Remembering James Garner (1928 – 2014)

By July 20, 2014

A legend of stage and screen has passed away. James Garner has died at age 86.

Known for hit TV shows “The Rockford Files,” “Maverick” (which was made into a feature film, where he co-starred with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster), and films like The Notebook, Garner was also a war veteran and recipient of two purple hearts during his 14-month tour of duty in the Korean War.

According to THR, Garner came into acting entirely by accident when a friend-turned-agent/producer offered him a non-speaking role in the 1954 production of “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” directed on Broadway by Charles Laughton and starring Henry Fonda; it was here he learned a very important lesson:

I learned to listen. The trouble with a lot of actors is they are waiting for their line, waiting for themselves to speak. If you listen, you become involved. I learned to never anticipate. That helped me a lot as an actor.

Garner was very old school when it came to roles. “I don’t want to do movies with a lot of profanity, and I don’t want to take my clothes off. I don’t do horror pictures, or I would take my clothes off. Seriously, I’m simply not an exhibitionist.”

Garner’s charm and southern drawl proved to be a successful combination, whether he was charming the pants off of Doris Day in her trademark films or pairing with actress Mariette Hartley in the ’80s for a massive Polaroid campaign. The Garner/Hartley Polaroid Ad campaign proved so successful that consumers repeatedly referred to the camera as a “James Garner camera.”

His most popular roles among the thirtysomething set are most likely as the older version of Ryan Gosling’s character in the tearjerker of a romance film (a.k.a. “chick flick”) The Notebook (which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary) and as Sandra Bullock’s father in The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood. 

In an interview with VH-1, The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes recalled how the first meeting between young method actor Ryan Gosling and Garner went.

(Ryan] says, “I was thinking about accents. There’s all kinds of South Carolina accents — one’s more rural” and this and that. [Garner] goes, “I don’t do accents, kid. They’re stupid.” And [Ryan] goes, “Okay. What about eye color? I have blue eyes. You have brown eyes.” He says, “Everyone knows Jim Garner’s got brown eyes. Do what you want, kid.” [Ryan] says, “Okay, I guess I’ll wear contacts. What about hair?” And he says, “Do whatever you want, kid. Nice to meet you. See you later.” Ryan looked at me and said, “Shut up, don’t even say a word.” So that’s just an example of two extremely different types of acting styles. Both are wildly successful.

And that’s old school acting for you.

Garner passed away in his Los Angeles home on July 19th of natural causes and leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Lois – whom he dated for two weeks before asking her to be his bride.

What was your favorite James Garner performance? Let us know in the comments below.

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Cricket Lee
Star Wars fangirl. Named Best Kisser by Time Magazine. CEO/Host: Girl Gamer; host of Gecken: GeekNation; writer: Dread Central. You'll have a crush on me soon. Vote Quimby. Twitter: @crixlee
  • Douglas Warren

    Hands down, Murphy Jones in Murhpy’s Romance is my favortie James Garner performance.