I stumbled across James Garner’s memoir at the library, so I checked it out on a whim. Garner is one of those actors I’ve always liked but never really focused on. I didn’t even realize how many movies I’ve seen him in until I was looking at the filmography in the book. If you’d asked me a few days ago what The Castaway Cowboy, Tank, Victor/Victoria, and The Great Escape have in common, I would have probably drawn a blank. I was born after Maverick, and The Rockford Files didn’t make much sense to me as a teenager, but at least I remember his Polaroid commercials!
Garner’s book is an enjoyable read. It’s silly to say I learned a lot about him, because I knew almost nothing about him before. Rather than write a regular book review, I thought it would be more fun to list ten things I found especially interesting about him.
- James Garner was born in Oklahoma. (What’s so interesting about that? Well, so was I!)
- He can’t stand turkey or garlic. His dislike of turkey came from being forced to eat unfrozen birds left over from WWII during the Korean War. That would certainly turn me off for life.
- He sued Warner Bros. for breach of contract while doing Maverick. His legal fees were more than he earned while under contract to the studio, but he thought it was worth it to get free.
- Garner married his first and only wife, Lois, 17 days after they met. Or 24 days, if you ask his wife. They agree on when they married, but not on when they met.
- He was at the March on Washington in August, 1963, where he sat in the third row for Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
- He witnessed the 1962 Munich Schwabinger Riots while filming The Great Escape.
- Garner is relaxed and charming onscreen, but he’s got a temper. He also won’t tolerate bullies.
- He’s been in constant pain from arthritis and other ailments since the 1960s, and he can’t remember what it’s like to be pain-free.
- His favorite of all his movies is The Americanization of Emily with Julie Andrews.
- He thinks the worst movie he ever made is Mister Buddwing, but there are some other ones that he’d like to forget. Actually, he can’t remember a thing about The Distinguished Gentleman with Eddie Murphy, and he can live with that.
Obviously there’s a lot more in The Garner Files. I even found the chapters about golf and racing pretty interesting. The organization of the book is a little scattershot, but the man himself is always entertaining.
Update: Tomorrow, James Garner turns 84. Happy Birthday! And for fans of Maverick, Warner is finally releasing a complete DVD set of the first season on May 29th.