Stories from a Podcast: James Garner in Darby’s Rangers (1958)

James Garner in The Rockford Files

Play the theme to The Rockford Files, and it will instantly take me back to when I was a young girl watching tv with my mom and dad, especially when the very familiar harmonica part starts up.

I know we watched it together regularly even though I don’t remember much about the show itself, but that song will always remain a small part of my childhood memories. I can’t claim to know a lot about the rest of his career, but when the star of The Rockford Files, James Garner, passed away last week I couldn’t help but feel sadness for those who loved and knew him well.

In what was a bit of a coincidental moment, just yesterday I was listening to an episode of a podcast called The Commentary Track hosted by film historian Frank Thompson in which he interviewed William Wellman, Jr., son of William A. Wellman, who directed Garner in the movie Darby’s Rangers (1958).

Wellman, Jr. told the story of how when the original lead actor Charlton Heston was replaced due to unacceptable contract demands, the assistant director informed the entire cast that they’d all be “moving up a part.” To that Garner replied, “Well, if I move up one part then I’m the lead.” He certainly was, and that is how he received his first starring role in a movie.

Even though the interview was taped a while back, one thing that stood out to me as Wellman was telling the story was how he repeatedly referred to him as ‘Jim’ Garner with a friendly affection in his voice that seemed only appropriate given the sadness of his recent death.

Tributes to James Garner

A few of my fellow classic movie bloggers recently paid tribute to James Garner; Laura from Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings wrote a touching post about how much he meant to her over the years and shared with us part of her James Garner memorabilia collection, Raquel from Out of the Past paid her respects to his life and career and included a link to a wonderful picture of James and his wife Lois, and Aubyn from The Girl With the White Parasol shared a sweet picture and quote as a nice farewell to the actor.

My sympathies go out to the family and friends of James Garner including his wife of 58 years, Lois Fleishman Clarke.