Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Object Of Our Affection: James Garner Dead At 86

I grew up in a time when men were men.  Hollywood celebrities weren’t precocious, perfumed, perfectly coiffed brats.

James Garner served in the Korean War winning two Purple Hearts. "I wasn't a hero," he said modestly. "I just got in the way a lot."  How humble is that?  How many actors today can say they’ve served in the military?  I dare say not many.

There’s a terrific obit for Mr. Garner in The New York Times.  After reading the piece I learned he was a lifelong Democrat.  Oh well, I loved him just the same.
“Mr. Garner disdained the pretentiousness of the acting profession. ‘I’m a Methodist but not as an actor,’ he wrote in The Garner Files. ‘I’m from the Spencer Tracy school: be on time, know your words, hit your marks, and tell the truth. I don’t have any theories about acting, and I don’t think about how to do it, except that an actor shouldn’t take himself too seriously, and shouldn’t try to make acting something that it isn’t. Acting is just common sense. It isn’t hard if you put yourself aside and just do what the writer wrote.”
As a young girl I came to love James Garner in his role as Maverick.  My Dad loved to watch him in the television series The Rockford Files.  He never missed an episode, hence, neither did I.

I remember some of those Polaroid camera commercials he did with Mariette Hartley.  Polaroid produced so many of them that Hartley had a t-shirt made up that read, “I am NOT Mrs. James Garner.”  I have to admit they were the perfect pairing for a wholesome advertisement.

Garner was believable in his roles.  I adored him in the 1985 film Murphy’s Romance.  He starred opposite Sally Field.  At the end of the movie, after some small talk Murphy tells Emma (Sally Field) that he may be worn but he’s sturdy and faithful and in love for the last time.  Emma confesses she is in love for the first time then invites Murphy to stay for supper.  He said he’d only stay if he’s still there for breakfast.  Emma asks, “How do you like your eggs?” 

Murphy’s Romance is perfect fodder for the hopeful romantic and the capper, for me at least, is 2004’s The Notebook, a heartwarming tearjerker that proves that true love can last forever.

Godspeed you handsome devil.  Thanks for the memories.

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