I suppose one could say my interest in James Garner started when I was about 9 years old. Being a baby boomer, the obvious assumption would be that I liked his show Maverick, but that would be wrong. (I did like the show but what piqued my interest in him was not the show).
No, it was at the Hughes Supermarket in Studio City on Ventura Blvd in the late ‘50s. My mother reported seeing him in the produce department, and said that he was not a stereotypical “star” but a regular person.
He didn’t seem pretentious or egotistical.
A couple of years ago, I finished a wonderful autobiography of his.
Some things you may not know about Garner:
He was awarded 2 purple hearts in Korea.
His aversion to garlic – he hated garlic – may have saved his life there when he smelled a Chinese patrol before seeing them.
His becoming an actor was almost accidental – “The only reason I am an actor is that a lady pulled out of a parking space in front of a producer’s office”.
A lot of people don’t remember, but like Paul Newman he was a champion auto racer in his own right.
He had gotten the racing bug while getting filming the movie Grand Prix. The producer had Bob Bondurant train all the actors (a lot of their driving in this Cinerama movie was filmed by champion Phil Hill in a Ford GT40!).
Bondurant said that Garner had enough talent to run with the pros.
About the same time, a story I heard was that his neighbor, Steve McQueen, was so angry at his missing the Pete Aron role he threw beer cans over their fence. A few years later, McQueen made LeMans.
While making The Rockford Files, his friend Tom Selleck who starred in some episodes, decided to model his own character along the same lines in Magnum, PI.
His book devotes a good portion not only of his life, but the movie business. I didn’t realize how grueling it is to star in a series. If I remember his quote right, it is about like making a new movie every few weeks. That series with the stunts gave him plenty of broken bones and torn ligaments.
But I’m sure glad that lady gave him the parking space….
He was one of the good guys….
Here’s a nice interview with him.