I’m proud of it.”
I’m sure most of you are aware of Mr. Garner’s passing a week ago Saturday night, July 19th, at his home in Brentwood. He was 86 years old, and died of natural causes.
This saddened me a great deal. Mr. Garner was not only a fine actor, one of the rare ones that made any project he appeared in better just by being in it, but he was a fine human being as well, a role model, if you will, at least for me he was, and the more I’ve discovered about him and his life, the more I believe that title fits, although he would probably argue otherwise.
He’s also a person, a presence, that has always been around throughout my life. And he will be for the remainder of it, through the medium of his art, his films and television shows, his own memoir and writings, and the memory of him.
Talking to my lovely sister Monday morning, she told me she had watched the movie “Space Cowboys,” on television a few days before, which James starred in with three other old coots, after which she thought to herself, “He’s not going to be with us much longer.”
How odd that she didn’t think that about Eastwood, or Jones, of Sutherland. Is this finally proof of the existence of the phenomena of precognition? Of future sight, or second sight?
No, it’s not.
It’s evidence of a coincidence, that’s all.
How do I know this?
Because the number she gave for Wednesday night’s Supper Lotto didn’t win me $23,000,000, that’s why.
James Scott Bumgarner was born at a very early age in Norman, Oklahoma, just 20 miles south of the state’s capital, Oklahoma City.
We’ve discussed political developments, and politicians in Oklahoma in the past, here and here. James Garner was not a politician, although he certainly held strong political beliefs, beliefs which seem to be atypical of the majority of his fellow Oklahomans.
The Democratic Party tried to make him into a politician in 1990, asking him to run for Governor of California. But he wasn’t a megalomaniac, and wasn’t a liar, and was too much of an authentic person to get caught up in that crap. When asked about his position on abortion, he replied, “I don’t have an opinion, because that’s up to the woman. It has nothing to do with me.”
When told that position was untenable for a campaigning politician, he replied, “It’s how I feel, and I’m not going to say anything else.”
In my mind that position would have made me more inclined to vote for him, not because of his position on abortion, but that he was disinclined to compromise his genuine beliefs, and not hold to artificial “values” that may have been held by a political power base, a phenomenon we see all to much today.
Could he have made a difference if he had won the governorship? Perhaps... perhaps not. This is what he once said about actors in politics:
“Too many actors have run for office. There’s one difference between me and them: I know I’m not qualified. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t qualified to be governor of California. Ronald Reagan wasn’t qualified to be governor, let alone President. I was a vice president of the Screen Actors Guild when he was its president… Ronnie never had an original thought. We had to tell him what to say. That’s no way to run a union, let alone a country."
Oh, my. Our republicans friends aren’t going to like that one little bit!
But it sounds about right.
And doesn’t say a whole lot about the qualifications one needs to become the most powerful person on the planet.
As most of you may know, Norman, Oklahoma was settled by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman during the Land Run of 1889, which stole land from the former Indian Territory and Unassigned Lands to American thief settlements. Joyce’s Take has utilized Go Back In Time (GBIT) technology to present this actual visual depiction of said event, here.
The city was named in honor of its first land surveyor, Lil Abner Norman, and was formally incorporated on May 13th, 1891. James Garner had nothing to do with this, and wasn’t born until 1928.
Norman is also home to the largest university in the state, the University of Oklahoma.
James did not attend the University of Oklahoma, although he would become a supporter of it, and attended Sooner football games. In 1995 he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the school.
He was the youngest of three brothers. His two older brothers were actor Jack Garner, who would appear with James in “The Rockford Files," and who passed in 2011, and Charles Bumgarner, a school administrator who died in 1984.
James and Jack changed their last names after entering show business.
Their mother was Mildred, and their dad, Weldon Bumgarner, a carpet layer, and operator of a country store in Denver, Oklahoma, which lies about 9 miles east of Norman. Unfortunately, Mildred died when James was four or five years old, and after her death the children were sent away to live with relatives, until Weldon remarried a few years later, when the family reunited in 1934.
And unfortunately James’ stepmother, Wilma (or “Red, depending on what source you use), was abusive toward all three brothers, especially James, the youngest. James said she made him wear a dress in public, and answer to the name “Louise.” James' brother Jack commented, "She was a damn no-good woman."
At the age of 14 Jim was big enough, and old enough to retaliate, getting into a physical confrontation with her, knocking her down and choking her almost to the point of death.
This incident seems to have influenced him for the rest of his life. He wrote in his memoir, having “been on the wrong end of violence” convinced him to:
“…refuse to glorify violence in my movie and television roles. The characters I’ve played, especially Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford, almost never use a gun, and they always try to use their wits instead of their fists.”
This reminds me of another Joyce’s Take friend, and actor, Patrick Macnee, of “The Avengers,” fame.
After the altercation Weldon divorced his wife and moved to Los Angeles, leaving the children in Norman.
James’ nickname was “Slick” while a teenager (no relation to Grace, who as far as can be ascertained, never lived in Oklahoma).
