Thursday, July 31, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: Remembering James Garner (1928-2014)

From Yahoo! Movies

Last week the world lost a great actor and wonderful human being when James Garner passed away on July 19th at the age of 86.  I have always been a fan of Garner, at least in part because we once lived in his home town of Norman, Oklahoma.  The actor was a major supporter of The University of Oklahoma in Norman, where my husband was teaching at the time.  Although I am a bit too young to remember the TV series "Maverick" (boy it feels good to call myself "young"!), I loved James Garner in "The Rockford Files".  This detective series was one of the few that my husband and I both enjoyed as we tend to have very different tastes, and we watched it together until it ended in 1980.  Garner also starred in a number of popular and critically acclaimed movies, including "The Children's Hour" (1961), "The Great Escape" (1963), "The Americanization of Emily" (1964), "Grand Prix" (1966), "Victor Victoria" (1982), "Murphy's Romance" (1985), and "The Notebook" (2004), among so many others (you can see his complete filmography here).  A number of heartfelt tributes have been written about James Garner (including this one from Time), and I will not attempt to add to the list, but I thought I would highlight some YouTube videos featuring the man that I found especially fitting.

Anyone who watched "The Rockford Files" probably remembers the theme music, as well as the amusing answering machine messages that started each episode (watch full episodes of the series here):

By all accounts, James Garner and his wife shared a lifelong love affair, as this video tribute depicts:

I love the fact that the photos show Garner wrapping a lovingly protective arm around his wife through the years, while she leans in to him, relaxed and equally loving.  Their body language alone reveals the devoted relationship between the two throughout their 58 years of marriage.

Even though I don't remember the "Maverick" series, Garner was excellently cast as the wily, smooth-talking poker player Bret Maverick:

You can watch full episodes of the series here.

James Garner starred in a lot of great movies with themes that did not appeal me (war, westerns, racing) so I did not see many of his films, but I did enjoy his comedies such as "The Thrill of It All" (1963) with Doris Day.  Another favorite comedy is "My Fellow Americans" (1996), which you can watch here (but do it quickly as I don't know how long it will remain on YouTube):

The political theme does not interest me as much as the superb rapport between the two leading actors, Garner and Jack Lemmon.  I am always entertained by their bantering and bickering in this movie, and a stellar supporting cast (Lauren Bacall, Wilford Brimley, Dan Aykroyd, and John Heard, among others) makes this movie even more fun to watch.

Another area where Garner excelled was in the made-for-television movie.  A lot of these movies are poorly acted and even more poorly written, but James Garner was ever the consummate professional, and when the rare gem of a script did occur, the results were outstanding.  The award-winning Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "Promise" (1986) stands out as one of the few "disease of the week" movies that was every bit as good if not better than a feature film (see reviews here).  Another exceptional Hallmark Hall of Fame movie is "Decoration Day" (1990):

There is so much more to see on YouTube featuring James Garner, such as the movie "One Special Night" (1999) as well as others, a few of his well-known commercials for Polaroid cameras with Mariette Hartley (plus a radio tribute to Garner by Hartley), various interviews with the actor over the years, etc.  You could spend an entire day going through all of the James Garner tributes, which is an indication of just how well-loved this man was.

When I think of James Garner, the first word that comes to mind is "affable".  He had a reputation for being a considerate man, self-deprecating and kind, the sort of person everyone wants to know.  That quality played a big part in making him a popular figure both onscreen and off, and he will be greatly missed in a world that so needs more individuals like him.


  1. I just had to let you know - I am sitting here with six dachshunds (I am doggy sitting my cousin's two along with my own four), eating a "Ramen Cheese Sandwich" (the recipe I found on your blog, and decided to watch my copy of "My Fellow Americans." What a great evening! Good, food, loving company, and a hilarious movie!!! And your blog made it better. As I said before, I hope you had a good time in New Mexico and I am glad that you made it home safely. Katie

  2. Thanks, Katie -- sounds like you had a fabulous evening! We did enjoy our New Mexico trip (it is always a relief to get away from Georgia's humidity for a while) but really did need to get back and rescue our pet sitter from our dogs, especially the old Dalmatian, who is getting much harder to care for now. She takes up a lot of my time, which means I have to spend less time on the computer, among other things, but dogs are always worth whatever it takes to care for them as they give so much in return!