Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Garner Files, by James Garner and Jon Winokur

The Garner Files: A Memoir, by James Garner and Jon Winokur

As a kid I used to watch Maverick reruns with my dad, and we both liked The Rockford Files as well. On the silver screen we were both fans of The Great Escape and Grand Prix, and Support Your Local Sheriff! remains my favorite western comedy (yes, it is better than Blazing Saddles, but they are close!). So yeah, I have always liked James Garner. His charm is evident on both the big and small screen, but that is what comes of being a top-tier actor. What is the man like off-screen? Turns out, pretty much the same.

Garner comes across as honest and sincere on paper, and not far from that self-confident image seen in much of his work. This isn't all that surprising as he doesn't consider himself a great actor in the classic sense, but simply reacts to what is happening in any given scene by drawing on his personal experience. In The Great Escape he plays a scrounger, which is what he did while serving in the Korean War. Maverick was a drifter, and so was Garner before he landed in Hollywood. He loves to race cars, competing in the Baja 1000 multiple times, making his performance in Grand Prix that much more authentic. He did many of his own stunts as well, ending up in the hospital entirely too often. He was once in a car that was expected to briefly burst into flames, but the fire didn't go back out as expected. The crew reached him in time and no harm was done, but his insurance policy for the film was cancelled. Garner continued to drive and finished the film, all without insurance. If that isn't the definition of macho, I'm not sure what is.

A lot of Garner's attitude towards life comes out here as well, and interestingly I seem to either passionately agree or passionately disagree on many topics. He is a huge fan of the Oklahoma Sooners; I love the Texas Longhorns. He is a self-described "bleeding-heart liberal," where I lean more to the conservative side. On the other hand, his approach to religion matches mine closely ("I don't like people who try to ram their religious beliefs down my throat. Hey, if it works for you, fine, but it doesn't work for me, okay?") and I was impressed by his early definition of self-respect: "I thought [Uncle John] was the most successful man in the world because he was content with what he had." Oh, and we both despise onions. Having drinks with Garner would be a fascinating evening.

Great actor, great guy, great book.

First Sentence:
Norman, Oklahoma, is located near the center of the state, in the middle of "Tornado Alley" where, April through June, dry polar air from Canada mixes with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico to produce hundreds of tornadoes.

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