By sheer coincidence, one of the films in my current review stack was James Garner's TV-movie THE LONG SUMMER OF GEORGE ADAMS (1982), just released this month by the Warner Archive.
Needless to say, given today's sad news of his passing, it was the perfect time to enjoy this special film, which I don't think I'd seen since the '80s. I remembered liking it but few details, other than it reunited him with Joan Hackett, his costar from my favorite Garner film, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969).
Garner's George Adams is a railroad man in the small town of Cushing, Oklahoma, in the early '50s. As steam-powered engines are being phased out and diesel trains pass through Cushing without stopping, George knows he's in danger of losing his job.
He's also dealing with an elderly parent (Joe Satterwhite) in a nursing home, worrying over the future of the young sister-in-law (Marla Maddoux) he and his wife (Hackett) have raised, and trying to find time alone with his wife when the kids aren't around. He's also considering trying to build a home on family land -- maybe with indoor plumbing!
It's a lovely film which I think I related to much more at this stage of my life than I could have back in the early '80s. Many of the moments with George relating to his wife and family are incredibly realistic, as are the concerns of a family man with a lot on his plate and his job on the line.
The only false note for me was the brief fling George has with hotel owner Venida (Anjanette Comer) when his family goes out of town to visit a relative. It didn't ring true for me that George would be unfaithful to the wife he loves, especially as Venida is a shallow woman -- though that might have made it easier for him.
Incidentally, Venida's husband Woody, who appears in one early scene in the film, was played by Garner's late brother, Jack. Curiously, my 2011 post on Jack's passing has received hundreds of hits today.
I particularly enjoy George's friendship with Ernie (Alex Harvey), a young Korean War vet with a crush on George's sister-in-law. A scene where they sing a duet is one of my favorites in the film.
Sadly, this was one of Hackett's last performances, as she died of cancer the year after this film aired. She was 49 years old. Juanin Clay, who plays the newspaper reporter who pays a couple of visits to Cushing, also died young, passing away in 1995 at the age of 45.
The movie was directed by Garner's friend Stuart Margolin, who played Angel on THE ROCKFORD FILES. It was filmed by Andrew Jackson, who was also a longtime member of the ROCKFORD FILES crew.
The screenplay by John Gay based on a book by Weldon Hill. It runs 93 minutes.
I was curious that the movie playing in the small town theater was GOLDEN EARRINGS (1947) with Marlene Dietrich and Ray Milland. It came out half a decade before the movie takes place, but perhaps it took a very long time to reach a small-town theater, or it was a rerelease?
Parental advisory: Some of the subject matter is fairly adult, though tastefully handled. Not intended for younger viewers.
Thanks to the Warner Archive and their wonderful release of this film I suppose I can finally discard the Beta recording of the movie I've been hanging on to for all these years! There are no extras on the DVD.
Highly recommended, especially for fans of James Garner -- and aren't we all?
Garner fans take note: I'll be reviewing the Warner Archive's Complete Third Season of MAVERICK in the near future.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.