I have always been a huge fan of James Garner and found his charm, good looks and sense of humor endearing! I’ve always been proud that we share the same birthday April 7th.
James Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner on April 7, 1928 in Norman, Oklahoma. He was one of the first actors to excel in both films and television.
His television career spanned more than five decades making him one of the most recognizable actors of all times.
The youngest of three sons, Actor Jack Garner (1926-2011) and Charles Bumgarner, a school administrator (d 1984). His mother (Mildred) was half Cherokee and passed away when Jim was 5 years old. After his mother’s death the boys were sent to live with relatives. In 1934 they were reunited with their father (Weldon) when he remarried.
Garner hated his stepmother (Wilma) who repeatedly beat the three boys. When Jim turned 14, he had enough of her and after a very heated battle, she left for good. Jim stated that she would punish him by forcing him to wear a dress in public! They literally had a physical fight, knocking her down and choking her to keep her from killing him. This incident ended the marriage to his father.
His father moved to Los Angeles while the boys remained in Norman. At sixteen he enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marines near the end of World War II. Although he fared well with his shipmates, he suffered from chronic seasickness.
At seventeen he joined his dad in Los Angeles and enrolled in Hollywood High School where he was voted the most popular student. He modeled for a short time but stated he hated it and shortly thereafter quit to return to Norman. At Norman High School he played football, basketball and competed in track and golf teams.
He joined the National Guard, serving seven months in the United States. He then went to Korea for 14 months in the Army, serving in the 24th Infantry Division in the Korean War. He received the Purple Heart twice for two injuries, first by shrapnel in his face and hand and the second from friendly fire diving into a fox hole.
In 1954, Paul Gregory a friend he met while attending Hollywood High, persuaded Garner to take a non-speaking role in the Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial where he was able to study actor Henry Fonda.
Jim then moved into television commercials and then into television shows. He starred in several television series including Bret Maverick in the wildly popular western-comedy Maverick (1957-1960) and Jim Rockford in the drama The Rockford Files (1974-1980). He ended the run of Rockford, despite it’s high rating because of the physical toll it was taking on him.
The studio changed his name to James Garner (without permission), then he legally changed it upon the birth of his first child. His brother Jack, who was also an actor, also changed his name to Garner.
Jim starred in more than 50 films including The Great Escape (1963), Paddy Chavefsky’s Americanization of Emily (1964), Blake Edwards’ Victor Victoria (1982) and received an Academy Award nomination for his role in Murphy’s Romance (1985)
Jim is known for his enormous charm and comedic timing. His performances in both Maverick and The Rockford Files showcased his comedy as well as in many of his films such as Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) and Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971).
I have always loved his sense of humor and ability at comedic relief as well as his enormous dramatic abilities. Jim Garner is a fine, fine actor!
For his contribution in the film and television industry, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 1990 he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK. In 2005, he received the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
When Morgan Freeman won an award that Jim was also nominated for, Freeman led the audience in a sing-along of the Maverick theme song!
James has released his biography “The Garner Files”
For an extensive list on Jim Garner’s films, visit this link