He made extra cash by working at different jobs, none of which he cared for (before becoming a professional actor, Garner is said to have worked 75 different jobs including everything from pumping gas to modeling men's clothing). When he was 16 he lied about his age in order to join the Merchant Marines during the last year of World War II. After training in Florida, he served aboard a seagoing tugboat operating out of New Orleans. And he did well on the sea, for two months, before quitting due to bouts of acute seasickness.
I was in the navy for four years, three of them aboard a ship, and never suffered from seasickness, mainly due to.. well, let’s just say perhaps Mr. Garner should have tried smoking pot.
“I started smoking marijuana in my late teens. I drank to get drunk but ultimately didn’t like the effect. Not so with grass. Grass is smooth. It had the opposite effect from alcohol: it made me more tolerant and forgiving. …”
“I smoked marijuana for 50 years. I don’t know where I’d be without it. It opened my mind to a lot of things, and now it’s active ingredient, THC, relaxes me and eases my arthritis pain. I’ve concluded that marijuana should be legal and alcohol should be illegal. But, good luck with that.”
You know what? I agree with him totally. Alcohol is one of the worst things anybody can put in their body (cigarettes too), yet we made it illegal in 1920 and got Al Capone for our trouble (although he was one of the first advocates for putting expiration dates on milk containers). Lesson learned? Prohibitive measures don’t work.
Anyway, after the Merchant Marines, he moved out here, to Los Angeles, and lived with his Aunt Grace (no relation to Slick, who had lived in L.A.), who told him he should be an actor.
James enrolled at Hollywood High School (where Lana Turner, Tuesday Weld, Meredith Baxter, Valerie Bertinelli, Carol Burnett, 2 of the Carradine brothers, Lon Chaney, Jr., Frank Darabont, Linda Evans, Mike Farrell, Laurence Fishburne, Judy Garland, Alan Hale, Jr., Gloria Grahame, Barbara Hershey, Chuck Jones, Swoosie Kurtz, Alan Ladd, Ruta Lee, Carole Lombard, Richard Long, Joel McCrea, Ann Miller, Yvette Mimieux, Leighton Meester, Mickey Rooney, Heather Menzies, David and Ricky Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Stefanie Powers, Ione Skye, Jill St. John, Sharon Tate, Charlene Tilton, Rita Wilson, and Miguel Witsnitski attended, at one time or another), where he was voted the most popular student.
He wasn’t a very good student, however, and was rather indifferent towards his studies. His gym teacher recommended him for a modeling job, which in itself seems rather odd, but he was successful, and abandoned his classes to take work as a model for Janzen bathing suits. "I made 25 bucks an hour!" he remembered. "That's why I quit school. I was making more money than the teachers. I never finished the ninth grade."
He later stated that he hated modeling, and after getting kicked out of school for truancy, he returned to Norman and played football and basketball, as well as competing on the track and golf teams at Norman High. While there, he became old enough to be the first Oklahoman drafted for the Korean War. That was in 1950.
He never graduated from high school, explaining in a 1976 Good Housekeeping magazine interview, "I was a terrible student and I never actually graduated from high school, but I got my diploma in the Army."
I was one class shy of a high school diploma when I joined the navy in 1978, and took an open book test on United States History at Pasadena City College, to get that little piece of paper, so I could join. Somehow I passed.
James went through boot camp at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, in the suburbs north of Chicago. Afterwards he was assigned to the 5th Regimental Combat Team of the 24th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He wrote, the 5th RCT was considered “a ‘colored’ regiment, because it had a large percentage of Hawaiians and Asian Americans.”
Remember the television show “M.A.S.H.,” well that was the war, or the “conflict,” that Mr. Garner found himself in. The Soviet Union and China backed North Korea, and twenty one countries of the United Nations contributed to the defense of South Korea, with the United States providing 88% of the soldiers. Technically the two nations are still at war.
Be that as it may, James saw plenty of action on the battle field in 1951, during the first Chinese offensive of the war, and the 5th RCT was one of the first to engage the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF).
He recalled, “the Red Chinese shot us to pieces” in a battle the Army’s own account described as “the most bitter close-combat struggle Americans have participated in since the Civil War.”
Unlike Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison, the character Mr. Garner portrayed in “The Americanization of Emily,” James displayed exemplary courage in the face of combat, once he and a South Korean soldier were cut off behind enemy lines, and eluded both Chinese and North Korean forces until they managed to get back to their own forces. He was wounded twice (receiving two Purple Hearts, the second in 1983, 32 years after his injury), the second time by friendly fire (his own people).
Later in life he would work to ensure Korean War veterans received the recognition that they had earned.
James was a self-described "scrounger" for his unit in Korea, a person who could get things, like Morgan Freeman in “The Shawshank Redemption,” a position he later played in two movies, “The Great Escape," and “The Americanization of Emily.”
After he was discharged he returned to Los Angeles, finding work in several fields. He was a telephone installer, an oil field roughneck, a chauffeur, a dishwasher, a janitor, a lifeguard, a grocery clerk, a salesman, a gas station attendant, basically testing his skills in a variety of occupations.
Paul Gregory, whom James had known before he had gone off to Korea, and who had been a soda dispenser in a drug store, had since become a Hollywood agent.
