Sunday, July 20, 2014
James Garner has died at the age of 86.
Soon the many articles and obituaries and remembrances will be coming. They will use words like effortless, charming, and beloved. Certainly, James Garner projected an aura of effortlessness. He was also probably the most charming person to ever exist. And clearly beloved.
However, he was also so much more, and that is why his loss to the film and television world is so--real.
He was immensely talented; perhaps too seemingly effortlessly talented to ever win an Oscar. He was enduring, with memorable roles throughout five decades. He was extraordinarily human and empathetic.
For me, his greatness came from his ability to simultaneously be comfortably endearing and uniquely surprising. Maverick and Rockford are awesome because you genuinely just like them, but they aren't tired cliches or the same thing over and over.
He is one of my favorite actors, and I am always looking for random movies of his to watch--simply because he is so compelling.
He is even compelling enough for me to thoroughly enjoy some random hippie comedy from the late '60s costarring Debbie Reynolds (?!).
Really, any performance is worth watching and enjoying, but I particularly love his film output in the 1960s. A glance at his IMDb page shows an insane amount of incredibly diverse output. Of course, there is The Great Escape, The Children's Hour, The Americanization of Emily, Support Your Local Sheriff!, and Grand Prix.
But, there is also Boy's Night Out (the best); his comedies with Doris Day (my heart); 36 Hours (fascinating and little known); The Wheeler Dealers (a movie built entirely on the realistic premise that James Garner is the most charming human to ever exist); Marlowe (hardcore); Mister Buddwing (randomly great); and my personal choice: Duel at Diablo, which is peculiarly brilliant--and one the most underrated great westerns of all time.
And that doesn't even cover all of his films from that decade!
Support Your Local Sheriff! is an intensely personal favorite. It is absolutely perfect in every conceivable way.
I don't really know quite what to say except that James Garner's work astounds me. Bret Maverick is perfectly lovely and wonderful, and Jim Rockford is entirely immortal (figuratively and literally [he got beat up a lot]). I remember the first time I did an ill-advised Rockford turn in my car--it was a life experience.
Above, when I wrote that he was comfortably endearing--I'm referring to that fact that people easily form a connection to his characters and by extension, him.We want to hang out with Rockford; SOME of us already pretend that we do. That is a talent. And, he could have simply used that charm and had a long and memorable career. But, he didn't. He was also completely unique and surprising. The diversity of roles exemplified his own ability to create entirely new perspectives.
To be, at the same time, a person capable of expressing deep pain and dark cynicism, but also able to make other people look forward to watching Polaroid commercials is something that is difficult to comprehend.
He was truly a wonderfully brilliant and talented artist and person. He will be missed.