Yes, I've celebrated his birthday for the last couple of years on this blog and I aim to keep on doing it. Jim Garner remains my all-time favourite actor and I never get tired of watching his many great film roles and sketching my impressions of him. For this year's caricature, I watched The Great Escape, the classic WWII film from 1963, which was based on the true story of a POW prison breakout. Jim Garner plays Lt. Hendley, also known as "The Scrounger", for his ability to scrounge all manner of raw materials from within the camp that can then be jerry-rigged into usable tools to be utilized in the digging of not one, but three tunnels to the woods outside the fence!
The Great Escape is a hugely thrilling epic that I've watched a number of times over the years, though I try to limit my viewings so that it still feels fresh every time I watch it. There's a lot of humanity in the film, most notably in the friendship that develops between Garner's Lt. Hendley and Blythe, "The Forger" played by British character actor, Donald Pleasence. Just prior to the planned breakout, it's decided that poor Blythe is to be left behind in the camp due to the risk he presents to the mission, having suffered a deterioration of his eyesight to the point of near blindness. Hendley insists that Blythe still be included, offering to take full responsibility for getting him out and away under his protection. That act of kindness and human decency is a trait I like to attribute to Jim Garner in real life, too. Jim has always been outspoken on various issues on which he takes a principled stand, often being honest to the point of bluntness in his opinions. Many of his film roles have portrayed him as, if not the typical "hero", then certainly the "reluctant hero" who may wish to avoid trouble if he can, but will rise to the occasion when necessary.
As I've mentioned in a past entry, I got to meet Jim Garner back in 1982 when he was starring in NBC's Bret Maverick, a sequel series to his classic original Maverick from about 20 years before. Here is a photo that was taken on that occasion showing me and my friend Bryan Stoller with Jim, actress Darleen Carr and singer/actor Ed Bruce on the set at Warner Brothers. I wish that I'd had a better camera - where was digital when I needed it? Also, I'm kicking myself for having blinked when the pic was taken! Still, I'm happy to report that Jim Garner was as charismatic and nice in person as he often appears in his film and TV roles, and it was such a thrill to meet him. Happy Birthday, Jim!