The Garner Files

James Gardner & Jon Winokur

Simon & Schuster / ISBN 9781451642605 (2011)



Television and movies - was that what you were thinking when you saw "James Garner"?
Then you didn't know his first big gig was a stage production of Caine's Mutiny.

Full disclosure: he had no lines,

but as one of the "silent" judges he swore his best acting lessons

were in watching Henry Fonda perform the same part night after night.

The other non-speaking judges may have spent their time on stage

planning another audition, but Garner developed the fine art of listening.

Unbroken hearted when stage directors told him his voice wouldn't carry beyond the third row,

he carried that talent for listening into television and film where it would set him apart

from the overly-ambitious performers who just couldn't wait to start their big speeches.

His "persona" became that of a thoughtful, honest and caring man.

That... and drop-dead good looks?! How many ways can you spell w-i-n-n-e-r ?


The chapters jump back and forth in time, sometimes enough to make your head spin.

Everything is in order of category, not timeline: "Golf," "Racing" "Civil Rights," etc. etc.

The same people will pop in and out of different stories. Disconcerting.

And while there is a listing of career achievements at the end, there is no index.

But nothing in life is perfect and that even extends to the impeccable Mr. Garner.


And let's not forget Jon Winokur, author of The Portable Curmudgeon, a book which proved to be

such  a comfort to Garner through his heart surgery in the 1980s that he hawked it on talk shows.

A biographer has to tread so lightly, to speak in the voice of the subject without giving in to the
impulse to sound his own -- even when he himself is already a respected author.

An ovation, then, for Mr. Winokur.


(also available in large print format)

(Afternote: James Garner died July 19, 2014.)

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