Ask anyone of my generation or younger, and they’ll probably tell you that James Garner is “the guy from The Notebook.” My response to that is, “WHAT?!” Seriously though, today we lost another great: actor, James Garner passed away at the age of 86. To many, he wasn’t just that guy from The Notebook. He was Bret Maverick, and Jim Rockford. He was the unlikely movie star with two purple hearts from the Korean War. He appeared on Broadway, once, in a non-speaking role in The Caine Mutiny Court Martial where he learned and honed his craft. In the 50s and 60s, westerns were big on television, and James Garner turned the character of Bret Maverick into an icon. He found television success again in the 70s as another icon, Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files. Even with his numerous television successes, including an Emmy for The Rockford Files, he managed to find fame on the big screen too. He starred in The Great Escape, and received a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1986 for Murphy’s Romance. In 1994, he starred in the film version of Maverick, with Mel Gibson stepping into the shoes of the famous gambler, and Garner as Marshall Zane Cooper. In his later years, he starred in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and yes, The Notebook. He was a versatile actor who needs to be recognized for his impressive career. Rest in Peace James Garner, you were my mom’s favorite actor. You were more than the guy from The Notebook: You were a Maverick.
This is a clip from Garner’s famed series, Maverick, with Clint Eastwood looking for some trouble:
Most people who aren’t theater buffs probably know Elaine Stritch, who passed away today at the age of 89, from her role as Alec Baldwin’s mother on 30 Rock. I’ve known who Elaine Stritch was since I was first introduced to the cast album of Stephen Sondheim’s Company as a teenager. The show contains many famous Broadway melodies, one of which became Stritch’s signature song, “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Starting her career at the age of 17 in New York City, Stritch knew everyone from Marlon Brando to Ben Gazzara to Kim Stanley and of course, composer, Stephen Sondheim. She was nominated for a Tony Award five times and won three Emmys, one of which was for 30 Rock. Her gutsy personality and unique talent will not be forgotten. She’s influential to many of those who make their livings in the theater nowadays. So, if you’re at a bar tonight, have a vodka stinger and raise your glass to a one of a kind woman: Elaine Stritch. I’ll drink to that.
He got an Oscar nod for Revolutionary Road, starred in everything from big budget blockbusters like Man of Steel, to indie films like Take Shelter, and still finds time to get back to his theatrical roots onstage in NYC. Michael Shannon has been one of my favorite actors since I saw him in 2006’s adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play Bug. Like most actors, I have a list. My fellow actors will know it well. It’s a mental list comprised of people we dream of working with. We want to act with talented people. We want to spar with them, connect with them, act our hearts out with them. Well, he’s one of those actors. He’s on my list. Boy he’s one of those actors that just makes me go, “I want to study more. I want to get even better. I want to get to be as good as him/her.” His subtly in Revolutionary Road was so good, that there were moments where I forgot he was playing a character. He has a range that is hard to match nowadays and is someone who knows when to get back on the boards (the stage) and stretch his acting muscles to keep them sharp.
Everyone has someone who they want to work with. I love working with interesting actors who make me want to strive to be better. As a character actress, I love watching other character actors. I love wanting to push myself to not necessarily be like the actor I admire, but emulate the kind of intricate characteristics that make up the people they play. Michael Shannon’s performances are complex and it’s those complexities that make him a fantastic actor. Michael Shannon, if you ever read this, I want to work with you. Seriously. We need to make this happen.