Review

The Garner Files: A Memoir

by James Garner and Jon Winokur

James Garner refers to himself as pretty average, but after reading his memoir, I would not agree for one minute. He does admit to being stubborn, reclusive, defiant, an introvert --- and yet a showoff. Not your average guy at all, in my book.

"This memoir has marvelous instructive thoughts about the entertainment world that are worth revisiting."
THE GARNER FILES takes readers into Garner’s early years, family background and pursuits. His childhood was not an easy one, and he began living on his own at age 14. He took on various kinds of work experiences to survive that can only be described kindly as character building. Still, the friends he made in childhood and young adulthood have continued to be close to him throughout his life, including his two brothers. As a young man, Garner served in the Merchant Marine and was drafted into the Korean War, earning two purple hearts. He then returned home and ended up in Los Angeles.
 
It was there where Garner’s handsome looks got him noticed, and he decided to try acting. His first role on Broadway in The Caine Mutiny was a non-speaking part, but since he suffered from stage fright, that worked out fine. The stage was an important training ground for him. He observed and learned how to react to what was being said by other actors. This experience became part of a philosophy about acting that he practiced throughout his career: Performing was about not just acting, but, most importantly, reacting. 
 
Garner felt that if he was going to be an actor, performing in front of cameras would be his forte, not before a live audience. After beginning his film career, his big break in television came in the form of “Maverick,” followed by the much-loved series “The Rockford Files.” In both roles, he played the reluctant hero who has a sense of humor and never carries a gun --- a signature portrayal for which he will always be remembered.
 
In THE GARNER FILES, Garner also shares his views on working with directors, studio bosses, and various actors such as Julie Andrews, Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Doris Day, Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine. He talks frankly about his battles with Hollywood studios --- from accounting procedures to contractual agreements. For anyone who is in the business of acting, writing, producing, or creating music, this memoir has marvelous instructive thoughts about the entertainment world that are worth revisiting.
 
In addition, readers are provided insight into his favorite pastimes, which include golf, car racing and liberal politics. His affection for his wife and two daughters is also evident on the page, not to mention his personal integrity. He says who he is and proclaims that one value he holds for himself is that his word is his bond. This philosophy comes across throughout the book, creating a bond with the audience through his words.
 
James Garner became a household name for my family; my father worked for Kaiser Aluminum, a sponsor of “Maverick.” I can still hear his chuckle every time he talked about the character. Garner is what can be called an all-around star: a performer whose personality, good looks and gentlemanly values have made him shine in more ways than one.
 

Reviewed by Jennifer McCord on November 17, 2011

The Garner Files: A Memoir
by James Garner and Jon Winokur

  • Publication Date: October 23, 2012
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 145164261X
  • ISBN-13: 9781451642612