Thursday, August 14, 2014

THE COMPLEXITIES OF ROBIN WILLIAMS

Original caricature of Robin Williams by Jeff York (copyright 2014)

Why have so many been hit so hard by the death of Robin Williams?

It’s been four days since the reports of his suicide, and many of us are still reeling. Social media is obsessing over it. There have been so many articles, tributes, lists and eulogies - it’s become overwhelming. The man clearly made an incredible impact on the world, and paying tribute to him has become manifest this week.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve waited a few days before I wrote about him. I wanted a better perspective, as well as some time to grieve. It really affected me. I was a big fan and I admired both his amazing talent and his generosity of spirit in all that he did.

I wish that more people had waited a while to opine. Those Twitter trolls who went after his daughter are despicable. And I abhor the pseudo-psychological diagnosis’ that so many online and on TV have made of this complex man and his battle with depression. Most of their cavalier take is utter rubbish.

Depression is a disease. And there are no easy explanations for the havoc it raised in Williams’ life. Only those closest to him have any real idea of what Williams was going through. And shame on those who have been so quick to judge about what drove him to suicide.



I’ve heard and read too many ‘dime store psychologists’ offer up trite phrases like “his inner demons” or “he was a clown crying on the inside”. Facebook has been especially egregious in the word vomit. The depression that Williams was fighting turned so horrifying that suicide became the only feasible way out for him. That’s not easily understood despite what Facebook followers or TV pundits would have us believe.

Nor is Williams’ career and talent easily explained either. Many have tried to distinguish what made him so special, but his work is not that easily categorized. It’s incredibly varied, with more nuances and subtlety to it than most are giving him credit for. Suffice it to say, I believe he was the most talented performer of his generation, perhaps the last three. He could do comedy, drama, sing and dance. He was amazing in character and an entrancing character as himself. He was a one of a kind that will not be matched.

As a stand-up comic, Williams was an improvisational wizard of unparalleled conjuring. His ability to make up shtick out of anything in his path was a marvel to behold. He could pick up a scarf from someone in the audience during a taping of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and do five minutes of mind-bending hilarity. He could walk out onto the stage of “The Dick Cavett Show” and pull novels out of the set’s bookcase and do routines off of each random title selected. How do you explain a mind like that? You can’t really. It’s too complex to be indisputably assessed.

Williams winning his Oscar for GOOD WILL HUNTING.
Williams, above all else, was an actor of stunning complexity. He was equally adept at playing drama as he was at comedy. How many actors excel so in both realms? He could wring laughs with stunning power, but he also could extract tears from young and old. Look at how people are talking about his teacher role in DEAD POETS SOCIETY. That role clearly packed an emotional wallop. His riffing genie in ALADDIN or extemporaneous DJ in GOOD MORNING, VIET NAM might have been characters closer to his wheelhouse, but obviously his dramatic turns were just as strong, if not more indelible in certain respects. O Captain, my Captain, indeed.

And Williams was so talented that he could turn his back on parts of his oeuvre that many would have made a living off. His amazing impressions were as good as any Vegas impressionist but he didn’t make a career out of it. Still, it’s astounding to see how he captured the complexities of celebrity in his spoofs of them. Only someone who spent time with Jack Nicholson, up close and very personal, could channel that actor’s self-satisfied tawdriness so vividly. Only someone who understood the buffoonery of machismo could render a George W. Bush as such a grinning and clueless man-child.

When talking of his standout comedic performances, most seem to be listing or writing about his ‘hurricane Robin’ roles. Those are the ones where he blows in and completely dominates the action like he did in MRS. DOUBTFIRE. But I’m surprised more aren’t talking about the complexity of his performance in THE BIRDCAGE. To me, it’s not only his best screen work, but it illustrated the complexity of an actor who didn’t always need to play the aggressor.
Robin Williams (with Dan Futterman) in THE BIRDCAGE. 
Take a look at how subtlety he played the character of Armand Goldman in that film. As the homosexual owner of a gay nightclub, his is a mostly reactive role. He responds to the more overt and larger-than-life characters around him in almost every scene; the type of larger-than-life characters that Williams usually played. But in THE BIRDCAGE, Williams doesn’t have the ‘big role’. Nathan Lane does. Albert, Armand’s male lover who is a famous drag queen, is the star part. It’s the role that wins actors Tony’s. Instead here, Williams plays the ‘straight man’ (Ironic yes, considering.) And that was quite a departure. But Williams was phenomenal in the role.

