James Garner

  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.   The first (and last) Western for Sophia Loren and director George Cukor was no kin  to the Fox musical never made after Marilyn Monroe refused it in 1954: The Girl in Pink Tights). Paramount wanted Alan Ladd as the gunslinger hiding out in Sophia’s acting troupe touring the Old West. Ladd passed, followed by the TV Maverick cousins, James Garner and Roger Moore, plus John Gavin and Jack Lemmon – a once and only Cowboy in 1957. Sophia told me she had difficulty finding tall leading men which is why she voted for another telly-cowpoke, Clint Walker.  But he was busy towering over his Cheyenne series, 1955-1962
  7. Stuart Whitman, The Comancheros, 1960.    Paul Wellman wrote his 1952  Western novel for Cary Grant to eventually play gambling; man Paul Regret. – the star role until Gary Cooper, then John Wayne clambered aboard nine years later. DSuke was The Boss, beefing up Big Jake Cutter (leading to Big Jake McCandles ten years later) and finding roles for his kids, Aissa and Patrick.  By which time Grant was too old  (Wayne was too old!!) and certainly would never serve under Duke.  And, yes, I have to say it (better than me singing it)…  Regrets, I have a few, too few not to mention…  Steve Forrest, James Garner, John Gavin, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Tom Tyron, Robert Wagner, Cornel Wilde and ultimately, Stuart Whitman.  Marlon Brando had been keen on the support role of  an Indian chief called Graile.

  8. Richard Burton, The Night of the Iguana, 1963.
    Nipping in quick, producer Ray Stark paid $500,000  for the new Tennessee Williams play – before it opened as his last  Broadway hut in 1961.  The main character is the Reverend T Lawrence Shannon, reduced to  being a Mexico tour guide after bejng defrocked for calling God a juvenile delinquent. So who should be Shannon: Stanley Kowalski or Brick Pollit? Aka Marlon Brando from A Streetcar Named Desire or Paul Newman from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  (He’d also been another Williams sad-sack in Sweet Bird of Youth).  Also up for the Rev were, Richard Harris, William Holden, Burt Lancaster (too close to his Oscar-winning Elmer Gantry, 1959), Christopher Plummer and, surprisingly, James Garner  – “Just too Tennessee Williams for me!” there was more tenson off-screen as among those putting Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map, were…  Elizabeth Taylor living with Burton, whose agent was her first ex-husband, Michael Wilding. Plus Ava Gardner’s old, “platonic bedmate,” Peter Viertel, was also around as he was now wed to co-star Deborah Kerr! To help avoid friction, John Huston gifted each star with a gold-plated pistol, complete with bullets engraved with the names of the other stars, so the right bullet could be used (or, aimed, at least!) on the right target!  It worked well. Nary a discouraging word.  Except from the critics.  

  9. 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.
  10. 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.

  11. Cliff Robertson Up From the Beach, 1964.  Or The Day After when head Fox, Darryl F Zanuck, announced James Garner and Oskar Werner would  be directed  by Guy Hamilton. Werner, as per usual, refused to glorify a Nazi commandant (as Brando had done in the role rejected by Werner in The Young Lions). Hamilton tquit  for Goldfinger and Robert Parrish helmed Cliff Robertson and Marius Goring in what was, basically – and a better title? – D-Day Plus One.

  12. Richard Harris, Hawaii, 1966.     As directors  changed  from Fred Zinnemann to George Roy Hill.
  13. George C Scott, Petulia, UK/US, 1967.   Julie Christie’ is the  arch-kook kook in this requiem for the  well swung 60s.    Director Richard  Lester wanted Lee Marvin as her  curmudgeonly lover, while the Warner suits voted James Garner or Paul Newman. The film has echoes  (and  theb editing) of Nicolas Roeg’s later Christie opus, Don’t Look Now  and, indeed,  Bad Timing… well, he was the cameraman here..

  14. Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes, 1967.

  15. Omar Sharif, Funny Girl, 1967.  The Jewish Barbra Streisand preferred an Arab screen lover (on and off-screen) to the others  short-listed for her gambling man Nick Arnstein:  Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra.  Plus three TV stars, Robert Culp, James Garner, David Janssen, that she would have chewed up and spat out. She as an expert in cutting her co-stars’ roles to ribbons.  Asked whether she’d been difficult to work with, director William Wyler said:  “No, not too hard, considering it was the first movie she ever directed”!

  16. 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!

  17. Clint Eastwood, Two Mules for Sister Sara, 1969. Budd Boetticher  wrote the  story and was due to direct James Garner as the lonesome cowpike who  finds himself saddled with a nun on the run who is really a whore in disguise yada, yada, yada.  The blacklisted Albert Maltz penned a new script – his first credit  (as himself) since The Naked City, 1947, with Hogan aimed at Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum and finally, Clint. With the full Morricone accompaniment. “Kind of The African Queen gone West,” said New Republic’s Stanley Kaufman.  

  18. 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.
  19. Brian Dennehy, First Blood (Rambo), 1981. 
  20. 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.
  21. 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..
  22. 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…
  23. 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.  
  24. Gary Busey, Point Break, 1990.  When Matthew Broderick was up for the young FBI agent infiltrating a gonzo surfer gang of bank robbers in ex-President masks – and falling under the spell of their guru-ish leader – his boss was to be Garner. That was  the Ridley Scott’s plan before ging on  the road with Thelma & Louise.   Kathryn Bigelow made Keanu Reeves the agent, and  chose Gary Busey for his boss..

>>>>>>  Tribute

“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.” 

 Birth year: 1928Death year: 2014Other name: Casting Calls:  24