Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


THE GARNER FILES A Memoir. James Garner with Jon Winokur. Simon and Schuster; 2011.

I confess I was never a fan of Garner's,whose "Last Real Man" image seemed manufactured and was the kind of "star" who exudes [the same] personality instead of indulging in real acting. [Garner dismisses actors who see themselves as artists, although the genuinely talented ones are artists.] Most of Garner's fame is due to TV shows like Maverick and The Rockford Files, neither of which especially appealed to me [although he has appeared in a surprising number of movies, unfortunately many of the quality of They Only Kill Their Masters, among some more decent flicks]. Despite that, there's some value in this autobiography -- although it's primarily geared to his fans, most of whom Garner implies are a little nuts -- due to Garner's lack of fear in being frank. He won't make a lot of friends in Hollywood with this book, and undoubtedly couldn't care less. [Don't invite Garner to the same party with Barbra Streisand and many others -- he names names. For someone who's never exactly been considered an Olivier, his implying that some colleagues are bad actors is bizarre!] I admire him for admitting that to him people who jam their religion down your nostrils are a pain, as well as for marching on Washington for civil rights when it was a real danger to do so, but think less of him for punching out a drunken, obnoxious fan when he could just as easily have walked away. He always says what he thinks of his fellow players -- aside from Robert Preston, whose role he wanted to play in Victor/Victoria. [Garner claims that some idiot talked him out of it because no one would "accept him as gay" -- and his wife seems to find it amusing [!] that he used to imitate (presumably stereotypical) gay men when they first met -- but considering that both of them apparently buy into stereotypes and think all gay men are effeminate, it's just as well Garner didn't take Preston's role. If I recall, Preston may not have played it super-butch, but he did have a quiet dignity.] Unless you're a golf or racing fan you'll probably want to skip the chapters on those subjects as they're rather tedious. The sections on the shady business practices of the studios make for more interesting reading, although by now everyone knows of Hollywood's double-bookkeeping.

Verdict: Strictly for Garner's fans. **1/2.

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