JAMES GARNER once claimed he “almost decked” fellow Hollywood actor Lee Marvin after he tried to make a move on his wife.
James was an American actor and producer whose career spanned more than seven decades, starring in famed roles such as Bret Maverick in the Fifties Western ABC series, ‘Maverick’. As well as his budding TV career, James appeared in more than 50 theatrical films, including The Great Escape (1963) with Steve McQueen, Blake Edwards’s Victor/Victoria (1982) with Julie Andrews, and Murphy’s Romance (1985) with Sally Field, for which he received an Academy Award nomination While many actors of his era failed to continue in their careers post-20th century, the style of the Golden Era of Hollywood no longer a sought-after commodity, James managed to break into contemporary cinema.
He starred in a number of early Noughties films, like like ‘Space Cowboys’ (2000) with Clint Eastwood, voiced an animated film titled ‘Atlantis: The Lost Empire’ (2001) with Michael J Fox and Cree Summer, as well as ‘The Notebook’ (2004) and his TV sitcom role as Jim Egan in ‘8 Simple Rules’ (2003–2005).
Tonight, the shameless tear-jerker ‘The Notebook’ airs on BBC One, where James starred as the older version of Ryan Gosling’s character alongside Gena Rowlands as his wife.
Known to take no prisoners in his youth, James recalled many of his wild and wacky experiences in his 2011 memoir, ‘The Garner Files’.
From the outset written in his charming and self-detracting style, he said: “People who don’t know me think I’m easy-going but I’m a pessimist by nature and an old curmudgeon.”
Recalling one incident that happened with fellow Hollywood actor Lee Marvin, he revealed that he “almost decked” him after Lee had made a move on his wife.
James wrote: “In Hollywood you have to ‘defend your quote’ — keep your fee as high as possible and never accept less.
“Lee Marvin raised his quote to a million dollars a picture after he won an Osc ar for Cat Ballou and had trouble getting parts.
“I never worked with Lee, but I thought that as an actor he was very colourful.
“As a guy, he was a pain in the a**. He just didn’t care. He was a drinker.
“One night in a limousine on our way to a function, he made moves on my wife.
“That’s a little more than I can handle and almost decked him.”
He went on to argue that actors were overpaid, branding the producers who recruited them “idiots”, and wrote: “Anyway, Lee wanted to work but couldn’t take a salary cut.
“I didn’t want to fall into that trap, so I never let my quote get too high.
“Actors are paid more than they’re worth anyway.
“Producers are idiots for paying the ridiculous prices we ask. We make so much money, the majority of pictures never make a profit.
“I think movies would be a lot better if more actors waived their big salaries in order to do worthwhile pictures.
“I don’t think actors today are well-served by their agents and managers, who aren’t as good as they used to be.
“They just want their 10 percent and let their clients do things they shouldn’t.
“They have one hit and three flops and their careers are over.”
In the book, he details the characters of many of the people he came across in his lengthy career: while Charles Bronson was, in his opinion, bitter and belligerent, Hollywood mogul Jack Warner was the rudest and most vulgar man he ever met.
Charlton Heston’s acting technique was “stiff as a board”, while even his old friend, Steve McQueen, was “trouble”.
He wrote: “Steve was trouble if you invited him to breakfast.
“He didn’t like anything. Like Marlon Brando he could be a pain in the a** on set.
“Unlike Brando, he wasn’t an actor.
“He was a movie star, a poser who cultivated the image of a macho man.
“He had a persona he brought to every role and people loved it but you could always see him acting.
“That’s the kiss of death, as far as I’m concerned.”