And in almost every scene in that movie, he is reacting to the chaos around him. Most deliciously, his Armand is horrified at the continuing idiocy of houseboy Agador (Hank Azaria). Agador’s broken English, infantile swagger, and astoundingly awful cooking gave Williams the opportunity to do a slow boil like he’d never done before.

Watch the embedded scene where his Armand tries to prevent the conservative Senator Keely and his wife (Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest) from realizing the dinnerware has a gay theme of playfully illustrated Greeks in flagrante delicto. Armand goes into a suppressed rage as he frenetically attempts to ladle soup into the bowls before the prudes catch on.

Williams may have been pitted against big scene-stealers like Lane and Azaria, but he's the one who really gives the standout performance in the film. He didn’t need to bounce off the walls to be the funniest man in the room this time. And it is a testament to his incredible talent that he did so much with less.

It’s that sort of surprise and variety that made Williams even more special. He couldn’t be easily pegged. His talent allowed him to play as dark as coal and as light as a feather, and everything in between. It’s not Daniel Day-Lewis playing everything from MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON to THE FISHER KING to ONE-HOUR PHOTO. It’s Williams. The Julliard graduate was one of the best actors we’ve ever seen, on TV, film, stage, and in comedy clubs. Williams had more range than any actor working, didn’t he? He could convince us he was a hero (HOOK), a villain (INSOMNIA), a teen (THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP), and even an old man (JACK).

On the theatrical stage he did everything from Shakespeare to Beckett. He played tigers and fools equally well. On a talk show, he allowed the host to take a break and just be an audience member, laughing as hard at his antics and anecdotes as everyone else. And in charitable events, he could be a serious emcee as well as the headliner everyone wanted to see perform.

Williams’ tragic end should beseech us to work harder to understand the complexities of mental illness. And the complexities of his talent should compel us to study him and his work for decades. He was as singular a sensation as there has ever been in the world of entertainment. His joy of performing, in all capacities, touched everyone immeasurably who watched him.


And he left us far, far too soon. There has never been anyone like him before, and we will never see anyone like Robin Williams again. He’s an icon. And that’s why Time magazine put him on their cover this week to honor his passing, just as they did when Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra died. That’s why we’re so distraught. He was truly an original. The very definition of talent, range, and a shining star.


And he burned out too quickly. It’s devastating.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

THE NEXT AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT RECIPIENT SHOULD BE COMPOSER JOHN WILLIAMS

The American Film Institute gives out a Life Achievement Award every year as they have since 1973. They’ve honored greats from John Ford that first year to Jane Fonda this past year. And in their 42 years of honoring the greatest legends of cinema, they’ve never given it to one single artist who was “below the line”. That’s right, no one who wasn’t a director, actor or producer has ever been given this prestigious award. That needs to change. This year, the AFI should honor composer John Williams.


The AFI is currently mulling over candidates for this year’s honoree, to be formally announced the first week in October, and no doubt some of the names being bandied about include the likes of Robert Redford, Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, David Lynch, Gene Hackman, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. All are worthy of the award, and hopefully most of that list will be called in coming years, but this year it needs to be Williams.

For starters, he is the only film composer in the history of cinema who is a household name to at least three or four generations. He is a film artist as big as most stars in many respects, and a name that has been known far and wide for over 40 years. Ever since his game-changing scores for JAWS, STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS in the 1970’s, he has been revered by his peers and by everyday movie fans from all corners of the globe. Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, the Sherman Brothers, Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmith were all great film scorers too, but none of them was ever as famous or as beloved by so many as Williams. He’s the one true rock star of film composers.


In addition, Williams has been a key member of such seminal films as not only the three listed above, but also of all five blockbuster STAR WARS sequels and these ginormous hits - the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK films, JURASSIC PARK, SUPERMAN, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, the HOME ALONE franchise, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE TOWERING INFERNO, EARTHQUAKE and the HARRY POTTER films. These achievements alone should be enough to warrant him the AFI prize.

Williams not only creates themes that practically every movie fan can hum, he also writes multiple themes for almost every film score he’s penned. STAR WARS not only has the famous main title theme we all know by heart, but also the famous ‘Cantina” piece and the Darth Vader theme. If you think his JAWS score is only that two-note theme accompanying the shark attacks, listen to it again. There are at least three other fully realized themes that add to this rich and nuanced score. 

And then there is SUPERMAN, perhaps his greatest score of all time. Williams not only wrote the triumphant fanfare that is the main title tune, but also its beautiful and touching love theme, the song “Can You Read My Mind”, the "Waltz of the Villains" for Lex Luthor, et al., and the Americana pastiche that accompanied all of Clark Kent’s childhood. It’s an amazing five scores in one!


And despite his expertise as Hollywood’s official blockbuster score king, he’s also done a variety of other types of scores that were just as crucial to the success of their films. His score for SCHINDLER’S LIST is as haunting as any image in that brilliant masterwork by Steven Spielberg. His sneaky, comical jazz score for CATCH ME IF YOU CAN perfectly set the mood for the cat & mouse shenanigans between Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks that followed after the opening credits. And his percussively driven score for JFK has been imitated by dozens of other films and TV shows since its debut in 1992.

He’s been such a colossal figure in scoring films that people forget his impact on the small screen. He played the opening riff as a studio pianist for Henry Mancini’s famous theme for PETER GUNN. He composed the themes for GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, LAND OF THE GIANTS, and LOST IN SPACE. Known as Johnny Williams in those days, he actually wrote two themes for LOST IN SPACE. His first year effort was deemed too dark and aggressive by CBS TV executives. Thus, he was asked to rewrite the show’s theme for its second season. His sophomore effort sounded more adventurous and family friendly, and worked quite well, though to most purists his original is still the best.

Despite Williams’ five Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, 21 Grammy Awards, and countless other honors too numerous to list here, he has yet to place the AFI Life Achievement Star on his mantle piece. And it’s outrageous that he hasn’t been awarded it already. It’s also outrageous that the AFI has not deemed a single screenwriter, editor, cinematographer or costume designer worthy of their Life Achievement Award. A ‘below the line’ artist needs to be recognized at long last.

This sort of oversight is particularly egregious in regards to Williams as so many of those awarded already started their film careers a generation or two after he did. Williams earned his first Oscar for adapting the score of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF in 1970. 2004 recipient Meryl Streep didn’t star in a movie until almost a decade later. 2011 honoree Morgan Freeman didn’t star in a movie until the mid-1980’s. They were worthy of the AFI career honor, but Williams started his run decades earlier.


John Williams is now 82, and remarkably, he is still composing. He’s working on the new STARS WARS movie because well, it wouldn’t be STAR WARS without him. Isn’t that enough to have him take his rightful place in the pantheon of the American Film Institute’s highest honorees? And for all the reasons I’ve listed above, and because of his age, the AFI should know that they aren’t going to have that many more years to single him out. John Williams demands to be the 43rd recipient of their Life Achievement Award.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

DOES SEX STILL SELL IN HOLLYWOOD?

The new teaser trailer for the movie version of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is out and it’s little more than a tease (http://bit.ly/1lBvBAh). Granted, it’s just a trailer, but it looks a lot like NINE ½ WEEKS. It’s got a similar sadomasochistic theme, the same color palate of blacks and cool grays that 1985 movie employed, as well as its penchant for overly art directed interiors. Is it a remake or reboot?


The trailer is filled with glossy images but it shows precious little of the relationship between Anastasia and Christian, other than smoldering looks. Perhaps the film will truly deliver, but knowing how Hollywood is these days, I worry that it will refrain from being a true examination of a kinky and troubling relationship, and opt for showing off Christian’s opulent office, his designer duds, and his chiseled abs.

Despite sex everywhere in our culture, and pornography becoming more and more mainstream, including in the top 10 bestseller list from hence FIFTY SHADES OF GREY came, Tinsel Town seems reluctant to truly delve into films that embrace the subject of adult sexuality. Where are today’s studio films on par with those like BODY HEAT (1981), THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING (1988), DAMAGE (1992), or any of the many sophisticated sex comedies that Blake Edwards used to make? Those films were mature and challenging examinations of how men and women related to each other over sex, but there are very few that even attempt such topics today. Doesn’t sex sell anymore at the box office?


