Monday, July 21, 2014

Remembering James Garner, Part 1

I'm sure that I've mentioned here before that James Garner is my favorite actor, so you can imagine how crushed I was 9and still am) at the news that he had passed away a couple of days ago on July 19th. I went back and re-read the last few chapters of his recent memoir, The Garner Files. In the last chapter of the of the book, Garner wrote about how he'd like to be remembered:

I've been asked again and again,"How do you want to be remembered?" I usually say I don't care, but that's not true. I want to have accomplished something, to have made a contribution to the world. It would be wonderful if just one person looked at my life and said, "If he could overcome that, maybe I can, too."
Beyond that, I think an actor can contribute by making people forget their troubles for an hour or two. Call it relief, escape, diversion . . . I think one of the greatest gifts is being able to make people happy. I like to make people happy.
So, if anybody asks, "How do you want to be remembered?" I tell them:
"With a smile."

I can recommend James Garner's memoir, The Garner Files (co-written with his friend Jon Winokur). even if you are not particularly a fan of the actor himself. It is a great insight into the Hollywood system and culture from the perspective of a man who refused to play by rules that didn't make any sense to him. Garner is remembered as a nice guy in the media as a curmudgeon by most of his close friends (and by his own admission). The truth is that both are accurate.
What makes the memoir so incredible for Garner fans, though, is that no one ever thought it would be written. Garner was notoriously private. The few begrudging interviews he gave were generally about his movie and television projects. He didn't talk about his service in the Korean War during which he received two purple hearts. He didn't talk much about his wife, Lois, to whom he was married for almost 58 years. (He died about a month shy of their anniversary.) He didn't talk about his upbringing with an abusive stepmother in Oklahoma. All of this is covered in the book, along with his love of golf an car racing, his battles with the television studios over Maverick and The Rockford Files, and his great affection for creating films and television shows.

I will write more about some of my favorite James Garner movies and television shows in future entries, but today I will leave you with what is maybe my favorite James Garner film. it most certainly is the one I have watched the most. Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) is a Western comedy spoof that I, personally, think is superior to Cat BallouMy Name is NobodyBlazing Saddles, and all other send-ups of the Western genre. It was Garner's first foray into producing as well, and it is a film of which he is very proud.

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