James Garner - Tribute

By Monica Sullivan

What is it about James Garner that everyone loved so much?  He was good-looking, sure, but so are a lot of other actors who come and go without eliciting a fraction of the affection everyone felt for Garner.  

Early in his career at Warner Brothers, executives would complain because Garner wasn’t in every single episode of “Maverick”.  The producers explained that Brett and Bart were brothers, so James Garner would turn up some weeks and Jack Kelly would appear in the other episodes.  The executives seemed to feel it was okay if Jack Kelly was around, but why couldn’t Brett be front and center all the time?  In every frame, even?

I felt (and still feel) the same way.  Whenever I see a Bart only episode listing, I wince and watch something else.  But if James Garner is listed, there’s no way I’m switching the channel.  In “Support Your Local Sheriff” and “Support Your Local Gunfighter”, Garner plays a guy who’s on his way to some other place, Australia or something.  The townspeople drag his heels into the jobs of sheriff and gunfighter, but his heart isn’t in it.  Only the likes of Joan Hackett and Suzanne Pleshette can induce him to hang around.

It was Garner’s ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ ambience that was so endearing to audiences of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  He didn’t really want to be a gambler or a private eye as in “The Rockford Files”, but he got paid (not very well) to do those jobs and he knew how to do them (very well.)

James Garner made his co-stars look special and interesting but he casually disowned anything about himself that might be special.  He didn’t have to.  He was a King of Diamonds on the big and small screens and he will sparkle forever.

© 2014 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 07/23/14
Movie Magazine International