Although James Garner, who died Saturday, age 86, is probably best remembered for his TV work -- for his sly, signature roles as a cowboy cardsharp in the late '50s western, Maverick, and as Jim Rockford, the gun-shy private eye in the 1970s series The Rockford Files – the actor’s film output was nothing to take lightly. (Although Garner’s screen persona was all about taking things lightly – in the most beguiling of ways.)
On Monday, July 28, Turner Classic Movies will shove aside its regular schedule to make way for a dozen of the lantern-jawed, Oklahoma charmer’s movies. (Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner, by the way.) Missing from TCM’s lineup are the Roald Dahl brain-twister, 36 Hours (1965), the jaunty POW thriller The Great Escape (1963), with Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood’s aging astronauts drama Space Cowboys (2000) , and Murphy’s Romance (1985), the Martin Ritt-directed, Sally Field-costarring rom-com which won Garner his one and only Oscar nomination.
But there are a few essential ones here, foremost being The Americanization of Emily (1964), a sharp World War II anti-war piece from writer Paddy Chayefsky and director Arthur Hiller, with Julie Andrews as a proper Brit who is both turned off and turned on by Garner’s cynical Navy Reserve officer, scamming his way around London in the weeks leading up to D-Day. And Andrews and Garner reteamed in 1982’s gender-crossing comedy musical Victor/Victoria, from director Blake Edwards. In Mister Buddwing (1964), adapted from an Evan Hunter novel and directed with jazzy cool (in black-and-white) by the great Delbert Mann, Garner plays an amnesiac wandering around New York, wondering who he is – a forerunner to Harrison Ford’s Regarding Henry.
Here’s the complete "TCM Remembers James Garner" lineup: