Saturday, March 22, 2014
James Garner as "Maverick" (1957-1960)
Born in Norman, Oklahoma as James Scott Bumgarner, in 1928, his childhood had a hefty share of challenges. As the youngest of three boys, James lost his mother Mildred (who was said to be part Cherokee) at the very early age of five years old. The boys lived with family until their father remarried. This stepmother was physically abusive for years to the point that young 14 year old James finally stood up to this deplorable woman with a violent altercation that ended the marriage. His father left the boys behind and moved to LA. By sixteen, James joined the Merchant Marines. He enjoyed the physical activity and camaraderie but rejoined his father in LA to enroll as a popular student at Hollywood High. This reunion did not last long as he returned to Norman less than a year later. There he excelled in sports, not academics at the local school but never graduated (he did earn his GED later). Instead, he returned to the army where he felt more at home.
In the National Guard he served 7 months stateside then he served in combat in the midst of the Korean War for another 14 months in the standard army. He even earned 2 different Purple Heart medals for his injuries during the war. Thereafter, a friend convinced him to take on a non-speaking role in the Broadway production of "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" (1954) where he carefully studied the acting methods of co-star Henry Fonda. This led to a series of small television spots and a contract with Warner Brothers (in 1956), which followed with some film work. Without any notification or permission, Warner Brothers took the liberty of changing his name from Bumgarner to Garner.
James Garner, on his role as 'Bret Maverick': "I'm playing me. Bret Maverick is lazy: I'm lazy. And I like being lazy."
Over the following five decades, James Garner went on to star in memorable film and television roles such as THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964), MURPHY'S ROMANCE (1985) (for which he was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe), THE NOTEBOOK (2004) and TV series "The Rockford Files" (1974-1980). Some of my favorite Garner films are his fun comedies from the 60's like THE THRILL OF IT ALL (1963), MOVE OVER, DARLING (1963), HOW SWEET IT IS! (1968) and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969). While James Garner has been an active and very hard-working (despite his joke quoted above regarding laziness) actor for decades, he is most widely recognized for the early role that launched his career into super stardom, "Maverick."
This tribute to James Garner's role as "Maverick" is my humble entry to the delightful blogathon, BIG STARS ON THE SMALL SCREEN as hosted by the fabulous How Sweet It Was site. Please read all the other entertaining and informative blogger entries in this wonderful gem of a blogathon!