Tales From A Hungry Life

July 20, 2014

Thank You, James Garner

by Maria Schulz

Jim Rockford, my hero

Aww, Jimbo

This morning, my daughter burst out of her room with the news I’d feared for quite some time: James Garner passed away at the age of 86.

She hugged me and said, “I’m sorry for your loss. I really liked that man.”

I thanked her and hugged her back. “Thank you.”

My phone has been buzzing with texts, emails, and even the old landline has been ringing. All of my family and friends are calling since everyone who knows me at all knows that this celebrity loss will sting a little bit more than the many others I’ve written about.

I was sad when Dick Clark, Davy Jones, Jean Stapleton, Roger Ebert as well as the Professor from Gilligan’s Island and Reuben Kincaid from The Partridge Family passed away. But James Garner? This one really got to me.

And he wrote too

And he wrote too

I logged on here to write about him, and I discovered that 331 people (so far) have viewed my blog posts, James Garner and Fruit Pie: Perfect Together and My Fan Letter to James Garner in just the past hour.

So what was it about James Garner?  Maybe it’s the fact that he played every part with a sense of humor; you have to love a person who can make you laugh. That, and he never seemed to be like those egomaniacs you read about in Hollywood. Mr. Garner just seemed like a regular old Oklahoma boy who happened to be a movie star, and that came through in every movie, show, or TV ad he ever made.

The Scrounger and The Forger

The Scrounger and The Forger

James Garner’s movies bring me back to those happy, carefree days of my childhood. I looked forward to seeing him whenever the 4:30 movie played The Great Escape. Since it’s a long movie, you really had to dedicate days to it, since the movie was broken up to fit the small time slot. Whenever it was on, my brothers and I would run to watch it every day, because maybe this time, things would turn out differently.

Some people may have watched it for the motorcycle scenes with Steve McQueen, but give me the scene in the Scrounger’s room where he lifts the wallet that belonged to Werner the Guard every time.  I always cheered when the Scrounger showed everyone what he’d gotten; without those identification papers,  the group could have never run away. Then, when he insisted that he’d help the Forger (Donald Pleasance) escape, I spent the rest of the movie rooting for the both of them to make it to safety.

Greatest. Show. Ever.

Greatest. Show. Ever.

Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter also brings back lots of happy memories munching on chocolate chip cookies or brownies with my childhood pal, Marianne, by my side. Sundays at her house, enjoying those funny movies and munching on her mother’s hot-from-the-oven goodies, were all about good people and good times.

Murphy’s Romance featured James Garner’s portrayal of the perfect hopeful romantic lead (even as an older man). Throughout, he quietly, persistently, and patiently waited for Sally Field’s character to realize that he’s the right man for her. “Take another tack, Emma,” Murphy tells her when she’s just not getting it right. My mother and I saw this in the movies when it came out, and I don’t know who enjoyed it more–her or me. I can still see her sitting beside me, laughing and enjoying this quiet, thoughtful, and yes, romantic movie.

MSDMURO EC005

Then, of course, there were the years he played Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files. Every Friday night, I would sit down with my parents and watch this show. From the opening scene with the answering machine (different every week, and always a hilarious message just for Jim) to the action-packed very end, we enjoyed every second of each episode. I can still hear the theme song from the show in my head, and it’s one of the happier sounds in there.

Jim Rockford was surrounded by a legion of quirky characters who made the show fun and unique, and we grew to love them and wait in anticipation for them to appear. In his memoir, James Garner said that he created his own production company, and his workers remarked that they loved coming to work every day because he was the kind of boss that everyone wanted: fair, fun, honest, and willing to work just as hard (if not harder) than he ever asked you to.

I still want to meet Jim and Rocky

I still want to meet Jim and Rocky

I know that James Garner was sick for some time now, and I feel for his wife of almost 60 years and his two daughters. I’m really grateful to him for all the years of entertainment he brought into my life and all of the happy childhood memories he helped create for me. Besides my father, grandfathers, uncles and brothers, I like to think that James Garner’s characters helped me identify all of the traits I hoped to find in a good man: handsome, funny, smart, and capable. I’m lucky to have found all that and more in my husband.

So, thank you James Garner for all the invaluable life lessons, and for filling that part of my childhood with years of laughter, adventure, and amusement.  From The Scrounger to Jim Rockford and beyond, you were the best.

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Cool Summer Recipes

I wanted to salute James Garner with a recipe that was cool and retro–and a Wedge Salad seemed to fit the bill. If you try it, I hope you enjoy it.