Sure, teen comedies have succeeded with the subject of sex in the movies, but why hasn't there been more fare aimed at an audience a bit older? THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2005) and KNOCKED UP (2007) managed to include some maturity in their sexual  storylines, but their senses of humor were still more 'frat boy' than Preston Sturges. Can't sex comedies be sophisticated anymore?

Sex is everywhere online, so maybe Cineplexes want to tread elsewhere. Yet, television dives in with large themes of sex examined on series such as MASTERS OF SEX, SHAMELESS and CALIFORNICATION. Has the small screen raised the bar so high that the big screen won’t even bother?

Perhaps part of the problem is due to more and more movies being aimed at the international box office. That’s why there are so many action/adventure films getting greenlit, since dialogue and jokes don’t always translate as easily overseas. And there are some countries that censor more explicitly sexual material too, so that could be a deterrent.

But if Hollywood can make explicit teen/college sex comedies like AMERICAN PIE (1999) or this year’s NEIGHBORS, even with international censorship issues, then why can’t the studios make more films with serious sexual themes, even more sophisticated sex comedies? Is there no one in Hollywood who dares pick up the Blake Edwards mantle?


SEX TAPE had a great opportunity to shine in such a way, what with its story of a married couple in their 40’s dealing with their sexuality, but it failed to be as funny or sexy as it should’ve been. Stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel seemed to be game, but both have shown more comedic flair and yes, nudity elsewhere.

Even at the end, when the sex tape of the title is shown, it’s not very adult. Instead, it seems to be more of what a high school virgin would imagine sex is what with its silly acrobatics and laughable positions. Are we to believe that the Diaz and Segel characters would be that puerile about sexuality in their 40’s? It’s depressing that the filmmakers thought such lowbrow comedy like that was worth our while. The language of the movie was as blue as possible, but the sex presented was colored in crayon. 

Nancy Meyers comes closest to doing the sort of adult rom-com’s with a sex theme as anyone these days with sophisticated fare like SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE (2005) and IT’S COMPLICATED (2009), but her leads in both were edging close to sixty or beyond. It would be interesting for her to do something in the Edwards vein with a slightly younger cast, or a willingness to broaden her comedy appeal beyond the ‘chick flick’ themes. Could a woman be the next Blake Edwards, Meyers or otherwise? Amy Schumer perhaps?
Blake Edwards with his honorary Oscar in 2004.
Edwards truly found a brilliant niche in the latter half of his career writing and directing such sexy romps like 10 (1979), S.O.B. (1981), and VICTOR/VICTORIA (1982). In 10, the career of a  songwriter (Dudley Moore) is derailed by his midlife crisis as he risks life, limb and libido to chase after a fantasy girl (Bo Derek). In VICTOR/VICTORIA, Edwards managed to wring belly laughs and pathos out of his examination of sex, identity and homosexuality with Julie Andrews and James Garner. And Edwards put it all to song too!

And in his movie satire S.O.B., Edwards' sendup of Hollywood skullduggery, desperate producer (Richard Mulligan) reworks his G-rated musical bomb into an X-rated extravaganza. Edwards knew that the lurid was everywhere and becoming more and more mainstream. That’s still true today, but most Hollywood filmmakers rarely broach truly adult sexuality as a subject, be it in a comedy or otherwise.
Megan Fox
Perhaps another reason that movies don’t do sex much anymore is that audiences barely realize what they're missing. With movie studios' insatiable need to appeal to younger and younger audiences, the intelligence of filmgoers seems to have lowered as much as their expectations. So many dutifully traipse out every weekend to the latest $200 million action picture because they're told to and that's all there is opening. It's become like a fast food diet with nothing for a more sophisticated palate. Sure, a burger is great now and then, but sometimes a little filet mignon would be nice too. 

