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Klavan On The Culture

Farewell the Maverick

July 21st, 2014 - 10:10 am

I know: with the Obama presidency unraveling in a disaster for America and the world, it seems absurd to waste a blog post on the death of actor James Garner. But bear with me. This is a blog on the culture. It was the culture, dominated by leftists, that helped make this catastrophic presidency possible. Garner’s death underscores part of what went wrong.

The star of the ’50s TV western Maverick and the ’70s private eye show The Rockford Files died at 86 over the weekend. He was a wonderfully charming and entertaining actor who made some fine movies (The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily) but was only truly a star on the small screen. In this, he resembled two other favorites of mine, David Janssen, who starred in The Fugitive and Harry O and Darren McGavin, who starred in Mike Hammer, The Outsider, and The Night Stalker.

I’m not sure — no one’s really sure — what made an actor more suitable for the small screen rather than the movies back in the day, or why some could move comfortably between one and the other. Garner, Janssen and McGavin all had a limited range and a set number of out-sized mannerisms. But that was true of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood too, two of the biggest movie stars of all time. Maybe something about Garner and the others was just more recognizable and knowable and human than what we saw in movie stars when there actually were movie stars. Wayne, Eastwood — even more actorly stars like Brando and Pacino — all had something huge and iconic about them. No matter how well they played their parts, they were always more personae than persons. You could imagine hanging out with Garner. You could only dream about being John Wayne.

Top Rated Comments   
The last I saw of James Garner was when I saw his movie Gran Prix (1966) a few weeks ago. Whether TV or movies, I always expected his work to be good and was never disappointed. Most of Hollywood I could do without, but he will be missed.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
For those who missed the very brief season of "Raines" that was a show that could have been one of the greatest. Too complex for the average viewer I guess. I miss Rockford & Maverick. I missed the manly, American, humble, care free style of Mr Garner. God bless him.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
James Garner as Jason McCullough in "Support Your Local Sheriff"

It's bad enough to have to kill a man without having to listen to a whole lot of stupid talk from him first.

RIP Mr. Garner, I'm still laughing.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (29)
All Comments   (29)
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Mmm, Psych is a private detective. Maybe it's too much of a comedy for you, but if memory serves, humor was a big part of those old shows too. The Brits have Sherlock who is very much a maverick. I get your point though, Hollywood helping to create docile worker drones who trust the system and don't question authority. Not very American sentiments.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry to learn he was such a lefty and Obama supporter.
I did and do enjoy his TV programs.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rest n peace Mr. Garner. I know you next to the Father now. My condolence's go to your family and friends. Sleep well big Brother. You gave so much to so many.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Like so many, I, too, will miss James Garner as Maverick and Rockford. But you're wrong in that there aren't any shows with characters like that. You might take a look at Longmire on A&E.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yu are correct little sister. There are others as well.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh Andrew, you're so right: Garner, Janssen and McGavin! Loved all 3 of them - quirky, cranky and decent. But my heart always belonged to Jim Rockford.

RIP James Garner. Prayers to friends & family.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was a big Garner fan! Loved Klavan's take on him and wanted to offer a reminder that in real life he served in the Korean War and was decorated.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
So well said.

I too, love Jim Rockford and Brett Maverick (and, truth be told, I could have chosen better role models than they and Fast Eddie Felson back in the early 70s).

Could "Jerimiah Johnson" be made today? Would a character like Will Geer's Bear Claw resonate in the world of skinny jeans and OWS? Could Jack Nicholson be J.J. Gittes? And forget the Bogart Sam Spades and Phil Marlows.

Parker's Spencer came close, and Selleck still does a bang up job as Jesse Stone, but a genuine effort has been made to snip the culture. To a large degree, it has been successful. Complexity and individuality is out (unless it's a hidden sexual preference), and Rockford had none of that.

In a very real way Rockford made Magnum possible (remember young Selleck as Lance White in a few Rockford episodes?) but it seems unlikely that, any time soon, the culture will tolerate such complicated and conflicted men. How do you think "Touch of Evil" would be received if released today?
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Rockford Files" ... The living in a trailer ON the beach was always a fantasy, although there's a mobile home park a hundred yards further in to this day. The gold Firebird, the printing press in the trunk to print bogus business cards, Angel Martin, and Isaac Hayes calling him "Rockfish". And Gretchen Corbett. Yes. And Noah Berry, Jr. as Dad. Classic tv and it don't come no classicer.

"Maverick" was before my time, and the reruns just leave me cold (other than the cool theme song), when I can better watch even the reruns of "Highway Patrol", and OMG!

Always waited for Garner to shine in something after Rockford, but it never quite happened. Very hard not to see him *as* Rockford, perhaps.

RIP.

8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
His remake of "Maverick" with Mel Gibson in 1997 was a masterpiece and got my daughter (aged 11 then) interested in poker. She's since cleaned me out a few times.

A cheap production but a great character was his role in "Darby's Rangers".
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I loved James Garner in "The Rockford Files", I used to watch it with my Dad as often as I could. My family has a few characters in it and Rockford was our kind, seemed like he should have been a cousin on my Dad's side. The show made an impression and I loved his driving. There is a fairly sizable speed bump on a hill that I encounter often (it is a short cut I take when I'm running late). If there are no cars and pedestrians around, I like to take it going about 35 and call it a "Rockford Files moment." Seriously, I liked him. In just about everything I ever saw him in. Seemed like a good man. We need more of those.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
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