One day James was driving down La Cienega Boulevard when he noticed a sign for Paul Gregory & Associates. A car happened to pull away from the curb in front of the building, and he decided to stop and say hello to his old friend.
At the time Paul was producing a Broadway play, “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” written by Herman Wouk. Henry Fonda, John Hodiak, and Lloyd Nolan, were the stars, but the play also included some nonspeaking roles, and Paul gave James one of them, as one of the judges, which effectively launched his career.
The play opened in Santa Barbara before opening on Broadway in January 1954 for a 415-performance run at the Plymouth Theater (now the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre).
He admitted in his memoir that he learned how to act from practicing lines with the stars and studying them as they performed, especially Henry Fonda.
"I swiped practically all my acting style from him," Garner said.
Later he would say this about his craft:
“I'm a Spencer Tracy-type actor. His idea was to be on time, know your words, hit your marks and tell the truth. Most every actor tries to make it something it isn't looks for the easy way out. I don't think acting is that difficult if you can put yourself aside and do what the writer wrote.”
James got work in commercials, then television roles, and later films. See how easy it is to become a successful actor! Dear young people of America, just come to L.A., and get a part in a play with a legendary actor. That’s all it takes.
The 1956 general election between the incumbent war hero, Dwight Eisenhower, and former governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson, didn’t go well for Adlai, but proved pretty good for James Garner.
He met Lois Fleishman Clarke at an "Adlai Stevenson for President" rally that year, and the two were married 14 days later on August 17, 1956. "We went to dinner every night for 14 nights. I was just absolutely nuts about her. I spent $77 on our honeymoon, and it about broke me."
That’s one version. James says he met here somewhere else.
“I saw my [future] wife at a pool, flipped over her, and 14 days later we were married."
I guess the point is that they met, and doesn’t matter where, so I won’t bring this matter up again.
At the time of their marriage Lois had a seven year old daughter, Kim, who was afflicted with polio. Garner adopted her. James and Lois had one daughter together, Greta “GiGi,” who was born in 1958.
The couple separated in 1979, but got back together in 1982.
"Marriage is like the Army; everyone complains, but you'd be surprised at the large number of people who re-enlist."
James died less than a month before their 58th wedding anniversary.
His first film appearances were in “The Girl He Left Behind,” starring Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood, and “Toward the Unknown,” starring William Holden, and his Caine Mutiny pal, Lloyd Nolan, in 1956.
“When I started working, I didn't have a clue what I was doing, in that I was just wandering around, hoping that I could succeed. Then after I got a little under my belt, it took me about 25 years to feel like I knew what I was doing.”
The next year he starred with Randolph Scott and Angie Dickinson in “Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend,” and with Marlon Brando, Red Buttons, and Ricardo Montalbán in “Sayonara.” Here's the trailer.
Then there was “Maverick,” a western television series, created by Roy Huggins, and produced by Warner Brothers. Western T.V. shows were rather popular at the time, with “The Adventures of Jim Bowie,” “The Adventures of Kit Carson,” “The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” “Annie Oakley,” “Broken Arrow,” “Cheyenne (which James was considered for the lead, but the role went to Clint Walker because the casting director couldn't reach Garner in time (his cell phone was recharging), and Garner wound up playing an Army officer in the pilot instead),” “Davy Crockett,” “Death Valley Days (which our beloved future president, Ronald Reagan, hosted in 1964 and 65),” “Gunsmoke” (my grandfather’s favorite show), and on and on.
Maverick was a western with comedic overtones which ran from September 22, 1957 to July 8, 1962 on ABC. James won the lead role, playing Bret Maverick, an observant, articulate, ethical, roaming gambler. After the first eight episodes Bret was joined by Jack Kelly as his brother Bart, and from that point on, Garner and Kelly alternated leads from week to week, sometimes teaming up for the occasional two bro episode. Wikipedia tells us: “The Mavericks were poker players from Texas who traveled all over the American Old West and on Mississippi riverboats, constantly getting into and out of life-threatening trouble of one sort or another, usually involving money, women, or both. They would typically find themselves weighing a financial windfall against a moral dilemma. More often than not, their consciences trumped their wallets...”
Here’s a clip.
The show was a hit. He had achieved what others only dreamed about, becoming a successful, professional actor in demand, turning into a household name in large part due to his handsome features, his affability and humor, easy going style, and sense of morality and decency that projected well onto the small and large screen. Bret Maverick treated Native Americans with respect and rejected violence. Though often described as an anti-hero, James played Maverick as “a reluctant hero, who’ll come to your aid if there’s injustice.
“I'm playing me. Bret Maverick is lazy: I'm lazy. And I like being lazy.”
During this period Mr. Garner continued his film career, getting his first lead after replacing Charlton Heston as the title character in “Darby’s Rangers,” in 1958, a World War II story with Jack Warden, and “Jaws’” Murray Hamilton. Here’s a clip.
1959 saw him starring in “Up Periscope,” another war film with Edmond O'Brien and “Gilligan's Island’s” Alan Hale Jr., and “Alias Jesse James,” a Bob Hope vehicle with Rhonda Fleming. Along with many other popular actors of the time, James made a cameo appearance in the film as Bret Maverick.
