James Garner, Actor
“Maverick” James Garner
PRE-ACTING DAYS--James Garner's career as an actor endured for 60 long years. But in real life, he was something of a minor celebrity among friends and family a long time before he became famous on TV and in Hollywood.
Mr. Garner was from Oklahoma. His childhood was tumultuous. He attended school in the Los Angeles area at Hollywood High School, after his dad relocated from Oklahoma to California.
Even in high school, Garner was popular. In fact he was voted most the popular student in the school by students from all classes. Not only was he sociable, but also he was a good athlete. His one drawback was that he found academics to be mostly boring.
James Garner was a soldier during the Korean War. He saw action in combat and was wounded twice. The military honored him by decorating him for his bravery.
Jim's life as a young man thereafter was a little humorous, pretty rough and tumble, and mostly rebellious. In fact, it was a life like the ones led by many of the characters he later would play as an actor.
BREAKING INTO SHOW BUSINESS--The way James Garner got into show businesses involved getting in contact with an old high-school friend from Hollywood High. This friend helped to steer Jim to a bit part, not in a movie, but in New York in a Broadway play. The part Jim acted in was so insignificant that he had no lines to speak. It was what's known as a "silent role."
But this first experience in show business gave Mr. Garner the opportunity to see very talented actors in action on the stage. In New York, James Garner noticed the techniques used by actors such as Henry Fonda.
But real acting roles were hard to find in New York. Jim had to pay his rent. He started doing commercials on television.
Back and forth between New York and Hollywood, Jim searched for work in the acting field. He got a few insignificant parts in some movies that weren't very famous.
Then, finally, after years of trying, the things all actors hope for (a break) came in 1957. By then Jim was nearing thirty. He was handsome and hard-working, but no one knew him very well except the people working on an idea for a new TV show called "Maverick."
THE LUCKY BREAK--James Garner was overwhelmed with joy when he was chosen to be cast in the starring role of "Maverick." Little did he know that it soon would become one of the most popular weekly TV shows in America.
Once he became famous, James Garner had plenty of opportunities for work as an actor. It was hard for him to keep up with the demand. In the 1960's he worked in many Hollywood movies. One big role was his supporting part in "The Great Escape" starring Steve McQueen.
But working only as a supporting actor was not James Garner's favorite role. He mostly was cast as the leading man.
It's impressive to note the many talented people with whom Garner appeared in the 1960's such as Bob Hope, Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, Kim Novak, Tony Randall, Doris Day, Julie Andrews, Dick VanDyke, Sidney Poitier, Jason Robards, Jr., Richard Attenborough, David McCallum, James Colburn, Charles Bronson, Bruce Lee, and Walter Brennan.
Later, in the 1970's, Garner continued to excel as an actor. He received an Emmy award based on the TV series "The Rockford Files."
RELUCTANT TO RETIRE--Garner seemed never to care about retiring at all. He went on to make movies and appear on TV many times, after he became elderly.
His old hometown in Oklahoma established a statue in James Garner's honor. The statue naturally depicted him in the familiar role of "Maverick."
James Garner, who passed away in 2014, has left a legacy to movie audiences who can continue to enjoy his films for many years.
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