James Garner's not afraid to dish in 'The Garner Files'

James Garner offers straight talk about fellow actors like Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, in addition to revelations about his own drug use and his hardscrabble childhood.

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    “Something funny happens as you get older," writes veteran actor James Garner in his new memoir. "You don’t hold back so much.”
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He’s acted alongside Hollywood icons like Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, and Steve McQueen – as well as Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Rachel McAdams, and Ryan Gosling. Now 83, James Garner is looking back on his 60-plus-year career in a new memoir.

You could say the “The Garner Files,” which hits bookstores Tuesday by Simon & Schuster (co-written by Jon Winokur), is a juicy tell-all, classic Hollywood style. It’s starts with this line, from Mr. Garner: “Something funny happens as you get older. You don’t hold back so much.”

Garner holds up his end of the deal, according to early reviews of “The Garner Files”. Among the revelations in his memoir: He smoked pot for most of his adult life and even did cocaine with actor John Belushi. He’s a “bleeding heart Democrat” and a huge fan of Adlai Stevenson.

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Garner’s not afraid to dish on his fellow actors, either. In the book, he calls his friend Steve McQueen, of the original 1968 “Thomas Crown Affair,” an “insecure poseur and not much of an actor.” And Charles Bronson, with whom he co-starred in the 1963 movie “The Great Escape,” “bitter and belligerent.”

Garner traces his story back to Depression-era Oklahoma, where he describes a hardscrabble childhood followed by a combat stint in Korea. From there, he began starring in movies, gaining recognition playing Bret Maverick in the 1957 TV Western “Maverick,” for which he was nominated for an Emmy. He’s also known for playing Jim Rockford in the 1970s detective drama, “The Rockford Files,” and starring in “The Great Escape” and “The Americanization of Emily.” More recently, Garner played the father of Katey Segal’s character on “8 Simple Rules,” following the death of actor John Ritter.

Like the characters he played, Garner follows a heroic dictum in this memoir, writes the LA Times. “Plenty of self-deprecating humor, a general air of live-and-let-live, but when it comes down to it, no pulled punches.”

Writes the AP, “Full of funny stories and observations, "The Garner Files" offers the kind of clubhouse banter you might expect from a hardworking, successful guy who doesn't take himself too seriously — and doesn't want you to, either.”

“The Garner Files” is a classic tale of making it in Hollywood fueled, write reviewers, with Garner’s good lucks, fortune, charm, and sense of humor.

 Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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