In 1960 he stared with Natalie Wood in “Cash McCall,” a forerunner, sort of, of “Other People’s Money,” and “Wall Street.”
"After the first five years, I'd done Maverick, so then I said, 'Well, maybe I can go five more,'" he explained. "It wasn't until I'd turned 50 and had been in the business 25 years that I realized I might actually have a career as an actor."
James was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
James left “Maverick," in 1960, after the third season due to a legal dispute. He was one of the first performers to take on the studio system and its abusive labor practices, suing Warner Bros. over the terms of his contract.
During a writers' strike that year, the studio suspended James without pay, claiming that they had no scripts to work from, so they couldn't pay him. A judge sided with Garner; as it turned out that the company had plenty of writers writing plenty of scripts during that period, so they had breached Jim's contract by suspending him without pay.
“They really stuck it to me. I was young and dumb. I said a couple things about being under contract that they didn't like, like that I felt like a ham in a smokehouse. They were waiting to get back at me by laying me off. We went to court and got out of my contract. I didn't want somebody in an office guiding my career. If I had a failure, I wanted it to be my failure. If I had a success, I wanted it to be my success.”
Contract actors suing a studio was unheard of at the time, and Warner Brothers didn’t like losing the suit, and certainly didn’t like setting a precedent that might allow other actors to do the same in the future, so harking back to the McCarthy era, the studio unofficially “black listed” James, in an effort to insure he never found work in the entertainment field again.
But veteran director William Wyler (“Ben-Hur,” “Mrs. Miniver,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “Roman Holiday”) would have none of that, and cast James in 1961's rendition of “The Children’s Hour,” a film based on the play by Lillian Hellman. Wyler had made an adaptation of the same play in 1936 entitled “These Three,” but the subject matter, two school teachers whose lives were destroyed when they were falsely accused of engaging in a lesbian relationship by one of their students, could not be depicted on film at the time due to restrictions placed upon the film industry by the Hays Code, a set of industry moral censorship guidelines, which were in effect from 1930 to 1968. Enforcement of this code diminished during the 1950‘s due to pressures placed on the producers of films to be more competitive (in a large part because of the popularity of television), which allowed films like“The Children’s Hour,” and “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) to be made. Here’s the trailer.
The film was not a success, with mixed reviews critically, and suffering a loss at the box office, however, James Garner’s career advanced no doubt because of it, and he became one of the most popular stars in the country, and abroad.
1962 saw him in “Boys' Night Out,” a comedy with Tony Randall and the lovely Kim Novak, who remains lovely to this day, despite what veteran certifiable dickless douche bag ass hat Donald Trump (and I say that with love), said about her earlier this year at the Academy Awards.
What a douche... and without a penis as well.
1963 was a busy year for Mr. Garner (actually, it was the year before most probably, when these films were actually made, but were released in 63). He starred in “The Thrill of It All,” (which featured a classic scene for the time, James driving his car into his back yard and into a pool filled with soap suds, a pool that wasn’t there when he had left for work in the morning. I clearly remember Universal Studio tour guides pointing out the house the scene was shot at on the back lot) and “Move Over, Darling,” with Doris Day, “The Wheeler Dealers,” with Lee Remick, and he appeared in “The Great Escape,” with Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, David McCallum, James Donald, and a whole bunch of other people.
Based on the popular television show, “Hogan’s Heros,” which oddly aired after “The Great Escape,” premiered, the film is a fictional account of the true story of a mass escape of Allied prisoners of war from Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now Żagań, Poland), in the province of Lower Silesia, Nazi Germany.
The film made a bunch of money and was critically acclaimed, and is considered a classic. Here’s a clip with James and Donald.
The movie had practical applications as well, emphasizing at least one technique for passing the time while locked up in solitary confinement, a skill Steve McQueen would perfect 10 years later in “Papillon.”
It was also released in the same month as “The Thrill Of It All,” giving James two films at the box office at the same time.
On the set, James got along well with most of his co-stars, including Steve McQueen, although McQueen was a Republican. He forgave Steve his partisan ways, because McQueen “somehow made Nixon’s enemies list, an honor I would have given anything to have achieved.”
“Steve was my neighbor for some time, I called him "Crazy McQueen", because, quite frankly, he was crazy. We were friends, but he wanted to play my part in “Grand Prix,” and because of that we didn't talk for four years. He wasn't a great actor, but he was a star. McQueen had probably the highest amount of star quality I've ever seen in an actor.”
He didn’t care for co-star and tunnel builder, Charles Bronson, writing he, “used and abused people, and I didn’t like it.”
While filming “The Great Escape,” in Germany, James witnessed a student protest which was violently squashed by the German police.
They “waded in…swinging their nightsticks…beating and arresting defenseless kids.”
He was himself assaulted by a police officer, and told a reporter “What I’ve witnessed here reminds me what it must have been like under the Nazis.”
