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Sunday, July 20, 2014

James Garner Goes to Heaven

James Garner has left us at age 86. I always had a special place in my heart for this rugged, tall, broad-shouldered actor with the handsome face and strong, dimpled jawline. I even enjoyed his performances, as well! But he was one of those actors you don't mind just looking at, even when he matured. I had a crush on hims since childhood.

In 1963, my grandmother took me into New York City, Radio City Music Hall, to see The Thrill of It All starring Garner and Doris Day. That was always so exciting because there was a live performance by The Rockettes before the movie on the huge silver screen. Turned out The Thrill of It All was a mild bedroom farce of sorts, which I seriously didn't understand at age 11. After the screening, my grandmother apologized to me and said, "I can't believe they let kids come in to see movies like this! And that Doris Day! I don't know what got into her!" Well, of course, by story's end, it was James Garner. Even I knew that!

I always found Garner best in his comedy roles, especially Victor/Victoria and The Americanization of Emily, both with Julie Andrews. They also appeared together in 1999's One Special Night. I love Move Over, Darling, another film in which he co-starred with Doris Day. James Garner also notably co-starred in The Children's Hour with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, and was active in films and tv (including latter-career voice-overs) from 1956 through 2010.

Garner did two classic tv series: Maverick and The Rockford Files. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a bronze statue erected in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma (where the wind comes rushing down the plains).

Garner was a life-long Democrat who met his wife, Lois Clark, at an Adlai Stevenson rally in '56. They were married until his death. "My wife would leave me if I played a Republican," he quipped to the press when making the television mini-series, Space, and requesting that his character's being a Republican get changed to a Democrat.

What I especially loved about James Garner was his ability to screw up his face for a good screwball comedy. His looks meant nothing to him, he seemed to say, in his comic mugging, much like Cary Grant.

So long, handsome! You will be missed. ps: When you get to heaven, please apologize to my Grandma.

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