Don't believe it? Well, look at how Megan Fox failed to become a true sex symbol of the cinema due to her big claim to fame being a couple of kids movies. TRANSFORMERS (2007) was hardly the right recipe for a ripely sensual woman to become the next Marilyn Monroe or Raquel Welch. Fox's sex appeal was neutered to appeal to 9-year-olds before she ever got a chance to strut her stuff in something more adult. 

Interestingly, other than this summer’s TRANSFORMERS sequel (sans the foxy Ms. Fox), box office receipts are way down, and fewer adults are going to see such tent-pole pictures as in previous years. Adults went in droves to see THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL this past spring, but nothing has matched their enthusiasm since.

VOD has captured some adult audiences with films with a mature sex theme, like Lars Von Trier’s two parts of NYMPHOMANIAC this year, but such art-house films are hardly mainstream studio fare. Last year’s BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR was a marvelous examination of a young woman’s sexuality but it too was an art-house film. It also got a limited release. And it was French.
Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux in BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
In those kinds of movies, sex is shown as an integral part of adult life, even if sometimes it isn’t all about love and marriage. Such films show more than just glimpses of flesh and lovemaking. They show how people relate to each other through sex, or use sex for power or control. But no matter, the scenes aren’t truncated, bathed in shadow, or insinuated. They’re asking us to watch, forcing us to look, inviting us to truly see how their characters are in such specific and intimate moments. Isn’t that sort of physicality more fascinating than another reboot of muscle-bound HERCULES? It should be for an adult audience or a movie fan that wants more from cinema.


And there is proof that audiences will find more adult offerings if presented with such choices. Adults over 40 made Woody Allen’s last two movies (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and BLUE JASMINE) into $100 million dollar hits. Adult action/adventure pictures like SNOWPIERCER are setting VOD records. Even documentaries like the Roger Ebert bio LIFE ITSELF are bringing scores and scores of adult audiences into the theaters.  Why can’t sex?


With good returns like that, it would seem that there is great potential for adult comedies and intimate dramas to break through and make a mint. Perhaps Hollywood just needs a good shot of Cialis. Where’s Megan Fox when you need her? Just leave the robots at home, please.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

RIP JAMES GARNER, A ONE-OF-A-KIND MAVERICK

Original caricature of James Garner by Jeff York (copyright 2014).
A friend asked me in college once if I’d ever been in a physical fight. I had numerous tussles with my brother, of course, but my friend pressed me further. When I realized I had never lifted a finger or fist to anyone, I answered him, “No, I have not. I’ve always avoided fighting by taking Jim Garner’s way out.”

The characters that the marvelous actor James Garner played were always great talkers. And their silver tongues were always able to talk the way out of a fight. I thought that was a pretty good way to approach such conflicts, especially since I wore glasses. And it wasn’t the only thing I’d learned from Garner, who passed away yesterday, July 19th. I learned a pretty darn good idea of what a man should be.

And James Garner was indeed a one-of-a-kind leading man. He was not only a good talker, but he projected morals, smarts, and savvy about the world around him. He looked good in jeans, and a suit, and especially in a plaid blazer. He charmed women by actually talking to them. No strong, silent bullshit from Garner, no, this man knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to say it. To a lady. To anybody.

That was especially novel at a time, in the late 50’s and early 60’s, when most leading men coming out of the Actors Studio were mumbling introverts who bottled up their feelings. Or they were working class blokes, raging through England, drinking hard and raising hell. Garner chose a path counter to those trends. He was tall and brawny without having to brawl. He was clever and verbally dexterous and could articulate how he felt. And he was a gentleman, respectful of women and more often than not, the kind of man who treated them as equals. What man wouldn’t want to be like that?


I think it’s interesting that in most of his roles, whether on the big or small screen, from THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) to THE ROCKFORD FILES (1974-1980), he played heroes who proved their mettle while rarely having to press the metal to the floor or raise a firearm. Thus, Garner was a maverick really, in more than just the name of his most famous character. He was a man who made better choices, more civilized ones, a man who was strong enough to be humble, courageous enough to hold his fists at his side.

