A wonderful, vintage Hollywood actor – Mr. James Garner has sadly passed on, aged 86; he was born James Scott Bumgarner; April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014) in Norman, Oklahoma, to a Methodist family.For over Five decades he appeared in several television series which would make him a household-name; it therefore follows that each generation (beginning with the 1950’s ‘Baby-Boomers’) will have fond memories of him as a particular character on television, film, or both; mine are for his tv role as the positively laid-back, work-shy, devilish, poker-playing Bret Maverick in the tv series ‘Maverick’, which ran from 1957 until 1962 for an impressive total of 60 episodes and also for the two comedy-movies he made with Doris Day! James played Doris’ impossibly good-looking husband in both ‘The Thrill Of It all’ and the celebrated ‘Move Over Darling’ to perfection, displaying a natural flair for comedy which beautifully complemented Doris’ style (he was one of her favourite people/co-stars).Other fans will love him for his role as the detective Jim Rockford in the 1970’s show ‘The Rockford Files’, which debuted on t.v. in 1974 and ran for six seasons.
James Garner’s early family-life was turbulent to say the least; his mother died when he was only five years old and his father remarried to a woman who would regularly beat James and his two older brothers – Jack and Charles.When this marrige broke up, James’ father relocated to Los Angeles where James re-joined him at age seventeen, enrolling at Hollywood High School, where (unsurprisingly!) he was voted ‘The most popular student’.In the early 1950’s he saw wartime military service in Korea for fourteen months with the 5th Regimental Combat team and earned himself two ‘Purple Hearts’; upon his return, Broadway, television and movies beckoned (he changed his last name from Bumgarner to Garner early in his t.v. career after the studio had credited him as “James Garner” without permission.
Television was where James Garner became a star, but he was also a veteran of over fifty films – including 1963’s iconic ‘The Great Escape’ (in which he played flight lieutenant Robert Hendley, an American in the RAF, alongside Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough and Donald Pleasence), ‘The Americanization of Emily’ (with Julie Andrews), ‘Grand Prix’, ‘Victor Victoria’, ‘Murphy’s Romance’ (for which he received an Academy Award nomination) ‘Space Cowboys’ and ‘The Notebook’.To the general public, James Garner was a much-loved actor during his lifetime and although he will be sorely missed, our love for him and his craft will not diminish, thanks largely to all his wonderful work preserved on celluloid.Jim, you were such a handsome devil!
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Text ©copyright Gary Alston 2014.