Monday, April 7, 2008

"Two Hundred Dollars a Day, Plus Expenses..."

Today is the birthday of my favourite actor of all time, James Garner. So I thought I'd draw up a new caricature of him to mark the occasion. Fortunately, I have plenty of great video reference to work from, but I really felt compelled to depict him in his most famous role of Jim Rockford on "The Rockford Files". I'm so happy that the entire series has been coming out on DVD and I've been enjoying the five seasons released thus far. 


"The Rockford Files" was one of the shining examples of the type of cop shows that were quite prevalent back in the 70's. Shows like "Kojak", "Cannon", "Mannix", and many others were built around the charisma of their central stars rather than the nastiness of the crimes as in so many of today's series. "The Rockford Files" and Peter Falk's "Columbo" were my particular favourites of that popular 70's genre. James Garner had first found success on TV in the role of "Maverick" and, after then going on to prove himself as a leading man in the movies of the 60's, he was lured back to TV to create the role of Jim Rockford, who really was in many ways the continuation of the same lovable con man, Bret Maverick, only this time as a private detective. Not too long ago, I read where writer and series creator, Stephen J. Cannell, had also been inspired by the character of "Travis McGee" in the series of detective novels by John D. MacDonald. Since I'm a big fan of those stories, I guess that's why I also find Jim Rockford so appealing.

James Garner had created an onscreen persona of himself as the "reluctant hero" - the guy who would do his best to avoid trouble, but would ultimately come through when he found himself and others in the thick of it. He'd perfected the character in the wartime film, "The Americanization of Emily" opposite Julie Andrews, where in a very key scene in the film he makes no bones about being a coward rather than a hero, as he contends that cowards live longer while heroes get themselves killed in the folly of war. He went on to play the same type of character in another of my favourite films, "Support Your Local Sheriff", before continuing it as the private detective Jim Rockford, who didn't like to carry a gun unless absolutely necessary and didn't even have a permit to own one anyway.

Back in 1982 when I was just 22, I was in LA visiting my friend, director Bryan Stoller, who, before I'd flown out there, had told me he was going to try and get us both onto the set of "Bret Maverick", Garner's then current TV series, as he knew I was a big fan of Garner's. On the chance that Bryan would be successful, I drew up a caricature of Jim Garner in that role and painted up two originals - one to give him as a gift and the other for him to autograph for me. Sure enough, Bryan got us in there through his Warner Brothers connections and I was able to meet Jim Garner in person! I'm happy to report that Jim was as charming and amiable in real life as he'd appeared onscreen. He was tall and ruggedly handsome even in his mid-50's, and looked every bit like a larger-than-life movie star. The whole cast and crew were very nice to us, and even invited us back to watch the next day when they would be shooting the exterior scenes out on Warners' western street set. To the left is that artwork that he'd signed for me. Though James Garner is getting on and old stunt wounds have taken their toll on his knees, he will always remain my favourite leading actor. They just don't make them like that anymore. Happy Birthday Jimbo!

PS: Here's some happy nostalgia for my fellow boomers!...

14 comments:

Kitty said...

Wonderful drawing(s) as usual. I haven't watched a repeat of 'The Rockford Files' in ages ... will have to look out for those DVDs.

TPD said...

Awesome!!!!I have all of the Rockford DVD's and the Rockford movies!! Consider yourself blessed fo being able to meet Jimbo in person!!!! Rockford Files was indeed my all time favorite show, but I liked everything Garner was in anyway! You are right on about the high quality writing that was done back then compared to most of the rubbish clones that are out there today. Can I ask you what medium you used for the Garner design you did for 08? Brush? size brush? Pen nib? If nib,...what size, type? Or was this all done digitally?

Thanks! Beautiful work!!!

TPD said...

Awesome!!!!I have all of the Rockford DVD's and the Rockford movies!! Consider yourself blessed fo being able to meet Jimbo in person!!!! Rockford Files was indeed my all time favorite show, but I liked everything Garner was in anyway! You are right on about the high quality writing that was done back then compared to most of the rubbish clones that are out there today. Can I ask you what medium you used for the Garner design you did for 08? Brush? size brush? Pen nib? If nib,...what size, type? Or was this all done digitally?

Thanks! Beautiful work!!!

Craig Zablo said...

Wow! Great, great James Garner pieces -- both your art and the commentary! The Polaroid commercial was the cherry on top!

Jenny said...

Nice work! You really got him.

I share your affection for this underrated actor(doesn't everyone?).
I too loved "The Rockford Files", and had a little epiphany of my own with Jim Garner. I'm an L.A. kid and one day while walking from where I'd gotten off the bus from school to our then-house(we lived on the corner of Sweetzer and Fountain-Craig Stevens was our landlord!), I passed a common sight-a crew filming a show on location. They'd taken over a large, vacant corner restaurant on Sunset(later it was Carlos and Charlies-this was in the 70s). As I walked by clutching my books to my chest, suddenly my eyes spied the star of whatever they were shooting, standing quite alone in the midst of all the grips and greensmen--the tallest person there: James Garner! They were filming Rockford! I just had time for my mouth to hang open when he looked over(I was about 15 feet away)--and immediately flashed me both a brilliant smile and a roguish wink, bless him. I blushed scarlet and just...beamed at him, probably giggled like an idiot and continued walking my adolescent way to my house.

Just one of those rare, golden moments--ships in the night! But I can tell you--and you already know--that a lot of stars as big as Garner was then wouldn't have been so charming. Most would have ignored some staring kid.

Pete Emslie said...

Aww, Jenny, that's such a sweet story! In his prime, Jim Garner really was one of the handsomest stars - I always figured if I could have chosen my looks it would have been either like him or Dean Martin.

By the way, I am also quite impressed to learn that your landlord was "Peter Gunn"!

Honolulu Dogfight said...

Thanks for this one! I got hooked on Rockford as a kid, as my dad was a big fan of the show. I've been addicted to the re-runs and now dvd's my whole life since. These drawings are great.
Angel?
Rocky?
I'd love to see your take on those.
thanks,
George

Pete Emslie said...

TPD - For my inking I use a Winsor and Newton red sable watercolour brush, series 7 #2. Any brand of India ink will do. Sometimes I add a bit of cross hatching texture with a Hunt pen nib, though not on this drawing. The colour is added digitally with Photoshop.

George - I'd be tempted to draw up his "Rockford Files" costars as well, as I agree they were a great bunch of characters. Noah Beery Jr. was so wonderful as Rocky, and really looked like he could be Garner's dad. I actually used to have a big crush on Gretchen Corbett as Beth - those big eyes and cute little pug nose!

Jason Miskimins said...

Ha! That caricature of James Garner is awesome!

chuck said...

Man, you got it!

Mitch K said...

Jesus, you drew that when you were 22!? Pete, I gotta catch up!

ALVARO CERVANTES said...

I still love that one interview that Howard Stern did on him at some award ceremony and they ask him something so ridiculous and James Gardner doesn't take any shit and he lays a beating on the guy interviewing him with a cane!
Was the funniest thing ever!
Nice one Pete!
A

Brandon of the Six Aces Gang said...

Pete, I LOVE your caricatures, they're always bang on!

This one looks great!
Hope all is well.

ggg said...

Hey Pete ...
WOW! What a talented artist you are!
And I must say you have excellent taste in TV shows as well!
Thank you so much for the brilliant drawings of my Dad ...
I will print them out for him so he can see them too!
I know they will make him smile ;)
Gigi Garner