Over the years I've become accustomed to favorite actors passing on. It's always sad, but it's an inevitable fact of life, and I try to focus instead on the wonderful things a performer has left behind for us to enjoy forever.
That said, I feel the loss of James Garner particularly acutely. He and his work are like a thread woven through my life, responsible for so many happy times and pleasant memories. Coming home from school to MAVERICK reruns, Friday nights with Jim Rockford, laughing over SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969), and so much more.
He's even responsible for a dear friendship which began in the late '70s, as two young teen girls were amazed to discover we weren't each the "only one" obsessed with an "old" show, MAVERICK, and that friendship continues to this day. We now live several hours apart but just had dinner together a week ago, and there was a text from her on my phone early this morning sharing gratitude that James Garner had led to our friendship.
For many, many years I was a member of James Garner's Official Fan Club, which began in 1957. He was exceptionally good to his fans. Every year a new personalized autographed photo and personally signed Christmas card arrived. I must have a couple dozen such photos and cards, and I treasure them.
For the club's 25th and 30th anniversaries he gave us several hours of his time at celebratory luncheons. (I got to sit next to him to eat at the first one...!) Everyone who came had one-on-one time for photographs, autographs, and questions. I'm sure he might rather have been with his family or on the golf course but he was grateful to his fans, many of whom had followed his career for decades, and he treated us all with graciousness and class. I'll never forget that.
A napkin from the 30th anniversary luncheon:
And let's not forget his delightful Polaroid commercials with Mariette Hartley! They were such day-brighteners. I wrote to Polaroid and they sent me this cardboard ad which has been smiling at me from a bookshelf for over 30 years now. The color has faded a bit over the years but it still makes me happy to see it so I've kept it out where I can enjoy it all this time:
Here's a program from a neat event I attended at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1993, paying tribute to MAVERICK and ROCKFORD FILES creator Roy Huggins. Jim was there to honor Roy; I'm not sure if I talked to him that night, but Stephen J. Cannell and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who are both also gone now, signed my program:
I hope my readers will enjoy remembering James Garner and the special person he was via this peek at a small part of my collection.
Mary McNamara wrote a very nice piece paying tribute to James Garner at the Los Angeles Times ("Actor Changed What a Hero Could Be Like"). The Times obituary is here.
Incidentally, I can't help noting that MAVERICK's Bret Maverick, Dandy Jim Buckley, and Modesty Blaine have all passed on within just weeks of each other.
In closing, I think we all need a little of this today. Best opening credits sequence ever?
James Garner's daughter Gigi is active on Twitter at @mavrocksgirl if anyone would like to send condolences to the Garner family.
Jim's Official Facebook Page has been updated constantly throughout the day today with photos and remembrances, most recently by Tom Selleck and Sally Field. Drop in often.
Previously: James Garner, 1928-2014.
Update: TCM Remembers James Garner.