I’m sure it saddened Mr Garner to realize that the tradition of police brutality is still alive and well in the country of his birth, the militarization of police, the brutal derailment of the Occupy protests across the country, pepper spraying of peaceful student protesters, and the asphyxiation of powerless and unarmed minority members who commit the crime of selling un-taxed cigarettes, being just a few examples.
Threatened with deportation and afraid of hurting the production of the film, James “issued an apology, but I didn’t mean it.”
To put it mildly, Jame didn't care for those who would use their authority and power to abuse and harm others.
Such as those restricting civil rights.
“I didn’t think it was right that a hundred years after…the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans still didn’t have basic rights of citizenship.”
What did he do about it?
Tuesday August 27, 1963, organized by a groups of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place and James was there, along with Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Ossie Davis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Blake Edwards, Lena Horne, Paul Newman, Sam Peckinpah, Sidney Poitier, Joanne Woodward, and between 200,000 and 300,000 other people, 75–80% of them African Americans.
Jim withstood criticism concerning celebrities speaking out and using their notoriety to advance social and political causes. He believed it was not only his 1st Amendment right to speak, but his personal responsibility as well. “If my celebrity draws extra attention to the cause, all the better.”
Dr Martin Luther King Jr., also attended and gave an impromptu speech that was quite notable, and has received a lot of attention throughout the years, and the march itself is credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public.
Because of it, today there is no discrimination in the voting process, doubly ensured by the passage of The Voting Rights Act of 1965... especially in states in which republicans control the governorship and state legislatures.
Back to movies.
1964 saw the premier of “The Americanization of Emily,” which he considered his favorite role. It also starred Julie Andrews in their first film together. They would make three, “The Americanization of Emily,” “Victor Victoria (1982),” and “One Special Night (1999).”
They must have liked each other.
The film was written by Paddy Chayefsky, who himself was wounded by a land mine in 1945 while on patrol near Aachen, Germany, directed by Arthur Hiller, who’d served as a bomber navigator with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, and also starred Melvyn Douglas, who served in both World War I and II. Obviously an overachiever. Jim’s “Great Escape,” co-star, James Coburn, who served in the army in the 50s, but was never sent to Korea and saw no combat, also starred.
I truly admire Mr. Chayefsky’s work, and think his screenplays for “Marty" (1955), “The Hospital" (1971), and "Network" (1976) are unparalleled, earning him three Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay, the only person to win three in this category as a solo writer. And they are three of my favorite films. Maybe I’ll watch one Wednesday night instead of miniature golf, who knows?
However, sometimes, or at least in the script for Emily, he writes dialogue in such a way that it is unlikely a human person would ever speak that way.
I guess I’m into humanist writers, who write words as people actually speak them, and not as how I might like them to speak. Men and women just don’t speak in soliloquys.
Except in 16th and 17th Century England of course, where discourse like this...
"What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! "
...was quite common.
“I don’t trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It’s always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a hell it is. It’s always the war widows who lead the Memorial Day parades. … We shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or war mongering imperialists or all the other banal bogeys. It’s the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers. The rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widow’s weeds like nuns, Mrs. Barham, and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices … Maybe ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, Mrs. Barham, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution.”
I mean I agree with the sentiment, but who talks like that? I sure don’t. Maybe Christopher’s dad, William F. Buckley did, and his pal Gore Vidal, but most people, I don’t think so.
It bothered me when I watched the film, and was distracting.
Overall though, I enjoyed it.
And it certainly reflected James’ own distaste for the glorification of violence. As he later wrote, “we’d all witnessed the kind of insanity portrayed in the film that cost people their lives.” Yet, by simply making the film, James thought “I contributed to the problem by buying into the whole glorification of war thing.”
World War II veteran, and ex-prisoner of war, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., had similar feelings upon publishing his classic, “Slaughterhouse Five,” which described the Allied fire bombing of the German city of Dresden.
James wrote, and possibly Kurt would agree, “Unfortunately [the film, and the book], it hasn’t put war out of style.”
In 1966 James starred in “Grand Prix,” the film Crazy Steve McQueen wanted, which also starred Eva Marie Saint. I believe the film had something to do with driving cars around in circles, over and over again, or through cities, although I have not seen it, and am not certain.
“Grand Prix,” was a financial and critical success, reviews focusing on the photographic and technical aspects of it, and won Oscars for Best Sound Effects, Best Film Editing and Best Sound. The film cost $9 million to make and earned $20,845,016.91, making it one of the ten highest grossing films of the year.
It also prompted Jim to maintain an avid, and active interest in auto racing for the rest of his life.
A lot of people claim that James scored a big hit in 1969‘s “Support Your Local Sheriff!,” a comedy/western/parody, which also starred Academy Award winner Walter Brennan, Harry Morgan, Jack Elam, Bruce Dern in his first comedic role, and the lovely and talented Joan Hackett. Wikipedia tells me “The film was the 20th most popular movie at the US box office in 1969.” Which is okay, I guess. It’s certainly one of my favorite Graner films, and favorite westerns, with everyone in the cast contributing a remarkable performance.
