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James Garner

Performer
( b. Apr 07, 1928 Norman, Oklahoma, USA - d. Jul 19, 2014 Los Angeles, California, USA ) Male
Also known as: James Scott Baumgarner [Birthname]
Jim Bumgarner
James Garner was a wry and handsome leading man who slid seamlessly between television and the movies but was best known as the amiable gambler Bret Maverick in the 1950s western "Maverick" and the cranky sleuth Jim Rockford in the 1970s series "The Rockford Files."

He was a genuine star but as an actor something of a paradox: a lantern-jawed, brawny athlete whose physical appeal was both enhanced and undercut by a disarming wit. He appeared in more than 50 films, many of them dramas -- but, as he established in one of his notable early performances, as a battle-shy naval officer in "The Americanization of Emily" (1964) and had shown before that in "Maverick" -- he was most at home as an iconoclast, a flawed or unlikely hero.

His one Academy Award nomination was for the 1985 romantic comedy "Murphy's Romance," in which he played a small-town druggist who woos the new-in-town divorced mom (Sally Field) with a mixture of self-reliance, grouchy charm and lack of sympathy for fools.

Mr. Garner came to acting late, and by accident. On his own after the age of 14 and a bit of a drifter, he had been working an endless series of jobs. While pumping gas in Los Angeles, he met a young man named Paul Gregory, who was working nearby as a soda jerk but wanted to be an agent.

Years later, after Mr. Garner had served in the Army during the Korean War -- he was wounded in action twice, earning two Purple Hearts -- he was working as a carpet layer in Los Angeles for a business run by his father. One afternoon he was driving on La Cienega Boulevard and saw a sign: Paul Gregory & Associates. Just then a car pulled out of a space in front of the building, and Mr. Garner, on a whim, pulled in.

Mr. Gregory, by then an agent and a theatrical producer, hired him for a nonspeaking part in his production of Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, which starred Henry Fonda, John Hodiak and Lloyd Nolan. It opened in Santa Barbara and toured the country before going to Broadway, where it opened in January 1954 and ran for 415 performances. Mr. Garner said he learned to act from running lines with the stars and watching them perform, especially Fonda, another good-looking actor with a sly streak.

Mr. Garner claimed to have stage fright and no desire to act in the theater. He later played Lieutenant Maryk (the Hodiak role) in a touring company of the play that starred Charles Laughton, but afterward would almost never appear onstage again. Still, it was the serendipitous stop on La Cienega that changed his life.

Source: The New York Times obituary



Productions Date of Productions
The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial
[Play, Drama, Original]
  • Performer: Jim Bumgarner [Member of the Court]
Jan 20, 1954 - Jan 22, 1955
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