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James Garner (1928-2014)

  1. Dick Simmons, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, TV, 1955-1958.    Garner told the Archive of American Television, that he and Simmons were the final actors up for joining the Mounties. Garner preferred movies but they did not happened until he began winning hearts as Maverick, 1957-1962.
  2. Marlon Brando, Sayonara, 1957.     “The idea was to go with either Brando and an unknown Japanese girl - or, Audrey Hepburn and an unknown guy.  They couldn’t afford both Brando and Hepburn.  If they went with her, I had a shot at the lead.  Well, they went with Brando.”  And Jim replaced John Smith as Brando's antagonist.
  3. Stuart Whitman, Darby’s Rangers, (UK: The Young Invaders), 1958.     When Charlton Heston quit director William A Wellman’s WWII army,  Jim was promoted from the ranks and his part taken over by Whitman.
  4. David Janssen, Lafayette Escadrille, 1958.      Wild Bill Wellman’s final film. Because Jack Warner - “one of the most despicable men I’ve known” - changed everything. “It was never called Lafayette Escadrille. It was C’est la Guerre, that was the story. He made that into a happy ending. I said: ‘Oh, the hell with it.’ I got out and never made another picture.”
  5. Ricky Nelson, Rio Bravo, 1958.
  6. Steve Forrest, Heller In Pink Tights, 1959.   First (and last) Western for Sophia Loren and director George Cukor.   They looked at Garner, John Gavin and Jack Lemmon (!) before settling on Forrest as the gun-slinger hiding put in her  Sophia’s acting troupe touring the Old West. Sophia actually voted for TV cowpoke Clint Walker (she loved tall leading men), but he was towering over another gig.
  7. James Coburn, The Americanisation of Emily, 1964.    Coburn inherited Lieutenant Commander Bob Cummings when James Garner was promoted to the lead rôle after William Holden was sacked for rows over the script and the director. Film was based on William Bradford Hui’s second book about Lieutenant Commander James Monroe Madison, called Charlie here, and Jim Blair when played by Richard Egan, opposite Jane Russell, in The Revolt of Mamie Stover, 1955.
  8. Richard Burton, The Sandpiper, 1964.   John Huston’s 25th film - adapted from Tennessee Williams’ play - on location at Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta., Yet Garner still rejected defrocked priest Lawrence Shannon, opposite Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon vying with each other for Oscars.
  9. Richard Harris, Hawaii, 1966.     As directors  changed  from Fred Zinnemann to George Roy Hill.
  10. Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes, 1967.

  11. Donald Sutherland, M*A*S*H, 1969.   Director Robert Altman's first choice was told by his prospective partner, James Coburn: “Don’t do it - it’ll ruin your career.”  Producer Ingo Preminger had seen Sutherland among The Dirty Dozen - and he suggested Elliott Gould, instead of Coburn!
  12. Lee Marvin, The Great Scout and Cat-House Thursday, 1973.       First choice Elliott Gould was followed by James Garner who was followed by Marvin – who promptly retired after shooting. For a wee while. Jason Robards, Something Wicked This Way Comes, 1983.   Inbetween being written for Gene Kelly and bought by Kirk Douglas, various versions of the Ray Bradbury tale proposed Garner, Hal Holbrook, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau for Kirk’s favourite character, Charles Holloway.
  13. Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment, 1983.      “James Brooks is a great writer but it was his first directing job and he couldn’t tell me what he wanted to do with the film.  I don’t care if the movie's Gone With The Wind, if I didn’t think it was going to be fun I wouldn’t do it.”  This one was five Oscars full of fun - including a second for Jack..
  14. Robert Duval, Lonesome Dove, TV, 1989.      Too ill to be Gus Macre or Woodrow Call. Originally written by Larry McMurtry  in 1971 for John Wayne   (opposite Henry Fonda and  James Stewart).  Ten years on, McMurtry turned  the script into a book that bred the mini-series…
  15. Tommy Lee Jones, Lonesome Dove, TV, 1989.     … Soon as he was fit, ,Garner took over the introverted Captain Woodrow Call, retired Texas  ranger turned  bounty hunter,  in the 1995 sequel, Streets of Laredo - the name of the ’71 Peter Bogdanovich project - badly, sadly - rejected by Duke, Henry Fonda, James Stewart. (Wayne and, thereby the others were warned off by a jealous John Ford). But as with Jon Voight in Return to Lonesome Dove, 1993 (nothing to do the writer Larry McMurtry) the essential magic (Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones) was long gone.  

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"My heart just broke," said Sally Field in a 2014 statement about Garner’s death.   Field co-starred with him in  Murphy's Romance, for which Garner won an Oscar nod. "There are few people on this planet I have adored as much as Jimmy Garner.   I cherish every moment I spent with him and relive them over and over in my head. He was a diamond." 

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