Here are 14 more great summer recipes, including one for chicken salad, pasta with zucchini and ham, squash and orzo salad and more choices that are light, delicious, and definitely cool.

So…who was your favorite celebrity? Do you have a favorite James Garner movie or TV show? Do you like wedge salad? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

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32 Comments »

  1. Maria, again I feel like we are, “twin daughters of different mothers.” I never realized my “emotional doppelgänger” went to my high school. James Garner was my movie star hero for the past 35 years. He has always be a staple of all that was good about humanity in the movies and TV. I always had a secret crush on Murphy and Jim Rockford. He was a man’s man without being a dick. You could count on him always doing the right thing without being perfectly obnoxious with a sense of self importance. An understated hero that is relatable. I remember the years of my Nana calling me down to her house to watch Rockford with tea and mallowmars. It was better than going to the movies. She was so fatithful to that Rockford, he was her favorite TV guy.

    I am so sorry for the loss, but grateful for the memories. Thanks Maria and have a great Sunday!

    Comment by Lorraine Dobnack-Tucci — July 20, 2014 @ 11:27 am | Reply

    • Thanks, Lorraine! Maybe we should have spent more time talking back in high school…we have a LOT in common. I can remember watching The Rockford Files on Friday night sleepovers at my Italian grandmother’s house, and watching in in syndication on Wednesday afternoons with my Puerto Rican grandmother. Thank you so much for reading my blog and commenting. I always get a kick when I see you’ve left a reply! You have a great Sunday too.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 20, 2014 @ 11:50 am | Reply

  2. He was one of the greatest but never recognized as such. RIP

    Comment by Bglou — July 20, 2014 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

  3. I am sorry Maria. This week really stings, first Johnny Winter then Jim Rockford. I guess we will have to lick our wounds and heal up before the next Celebrity death of this magnitude presents itself once again. The next one that will impact us both on this scale will be Tom Jones. I guess this is what it is to get old. We watch our heroes from our youth die off. Now I can be like our Uncle Don whenever I see someone on TV who has died and say with endearment and with a touch of sadness, “OH JAMES GARNER”!

    I rather like Lorraine’s comment about James Garner being “A Man’s Man without being a Dick!” Maybe that can go on his tombstone. As someone who isn’t a Man’s Man and is a Dick most of the time, I can now aspire to something before I become worm food.

    Comment by Chris — July 20, 2014 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

    • OH UNCLE DON! Yeah watching the old guard disappear stinks. I think you are too funny and kind to be anything but a man’s man…and the right kind too. Thanks for commenting.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 20, 2014 @ 7:24 pm | Reply

  4. What a beautiful tribute to James Garner. He was a class act!

    Comment by Kathleen Lagalante — July 20, 2014 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

  5. PS. I think my favorite movie of James Garner’s was Victor/Victoria. He just cracked me up in that role.

    Comment by Kathleen Lagalante — July 20, 2014 @ 1:16 pm | Reply

    • We saw that together, Kathie, with Tony, Chris, and Dorothy. I loved that movie! It still cracks me up.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 20, 2014 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

  6. What a nice tribute Maria!!! He certainly was a class act all around!!!

    Comment by Gina Arresta — July 20, 2014 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

    • Yes he was, Gina. Thank you so much for always reading my blog (I think you’re a class act too 🙂

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 20, 2014 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

  7. Maria I’m sorry for your loss. Too bad he never knew how much he meant to you. I really mean that. I do like wedge salad.

    Comment by Suzanne — July 20, 2014 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Suzanne. I probably would’ve just said something stupid if we had met. LOL But he did play a big role in my childhood, and for that I will always be grateful!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 20, 2014 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

  8. So sorry for your loss Maria!!!!! 🙂

    Comment by Paula — July 20, 2014 @ 2:28 pm | Reply

  9. Did I say I was sorry for your loss?

    Comment by Chris — July 20, 2014 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

  10. What you said, except I saw his movies in a movie theater when they came out!!
    Wedge salad with blue cheese and bacon … ahhh 🙂

    Comment by thedailypeeve — July 20, 2014 @ 9:46 pm | Reply

    • I saw Murphy’s Romance in the theater…and I watched all of the others about a millions times, even if it was on television. Glad you liked the wedge salad recipe!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 20, 2014 @ 10:51 pm | Reply