And at a time when westerns like WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE and GUNSMOKE were reigning on TV, Garner established his prevailing screen persona as Bret Maverick in the series MAVERICK (1957-1962), a man of the west who loathed conflict, despised violence, and tried to get his way through dialogue. It is interesting how little gunplay there was on the show. It was a thinking man’s western really, and Garner was the perfect brain to lead it. 
James Garner as the title character in MAVERICK (1957)
Garner could’ve been another Clint Eastwood or James Arness or Steve McQueen. He was tall, built, and rugged looking with a square jaw, dark hair and an all-American machismo. But when he opened up his mouth, that twangy drawl of his came out and it exemplified brains, not brawn. He was the new American male, no matter what the period was that he was playing in. And he knew how to be old school masculine along with new age sensitive.

And no matter what role he played, he made audiences relate to his characters. He didn’t want to fight. Who did? He could romance Julie Andrews and pal around with Steve McQueen. Who wouldn’t want to do that? And he suggested decency even if he was playing con artists. Even in something like THE SKIN GAME (1971), he may have been using Lou Gossett as a fake slave to bilk people out of their money, but when push came to shove, it was Garner's character who took the whipping in place of his charge. Garner may have played slippery here and there, but he was almost always the most moral and grounded person in the room.
James Garner in THE ROCKFORD FILES (1978)
And he turned other clichés on their head too. When he played Jim Rockford in the groundbreaking TV series THE ROCKFORD FILES, he turned the private dick role into something wholly modern as well. Rockford wasn’t a great cop, or hot with the ladies. He was as far away from James Bond or Perry Mason or Sam Spade as a law enforcer could be. Rockford struggled to make ends meet. He lived in a trailer, with his aging dad. And when a bad guy punched him, it hurt. And it hurt for days. Garner showed how dangerous the procedural job was, at a time when law enforcement on TV was presented as unimpeachable. THE ROCKFORD FILES was another maverick show, and was a huge hit. And again, it proved that Garner had a way of making an audience relate to the modernity of the American male.

Garner made it all cool. Heck, he even made hawking Polaroid cameras into 30-second works of art. His rapport with Mariette Hartley in dozens of commercials made for one of the best campaigns in the history of advertising. Hartley credits Garner with establishing her career. And she said he always made sure that she had the better lines, and was showcased as being just as strong, pithy and delightful as her more famous costar. Garner talked the talk, and walked the walk.
James Garner with Julie Andrews in VICTOR/VICTORIA (1982)
My personal favorite of all of Garner’s efforts was when he was asked to combine his modern male persona with the clichés of Hollywood macho for Blake Edwards’ musical masterpiece VICTOR/VICTORIA (1982). As King Marchand, the knowing and wily gangster from Chicago, he falls hard for Victoria (Julie Andrews) the seductive songstress in a Parisian cabaret. When Victoria ‘reveals’ herself to be a man, it throws King because a guy like him isn’t supposed to fall for a guy.

As the man who would be King, Garner is really the heart of the show as it is his character that has the largest character arc. He goes from a man who knows exactly who he is to a man who isn’t certain who he’s in love with, or the kind of man he himself could be. As King accepts that his crush could be a man, he softens. And as he dates Victoria, established as a woman, but still determined to keep up the ruse in public, Garner was comically brilliant as a man struggling to fit into society’s version of a couple.

If you’ve never seen it, it could not be any timelier, with the whole issue of gay marriage and rights. Garner’s character loses all he has for the woman he loves even if the world thinks he’s in love with a man. Tell me, how many actors other than Garner could make such a character warm, likable, funny and heartbreaking? I can’t think of one who could equal him.
James Garner with Gena Rowlands in THE NOTEBOOK (2004)
His list of wonderful credits of men dealing with their mortality and vulnerability are too long to list here but suffice it to say TV movies like MY NAME IS BILL W (1989), HEARTSOUNDS (1984) and BARBARIANS AT THE GATE (1993), as well as big screen vehicles like THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964), MURPHY’S ROMANCE (1985), and THE NOTEBOOK (2004) showcased Garner’s complex take on what it means to be a man, time and time again.

I still haven’t been in a fistfight. I still wear glasses and they’ve never been broken. And I walk and talk with the help of James Garner. He died yesterday at 86, and he left a fascinating legacy that will be talked about forever. And that’s saying something, especially for a silver-tongued guy like Jim.
James Garner with his Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2005.