Release date: October 23, 2012
From the first time I saw James Garner on TV as Bret Maverick, I was more than slightly in love. It was one of the television shows that I watched faithfully every time Garner was the star of the episode. They tried adding additional Mavericks, but for me, there was only one.
When I saw him in “The Americanization of Emily,” our relationship was sealed. Till death do us part. I was a fan and he could do not wrong. Although I probably have not seen every single movie he ever made, I’ve seen most of them. I’ve liked some, loved most. Whenever one of his movies shows up on cable, it goes on the DVR. Fortunately Garry is a fan, too.
Now, about the book. If you had the impression that Jim Garner is a plain-spoken guy with strong opinions, you would be absolutely right. He has a great many opinions and not the slightest reticence about expressing them. He’s an unabashed liberal, egalitarian, man of the people who made good. He thinks acting should come naturally and claims he’s never taken acting lessons.
It’s true. He never took any formal acting lesson. That he spent weeks huddled with Marlon Brando when he was shooting “Sayonara” and learned an incredible amount from the man he considers the best actor ever … I guess that doesn’t count as acting lessons. And lessons or no, this is an actor who’s easy-going, deceptively relaxed acting style makes it look easy. Making it look easy took a lot of hard work. That seems to be the way of many things that look easy … when someone else does it.
Garner is an honest guy. He tells it like he sees it, or at least remembers it. He ruthlessly reviews every television series he made in detail, including his favorite episode of each with lots of great back stories and anecdotes. He reviews and rates every movie he made. I like some of them better than he did, but mostly I agree with his assessments .. We all agree that “The Americanization of Emily” was not only his best movie, but maybe the best movie. Ever. I’m inclined to agree.
For him, is was not merely a movie he made, but a movie — and ideal — he spent the rest of his life trying to live up to.
If “Emily” was his best move, “Grand Prix” was his favorite. Like many other Hollywood stars, he’s in love fast cars and racing and Grand Prix was pure fun for him and apparently the entire cast.
Who he likes and doesn’t like? You won’t have to guess. He tells you exactly how he feels about everyone. And he’s not big on forgiving or forgetting. Given that he shares his birthday with my husband, I’m not at all surprised.
He came from a poor, rough, abusive childhood. He worked hard and is the only person who seems to have had more surgery than me. That’s a lot of surgery, believe me. It never occurred to me that acting was that physically taxing, but apparently he is by no means the only performer to have broken just about everything at one time or another.
His two famous battles with studios were history-making if for no better reason than he won. The second lawsuit revolved around “The Rockford Files” and the issue was shady bookkeeping practices employed by studios to avoid paying performers. Technically he settled out of court for what was apparently so much money he’s still laughing about it. He wanted to keep fighting because there was a principle involved. His friends told him to shut up and take the money. Eventually, he decided they were right. It must have been a lot of money. My guess is that the studios continue to play fast and loose with bookkeeping and will … as long as they get away with it.
I enjoyed reading the book on Kindle and then enjoyed it a second time as an audiobook. I wish Garner had done the narration himself. Although Audible found a narrator whose voice and intonation resemble Garner’s and it’s good, it’s still not the same as having Garner do it.
This is a must-read for anyone who’s a fan of Jame Garner and his movies … or for anyone who likes knowing what was going on behind the scenes on the set. It’s entertaining, honest, surprising and often funny. I enjoyed it a lot and I’ll probably read it again. I’d give this one a solid 8.5 out of 10.
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- The Americanization of Emily – 1964 (teepee12.com)
- ‘The Great Escape’ still impresses – the TCM Film Festival in review (revealshot.com)
- Rockford Files – Not So Secret Obsession (waldina.com)
- Happy Birthday James Garner (jimsuva.typepad.com)
- Day and Garner in THE THRILL OF IT ALL (aurorasginjoint.com)
- The Great Escape (1963) & CONTEST (journeysinclassicfilm.com)
- Adorable Photo of the Day (labelledemanille.wordpress.com)