The New Republic: Opinion: Issac Chotner: James Garner Obituary: Actor Dead at 86
In an age where we are so dominated by social media and celebrity culture and by people who want to be their favorite celebrities and live their lives and even people who later become celebrities that want to live the lives of their favorite celebrities we had James Garner who personified the expression “keeping it real”. The only person that James Garner ever wanted to be in life was James Garner. Because that is the only person he knew how to be and was so confident in his own skin that James Garner was the only person he wanted to be. Or at least that is how he came off in his roles. Whether young people considered him to be awesome or whatever or not.
Garner represents the opposite of what we generally get from Hollywood today of a lot of cookie-cutter characters, actors and roles that are trying to be exactly like or very similar to whatever is considered to be awesome or hot when. He was a real genuine actor the genuine article an actor’s actor and not a clone of whatever is supposed to be hot at that time. But a great actor a true professional who did his work and played his roles the way they should be played by him. And not try to play them based on whatever is considered hot at the time.
He played his role in a charming professional real way where you got to see Garner in the character he was playing. You almost in a way got to him playing himself. It was almost as if he wasn’t acting but playing a character as if he was the character and the personality, intelligence and humor that he brought to all of his roles came from him. Instead of the director feeding him things to say and to do. You didn’t do that with Jim Garner. You gave him the role and script and he would study those things and delivered his part as himself.
Jim Garner wasn’t a great comedic actor, but a great actor who was very funny simply at being himself and bringing what he had to those roles. The Rockford Files is not a comedy. But a crime drama a detective show. But the thing is it is a very funny show and his detective movies were funny as well even though they were supposed to be serious. Because that is the kind actor Garner was and the directors of these shows and movies Maverick being another example of that wanted to bring that side out of him his charm and humor. To go along with his intelligence and personality.
The actors that remind me of Jim Garner pre-Garner would be Cary Grant. And after Garner would be Mel Gibson and George Clooney. Again none of these actors are pure comedic actors in the sense of most if not all of their roles are comedic roles. But these are all very funny intelligent actors that bring their personality and humor to all of their roles. So the directors of these movies and shows in Garner’s case would almost be stupid not to use these other gifts that these actors had even if their roles and the movies are supposed to be serious.
Cary Grant, Mel Gibson and George Clooney are all real and people who are very confident in their own skin. Self-confident actors who all have no interest in being anyone other than themselves. And these guys including Jim Garner could’ve all made great livings as comedians or comedic actors. But since they are all great actors as well as very funny actors they all have the ability to play serious roles and yet bring their humor and realness to all of their roles and that is what we see from them. And the type of actor that Jim Garner was. And he will be deeply missed especially with how cookie-cutter and repetitive that Hollywood has become.