Sunday, July 20, 2014

Adios, Jim

One of the best light comedians ... and better movie actors ... goes away.

Few actors could register disbelief, exasperation or annoyance with more comic subtlety.

James Garner had a way of widening his eyes while the corner of his mouth sagged ever so slightly. Maybe he would swallow once to further make his point.

This portrait of fleeting disquiet could be understood, and identified with, by every member of the audience. Never mind Garner was tall, brawny and, well, movie-star handsome. The persona he perfected was never less than manly, good with his dukes and charming to the ladies, but his heroics were kept human-scale thanks to his gift for the comic turn. He remained one of the people. ...

The 86-year-old Garner, who was found dead of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Saturday, was adept at drama and action. But he was best known for his low-key, wisecracking style, especially on his hit TV series, "Maverick" and "The Rockford Files." ...

He was a giant presence in live-action t.v. and theatrical features, but he also did voice work in animation, playing God in God, the Devil and Bob, Dorron in Battle for Terra and Commander Lyle Tiberious Rourke in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

I interviewed him for a magazine article forty years ago, and he was wry and forthcoming about his career to that point, explaining his early years of heavy labor at Warner Bros., why he had to get out of his contract, and why it was such a pleasure to come to work every day on the Rockford Files ("must see" television in its day).

I will miss him a lot.


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