Thursday, November 14, 2013

Forgotten Books: The Garner Files by James Garner with Jon Winokur

I wish I hadn't read this book.
   I first saw James Garner the night "Maverick" appeared on a Sunday night way back in 1956. I've been a fan of his acting ever since.
   To repeat I wish I hadn't read this book; even more I wish he hadn't WRITTEN it.
   I don't know who Jon Winokur is but he has served Garner poorly. I'm not naive enough to believe that the Garner of movie and TV fame is the Garner of reality. But Winokur (or Garner who did after all have the last word) should have given us an impression beyond that of an inexplicably angry man who carries so many grudges it's amazing he can stand upright.
   The most irritating issue in the entire (and frequently irritating book) is Garner's treatment of Roy Huggins.  Now I have mixed feelings about Huggins as a man. He named names to House UnAmerican Activities so he could keep his own enviable career going. I've written before that I don't know what I would've done in the same circumstances. Fifty-fifty I would've named names.
   That said Roy Huggins is one of the giants of television. He created among other shows "Maverick," "The Fugitive" and "The Rockford Files." Note that "Maverick"created Garner's stardom and "Rockford" helped sustain it.  He quotes  Huggins' line: "I love Jim Garner and he hates me." Garner agrees and then bitterly brushes Huggins off.
   Garner is nice to film and tv crews, supports liberal causes, loves his wife and daughter, appreciates what some writers, directors and actors have done for him. I believe all this. I don't think he's this terrible guy.
   But all the people he's punched or wishes he'd punched (we get it he's a macho man), all the people he thinks have ripped him off or let him down, all the people he mocks or know some of this would add texture and spice to the average Hollywood autobiography. But here the tone of these incidents and opinions quickly begin to make you wonder why, after all his success, he's still so troubled by a life he's clearly earned and deserves...but a life that leaves him singularly unsatisfied.
   The other negative is that Winokur speeds through numerous moments that could easily have been expanded and developed. If they had been there wouldn't have been so much room left for all the bitching and misery.

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