Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook 4 Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 5 (9 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   4 comments

Life Arts

The Progressive Sensibilities of James Garner

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 2 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Well Said 5   Must Read 3   Interesting 3  
View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H4 7/24/14

Become a Fan
  (5 fans)

Garner's progressive sensibilities seemed to reflect his personal character, rooted in a tough childhood and working-class background. As a Korean War veteran, wounded twice, he didn't care for violence and tried not to glamorize it in his onscreen roles. Offscreen, he had a reputation as an unaffected, modest man who treated others with respect. Indeed, the graciousness with which Garner was known to treat his many fans was a quality in stark contrast to a childhood spent with an abusive stepmother and alcoholic father (his mother died when Garner was only four, likely from a botched abortion, he said). As Garner once said about himself, "I cannot stand to see little people picked on by big people. If a director starts abusing people, I'll just jump in." This sensibility for fair play could sometimes play out in other settings, too. In the 1960s, he once witnessed a police assault on a German student protest and was threatened with deportation for publicly comparing the police to Nazis.

From television shows like Maverick and The Rockford Files, to films like "The Great Escape," "Murphy's Romance," "Marlowe," "The Notebook," and so many more, Garner established himself as one of those actors who brought a naturally engaging presence to the screen. In Maverick and Rockford especially, as Randy Barnett of Georgetown University Law Center observes in the Washington Post, Garner created characters that people felt they knew, something only the most skilled actors can expect to accomplish.

"Garner's two most famous characters set an example of manliness at two stages of life," writes Barnett, "smart, tough, funny, a little cynical and knowing but with a pinch of optimism and even naivete, respectful towards women, willing to stand up for himself or others when pushed, but only after first looking for a way out of conflict, a sense of justice."

In the 1960s, John Wayne once said he considered Garner the greatest male actor in the country, better than Marlon Brando, George C. Scott and others. He cited Garner's versatility in different genres as one reason. But Garner himself always downplayed his acting skills, even admitting terrible stage fright kept him from live theater.

In an age when the media fosters a celebrity culture that is both trivial and overblown, there was always the sense with James Garner that both feet remained firmly planted on the ground. In the end he was just a regular guy from Oklahoma, one no doubt with talent, good looks, and an exceptional career, but also just a man married to the same woman for over five decades, with daughters and friends from all walks of life that he loved.

Just a good man, like a lot of other good men.

Next Page  1  |  2

Mark T. Harris is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is a featured contributor to "The Flexible Writer," fourth edition, by Susanna Rich (Allyn & Bacon/Longman, 2003). He edits the blog,

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

NATO in Chicago: Protests Are Here to Stay, and the Warmakers are Afraid

Where Are the Slander Merchants Taking Us?

Sinead O'Connor: Music's 'Uncooperative' Celebrity

SiCKO and the Health Insurance Rip-Off

Mitt, Mormons, and Money

The Progressive Sensibilities of James Garner


The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
4 people are discussing this page, with 4 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

Thank you for this article. ... by Sumitra Joy on Thursday, Jul 24, 2014 at 5:05:26 PM
Great article, James Garner will be missed. He wa... by Trevor Storm on Thursday, Jul 24, 2014 at 6:33:28 PM
A lovely tribute, thank you! ... by Meryl Ann Butler on Friday, Jul 25, 2014 at 4:01:49 PM
Thanks, I really enjoyed reading about this man, w... by Mike Zimmer on Friday, Jul 25, 2014 at 11:43:38 PM