The IMDB has this to say about it:
“Spoof Western with magnificent starring duo as James Garner as a likable sheriff and Joan Hackett as fem-lib mayor's daughter , both of whom giving great lots of fun . In the old west, a man becomes a sheriff just for the pay, figuring he can decamp if things get tough. The film talks about a gambler just passing through who gets roped into being sheriff (James Garner) who finds his nemesis an old baron land (Walter Brennan) . One trouble-shooting sheriff always puts his finger on it or in it , no wonder they call him : The fastest finger in the west . The sheriff cleans a lawless town in his own highly individual way and is helped by an inept deputy (Jack Elam) . In the end, he uses ingenuity instead and gets to tame a lawless mining town against all odds .”
High praise indeed.
Everyone had such a good time making “Support Your Local Sheriff!,” that they followed it up with “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” with James and much of the same supporting cast. Harry and Jack returned, and this time “The Rifleman” Chuck Connors, and our lovely friend, Suzanne Pleshette were involved.
James worked with martial arts legend, Bruce Lee, in 1969's “Marlowe,” in which he played Raymond Chandler's private detective Philip Marlowe. He became a student of Bruce’s, learning "Jeet Kune Do," the fighting style that Lee had invented.
In a 1973 interview, John Wayne, a popular actor at the time, named James as the best American actor.
In the 1970s, “Maverick" producer Roy Huggins wanted to make a remake of his western, sort of, only this time as a modern private detective. They talked Jim into returning to television, this time at Universal Studios, where he starred as Jim Rockford in “The Rockford Files,” for six seasons, from September 13, 1974, to January 10, 1980. In 1977 he won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for his work on the show.
In the 1970s, “Maverick" producer Roy Huggins wanted to make a remake of his western, sort of, only this time as a modern private detective. They talked Jim into returning to television, this time at Universal Studios, where he starred as Jim Rockford in “The Rockford Files,” for six seasons, from September 13, 1974, to January 10, 1980. In 1977 he won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for his work on the show.
I have not seen one single episode of “The Rockford Files.”
This is something I can look forward to, which helps to give my life some shred of meaning and purpose.
Here’s a clip.
Around 1977 James enjoyed a successful series of commercials for Polaroid, a company that at one time made cameras that could print pictures instantaneously. Imagine that. His co-star in these commercials was the lovely actress, Mariette Hartley. They played husband and wife, but they weren’t really, as James was married to Lois at the time, and Mariette was going to get married to Patrick Boyriven in 78, but they were pretty convincing, so much so that Mariette felt the need to... well, just take a look at picture 36 above.
Here’s one of the 300 or so commercials they made together.
Mariette also appeared on “The Rockford Files,” as well as Joan Van Ark and Lauren Bacall, who all named James as their favorite actor.
Bogart is turning in his grave.
The toll of doing his own stunts and fight scenes eventually weighed on James who was entering his 50s, and his doctors asked him to take some time off. The show was put into hiatus. Jim was suffering from back trouble, and knee trouble, and stomach trouble (ulcer), and he came to the decision to discontinue “The Rockford Files.” NBC canceled the show mid-season.
Mr. Garner would reappear as Jim Rockford in eight “Rockford Files” reunion TV movies, from 1994 to 1999.
James continued his film career in 1980's “H.E.A.L.T.H.,” an ensemble comedy, which also starred Carol Burnett, Glenda Jackson, Lauren Bacall, and Paul Dooley, and 1981‘s “The Fan,” also with Bacall, Michael Biehn, and Maureen Stapleton. He reunited with Julie Andrews in 82‘s “Victor Victoria,” along with Robert Preston, Lesley Ann Warren, Alex Karras, and John Rhys-Davies. Directed by Julie’s hubby, Blake Edwards, it tells the simple tale of a unemployed British singer who dresses as a man to get a job as a female impersonator... and how this affects her personal life.
The film was a hit, and nominated for seven Academy Awards.
1984 saw “Tank,” about a man and his tank, and 85 brought about “Murphy’s Romance.” Of particular interest to me was 1989's “My Name is Bill W.,” with James Woods as the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. James played his co-founder, Dr. Bob.
He underwent quintuple heart bypass on April 22, 1988. He quit smoking afterwards.
In 1993 James starred in “Barbarians at the Gate,” based on the true story of the 1988 leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco, the food and tobacco company. James played F. Ross Johnson, the president and CEO of the company...
...Who swore a lot. I was shocked and appalled to hear Mr. Garner, a star and remnant of Hollywood’s Golden Age, cussing like a sailor. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a clip.
I was also shocked and appalled by this early scene I shall have to describe.
James character is talking on the phone while riding in his private corporate jet to another RJR Nabisco executive who is flying in a jet which is alongside of James’. Inside the cabin is Jim’s lovely trophy wife, and a pretty stewardess. The conversation goes like this:
“Shit, the fucking stock hasn’t budged, Ed, not one fucking point. I thought the Cipollone decision would pump a little sunshine up our skirts... we’re still stuck in the fucking forties...” The stewardess comes over and hands him a drink. “Thanks,” he says. “Any fucking time,” she replies.
Can you imagine Charlton Heston talking like that? My, my.
This not only shocked, but also appalled.