  11. Hey Maria. I just wanted you to know, I have a friend who lives out in California, and his favorite actor was James Garner. His reason? “He makes it look all so easy, ” as my friend Mike would say. He would always just sort of watch him do his work on camera and thought that the guy was effortless……pauses, a tilt of the head (unlike TOO much of the tilt of the head from George Clooney), a subtle look, etc. Whether it was comedy, action or drama, he could do it all. I read a book once on the topic of films and how they got made, and “The Great Escape” was one of the films that they touched on. In this book, the author recounts a story about how Steve McQueen…….who actually was a good friend of Garner’s….. was, in fact, VERY jealous of him. He felt that Garner was amassing TOO much attention for his work on the film, and during the making of the film, there were many times McQueen tried to undermine him on set. McQueen was notoriously a somewhat paranoid and jealous individual, but apparently it got to ridiculous heights where Jimbo was concerned. Probably BECAUSE of the fact he made it all look “so easy.” R.I.P. JIMBO!

    Comment by Paul — July 21, 2014 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

    • Paul, I read that book too! James Garner also talked about it in his memoir, The Garner Files. It’s a great read even if you aren’t his biggest fan (that would be me). Lots of great stories about Hollywood, his co-stars, movies he was in…he didn’t hold back much. Still, it seemed like a fair assessment of things. Maybe that’s why I liked him so much!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 22, 2014 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

  12. Sorry! He made IT look all so easy!

    Comment by Paul — July 21, 2014 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

  13. You’ve been talking about him for as long as I know you!

    Comment by Lisa — July 21, 2014 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

    • That’s right…didn’t I introduce myself by saying, “Hi. I’m Maria Schulz, and I think James Garner is great!” It’s amazing you wanted to be friends. 🙂 Thanks for always reading and commenting.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 22, 2014 @ 12:40 pm | Reply

  14. I will miss “Ole Jimmy” and Rockford files is one of my favorite old shows. He was one of the oldies but goodies. I’m sad to hear he died. Another ‘end-of-an-era’. Rest In Peace! James.

    Comment by Ovens — July 22, 2014 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

  15. Beautiful sentiment, Maria! I feel that way about certain rock stars I won’t mention here. When they pass (and you know they never really will, at least they’ll remain as legends), I’ll be heartbroken. But getting back to James Garner…Pat wants to know how you could forget MAVERICK! We both watched that one religiously and yes, omg, he was gorgeous — even as an octogenarian, you could see that twinkle in his eyes! Maybe you were too young to catch that show. Pat tells me that in those days (late 50s – early 60s), you could write to the stars (probably got the address from some teen magazine) and someone (obviously not them) would shoot you a “signed” photo and maybe coerce you into spending your allowance on membership in their official fan club. Pat wrote to both Garner and the guy who played his brother Bart in Maverick, and got a fan picture of them both together, which hung on her bedroom wall along with all the rest of her idols — Annette Funicello and Nanette Fabray holding places of honor. In my mind, I will always see Garner as he was in The Rockford Files. He was a national treasure. Thank you for your blog post and for sharing your cherished childhood memories.

    Comment by Joyce — July 22, 2014 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

    • I only became a fan of James Garner’s when The Rockford Files came on. I never got to see Maverick, but I am very jealous that Pat has a signed photo of JG (even if it does come along with the man who played his brother)! I just taped a bunch of movies and TV shows that were part of the James Garner tributes on TV during the last week…so I will be catching Maverick after all. Thanks so much for reading my blog and commenting!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 29, 2014 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  16. Maria, J.G. was real on film and in life. His comic timing, even when he was in a dramatic situation, always came through. How better to live life and celebrate a career. I wish I could say there has been a celebrity that has inspired me like J. G. has touched you, but there is none. I’m more into genre than the people who played the roles on film and TV. I liked Captain Kirk on Star Trek, but William Shatner has an ego that transcends that character and is more like Danny Crane (a spin off role from the Practice). J.G. was old school class that is rare to find nowadays.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — July 23, 2014 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

    • I would say that the closest you came to having a childhood “idol” was Kate Jackson. No Farrah Fawcett pin-ups on your wall…you rebel, you.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 29, 2014 @ 7:03 am | Reply

  17. […] the age of 86. As a result, for a few short days, some of my posts had an international audience. Thank You, James Garner, My Fan Letter to James Garner, James Garner and Fruit Pie, Perfect Together, and Pin Up Material […]

    Pingback by End of an Era | Tales From A Hungry Life — July 29, 2014 @ 6:57 am | Reply

  18. […] James Garner […]

    Pingback by Happy 6th Anniversary to Me | Tales From A Hungry Life — April 6, 2016 @ 6:56 am | Reply


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