Tribute: James Garner
We have received news that James Garner has died of natural causes. Given that the peak of his career was during the 1960s and 70s and our readership mostly having been born after this time, you might not know the name right off the bat. But you know him. He was in The Notebook. He was the older Ryan Gosling (by the way, major spoilers in the last sentence). Or you might know him as the evil Commander Rourke in Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
But let’s wind the clock back to when he was truly the man. Garner holds a significant place in the history of our beloved screen media in that he was the first actor to become a leading man in both cinema and television. That happens quite a bit these days, especially with the higher production values of television, but Garner was a genuine pioneer. He made his mark in people’s living rooms with the Western comedy series Maverick, playing the title role for almost 70 episodes. He returned to the small screen in the 70s with The Rockford Files, essentially a film noir retread of Maverick, and stayed with the show for six years.
In cinemas Garner acted in a series of hits alongside Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, Bob Hope, Sidney Poitier, Dick Van Dyke, Doris Day, Kim Novak and more. Today we’re going to pay tribute to our favourite role.
James Garner played Flt. Lt. Robert ‘The Scrounger’ Hendley in The Great Escape. The legendary ensemble boasts Steve McQueen, Sir Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance and others. Garner stood out as the smooth operator in the camp, deftly filling his pockets with the goods needed to dig their way out of the POW camp during WWII. When time comes to break out Hendley takes it upon himself to guide the blinded Blythe to freedom at great personal risk. If you haven’t seen the movie you owe it to yourself to check it out. When I bought a DVD player waaaaay back in the early days of the machine this movie was one of five DVDs I took home with it. It’s a classic for good reason.
James Coburn is survived by his wife Lois Clarke. The story runs that they met at a political rally and Garner blew all his money marrying her two weeks later. They have been together since 1954.
Rest in Peace James Garner.