Actually, it’s a testament to Mr. Graner’s ability to grow with the times, and his natural acting style.
Although I don’t usually approve of unnecessary profanity... oh fuck no.
The next year he reunited with Mel Gibson and James Coburn in “Maverick,” playing Bret’s dad. Jodie Foster also stars.
"If there's anything positive to come from this event, it is seeing the character, the toughness with the dignity of the Oklahoma people as they suffer the grief and carry on with their lives. It makes every Oklahoman, where ever we are, to be PROUD to be an Oklahoman.," James stated while accepting an honorary doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, in Norman, one month after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
James plays a bad guy in 1998‘s “Twilight,” who stars along with his good friend Paul Newman (“This is such a sad time, I am truly devastated and there are just not enough words to express my sorrow,” he said upon Newman’s death in 2008), Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, Stockard Channing, Liev Schreiber, Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring, from “Breaking Bad"), and 22 year old Reese Witherspoon, already an old pro with 8 films under her pretty belt.
In 2000 James had both of his knees replaced. I’m not sure what he replaced them with, but they were replaced.
He also appeared with those three old coots, in “Space Cowboys.” Here’s a clip.
James played an older version of Ryan Gosling, along with Gena Rowlands playing an older, demented version of Rachel McAdams, in 2004‘s “The Notebook.”
The film was a financial success, earning $115,603,229.37, on a budget of $29 million. Critically the movie got mixed reviews, but earned James a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.
Jessica Winter of The Village Voice wrote: "Amid the sticky-sweet swamp of Jeremy Leven's script, Rowlands and Garner emerge spotless and beatific, lending a magnanimous credibility to their scenes together. These two old pros slice cleanly through the thicket of sap-weeping dialogue and contrivance, locating the terror and desolation wrought by the cruel betrayals of a failing mind."
From 2002 to 2005 James returned to television to appear in 45 episodes of the sit-com “8 Simple Rules,” after the untimely death of the show’s original male lead, “Three’s Company’s” John Ritter.
He payed Ritter a tribute on Larry King, saying he learned a great deal about comedic acting from watching him in the 70s.
James played Katey Sagal’s dad, which made him the grandfather of Kaley Cuoco and Amy Davidson.
James’ name in Elvish is Lenwë Míriel.
On April 21st, 2006, a bronze statue of James as Bret Maverick, standing at 10 feet tall, magically appeared in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma. He also had a street named after him, James Garner Avenue.
He retired from acting when he was 82.
And everyone here at Joyce’s Take, and everyone else, will miss his presence amongst us... and he will be remembered.
Below is a small sample of remembrances:
“Great guy. When I was six he bought me a snow cone and we watched baseball in the stands at Encino Little League. Will never forget his kindness.” -jon r
“When I was a little girl, James Garner came to visit my school. Mr. Garner was a famous movie star, and my third-grade teacher was his relative -- and when he came by the school we were all lined up outside to meet him. I remember that he touched my shoulder, and I was sure he had smiled at me. He was the first person I'd met from the big world outside, and he was living proof that if you worked hard and played by the rules, some pretty amazing things could happen. I’m sorry he's gone.” -Senator Elizabeth Warren
“Talk about charisma! I loved his act from the first time I saw Maverick. Non phoniness was the key.” -James F
“Very privileged to work with this incredibly talented actor early in my career. He will be loved and missed forever.” Reese Witherspoon, speaking about 1998‘s “Twilight”
“He is an idol that we looked up too depending of our age, but he was a hard working person who came across as a caring person. I did not know him personally but I did admire him. I do not like RIP, so I will say "So long" and see you somewhere beyond the stars!” -Sylvia
“RIP James Garner. Admired by all who knew him. When starring in Grand Prix the people around F1 said he had the talent to be a pro driver.” Ron Howard
“What a sad day...I grew up watching James Garner and especially enjoyed him in the Rockford Files and his many movies (the 1st and 2nd "Maverick", etc.) with just the right amount of humor. I read somewhere that he had broken MANY bones in his body over the years doing his own stunts and that he suffered a lot of pain because of this. His "Beef Counsel" radio commercials in the mid-eighties made me want to go out and buy a side of beef!! What a gorgeous man with a kind and genuine heart...” -Cascot
“I say this with a heavy broken heart.was an honor working beside u receiving ur bear hugs every day. [love] u Grampa Jim” -KaleyCuoco
“He was a great actor. His roles always come across as if they a real situation that even you could fit into, and his personality was like he was part of your family or someone you knew like a close friend. The days of the good old cowboy are just about gone. There are only a few left, we are losing them to fast. Kirk Douglas, Clint Walker, LQ Jones, to name a few that are left. You always think of them being there, kinda like your parents.” -Kenny
“So sad to hear that James Garner has gone. A real part of my childhood Rockford and the Maverick especially.” -Stephen Fry
