Sunday, July 20, 2014


The great man has died, at the age of 86. His best and most characteristic work -- stripped and stripping of attitude, generous-hearted, funny, warm, intimate, always engaged and always skeptical of authority -- was on the small screen. (See below.) But he also brought his rare gifts into movie theaters as well, into works impossible to imagine without him: The Americanization of Emily, Victor / Victoria, The Great Escape, Grand Prix (his favorite), Promise, Twilight.

For those of us brought up on late-20th Century dream images flowing from an at-home television set rather than from a movie palace screen, he was Our Mitchum. Less mysterious and recessive, funnier and less dark, James Garner embodied for a less transcendent generation the transcendence of never copying the manner of someone else: that one must work at a moral art, which then makes it suitable for oneself. And, like Mitchum: a man must be caught dead before he takes himself seriously.

As Bret Maverick in "Day of Reckoning," from February of '58.