James Garner reflects on his Hollywood career, his life and his co-stars in his new book, The Garner Files: A Memoir, and the 83-year old movie and TV legend isn't holding back.
"Something funny happens as you get older," writes Garner. "You don't hold back so much."
With the help of co-author Jon Winokur, Garner recounts his life, starting with his mother dying and his escaping the hands of an abusive stepmother at only 14. Garner shares a truly grueling childhood tale, but yes, finally fought back and punched the woman who tortured him and his siblings -- and it wouldn't be his last!
"When I'm pushed, I shove." Garner writes, quoting his character Murphy of Murphy's Romance, and from the memoir, it sounds like he was pushed a lot. He also went off on a fan, co-star Tony Franciosa and a few other unlucky guys.
James Garner: The Man Behind the Legend(s)
TV and movie fans know Garner for playing wisecracking, charming, self-deprecating and unwilling anti-heroes, like the title characters in Maverick and The Rockford Files. From the tone of The Garner Files, that may be pretty close to the man behind the characters, who was born James Scott Bumgarner in 1928.
"A card-carrying liberal -- and proud of it," Garner was Oklahoma's first draftee of the Korean War, earning two Purple Hearts before hitting Hollywood. There, he waged a very different battle with depression and stage fright, while building a career alongside the likes of Julie Andrews (pictured above), Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine.
In his memoir, Garner takes readers behind the scenes of his TV series and almost 50-year career while proving to be one of the harshest critics of his movies out there.
He talks candidly about his former co-stars, reflecting on how he watched Henry Fonda to learn the trade, broke Doris Day's ribs and got "heart-to-heart and eyeball-to-eyeball" with Steve McQueen.
Perhaps as telling as Garner's words, however, are the introduction by Julie Andrews and the book's 30-page "Outtakes" section, which shares anecdotes, memories and testimonials from Lauren Bacall, Doris Day, James Woods and David Chase.
With critics raving about the new release, The Garner Files: A Memoir is on stands now.
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Images courtesy of W.E.N.N./Simon & Schuster.MGM