“I grew up in Seminole, Oklahoma, Mr. Garner in Norman (he's bound to have been a Sooner fan), and because I was just a bit younger, I followed his career for years as a fellow Okie. Mr. Garner would return to Oklahoma now and then (I believe to hunt) and he always seemed to be the same person he projected so well on his movies and TV shows. I was always happy to see him return (to his roots, so to speak) and really proud, as an Okie, about his accomplishments. Most recently he made the "Notebook," a beautiful little movie about "real" life in south eastern NC where I now live. I actually new a man who some times worked in films and he told me at the time that Mr. Garner was just as nice a guy as he appeared to be on screen. I am certainly going to miss seeing him work.” -Jack
“There was a guy named Norby Walters and he'd have a weekly poker game. Stud nickel-dime. Legends came and young bums like me. And one night, it was me, Louis Gosset, Fred Travalena, Anthony Dennison, James Garner and Nicolette Sheridan. I had a nine showing and two more wired. Everybody else had something and James Garner had 4 of clubs showing. Raise to the max, and it's me, Garner, and Dennison. Norby's dealing. 65 cents in the pot. I get a 2 of clubs, Garner a 7 of clubs, And Dennison something. Raised to the max and Dennison's gone. Heads up, me again Garner, dollar and a nickel in the middle. 5th street and the 2 of diamonds fills me up and Garner an 8 of hearts. Maxed bet. On the center of the table, dollar forty five. Last up card, King of clubs me, Ace of Diamonds Garner. Maxed bet and there's 2 and a quarter and it's going to me or James Garner and it's going to me. And Travalena's telling a story about when he first opened for Sinatra and Nicolette says she always had a crush Frank and I turn my quads. And Garner, he looks me right in the eyes and says, "not your night, kid." and shows the straight flush. He bet on the come, the whole way. And nobody at the table ben saw what just transpired. A one-outer beat my quads. and I lost. I lost to Maverick. But Garner could not have been more wrong. It was my night.” -Norm MacDonald
“My first car was a Trans Am. NOT because of smokey and the bandit, it was because of Rockford, even though it was a firebird. Still call the "J" turn, pulling a Rockford! I saw him filming the movie "Sunset". I was trying to take his picture, I was like 12 years old. Some Production Assistant tried to push me away, Mr. Garner saw this and came over to me and said "let him take a picture". And he stood and posed for me. A very cool guy!” -Tom Morrison
My "heart just broke," said Sally Field. “"There are few people on this planet I have adored as much as Jimmy Garner. I cherish every moment I spent with him and relive them over and over in my head. He was a diamond.''
“I wish that somehow the younger brattier members of the entertainment world could be trained in class, ethics, and integrity by this man. I wish his family peace.” -jeff6187
Tom Selleck, who guest-starred in “The Rockford Files,” said: "Jim was a mentor to me and a friend, and I will miss him."
“Good bye Mr. James Garner. I never knew you personally, but you have been a model of a good man. You defined what a man should be like...he should have class and not be afraid to get his hands dirty, strength to withstand life's ups and downs and humor to remind us to not take it all so serious. Along with that that special quality that can't be defined, but compels a woman to desire to Be a Lady, while understanding that it doesn't mean she's less than or more than, for being so. I will miss you, Sir. My heart goes out to your loved ones as I know they will miss the real you, more.” -Kathaleen K.
“Um, you do know that all you really know are the characters that he played, right? I'm not saying he wasn't a good man, but as the general public, we get the public face and rarely really know these people and what they are like at home. Look at Mel Gibson. People identified him with his characters and thought he was a good man. Add to this his presentation as an upstanding Catholic family man. Then the meltdown, which showed the private face he had been hiding. I'm not saying James Garner was in any way like this, just that we have no idea and tend to put on to actors' personalities the characteristics of the characters they choose to play, particularly TV actors whom we see over many years playing the same character.” -myanamea to Kathaleen K.
“He earned the purple heart and stayed married to the same woman for 58 years....that alone sets him apart from most of the Hollywood crowd.” - Mfloyd61 to myanamea
"RIP James Garner. Such a lovely man," tweeted Gary Sinise, who worked with the actor on the 1989 film “My Name is Bill W.” “It is true what you say about how people get attached to the roles actors play, but...I can personally attest to all the good things being said about Jim. I worked on the Rockford Files (soundtrack musician), and also worked for one of his dear friends and golfing partner singer songwriter Mac Davis. They were both a pleasure to be around...and when you got the two of them together...well, it was just too funny for words with lots of laughs and WAY too many golfing jokes. I will miss him greatly. He really was a great man, and I'm sure Mac will miss him greatly too. ...sweet memories...” -Penny Boppie to myanamea "Away from home; can't sleep. Now sad to read my dear friend & co-star James Garner passed. RIP sweet Jim Rockford." -Marlee Matlin
"RIP James Garner. I had the privilege of working with him in the film, “My Fellow Americans.” Such a lovely man and wonderful actor." - Marg Helgenberger
“My fond memory of James Garner was of him standing on the sidelines when I played with the Raiders. You inspired me, Jim. RIP #BePeace" - Carl Weathers
"James Garner-- entertained us for years. Glad I got to meet him. R I P Maverick!!!!!" -Jimmy Connors
"A great guy and a great actor passed away today - James Garner. A dear man...Rest in peace, James," -Larry King.
Thanks to Russell of Liberaland for source material.