James Garner’s Career
Television audiences may best remember James Garner for the iconic characters that he played on the shows Maverick and The Rockford Files, but his two daughters remember him best as a loving and playful father! Fatherhood meant quite a bit to James. His stepmother and alcoholic father had abused him and his brother as children. While James could’ve easily perpetuated this cycle, when it came time to raise his own children, he decided to break the chain! Join Facts Verse as we find out how James Garner truly felt about fatherhood.
Over the course of James Garner’s career, he starred in dozens of feature films. He was even nominated for an Academy Award. However, it’s hard to deny that the actor remains most fondly remembered for his television work, which included starring in the hit shows Maverick and The Rockford Files. Those two shows came on the air around 15 years apart, with Maverick beginning in the late 1950s and The Rockford Files beginning in the 1970s. James found a good deal of success over the entirety of his career, even outside of these two successful shows.
James Garner’s Childhood
One of the reasons that James was so particular about his family life was that his childhood had been incredibly difficult. James grew up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. His father was a man by the name of Weldon Bumgarner, who ran a hardware store. James had two older brothers, and his mom died when he was only four years old. According to James, he believed that his mother, who was half-Cherokee, had likely died during a botched abortion.
Although James Garner was a Hollywood actor that achieved massive notoriety during his lifetime, the star preferred to stay out of the spotlight. This was especially true when it came to his family, which consisted of his wife and their two daughters. One of these daughters, James had adopted from his wife’s previous marriage, while the other is James’ biological daughter, Gigi. During the height of James’ stardom, his family lived in a rural area of Los Angeles.
James Garner’s Parents
Sometime after his mother’s death, James’ father’s shop burned down. It was at this point that Weldon turned to laying carpets to make ends meet for him and his family. It was around this time that Weldon’s alcoholic habits began getting worse, causing him to begin abusing James and his brothers. Weldon would often arrive home drunk after long days of laying carpets. When it came time to feed his sons, he would drunkenly force them to sing songs, otherwise, they wouldn’t get their dinner. Not only that but refusing to sing for their dinner would typically result in the kids getting beaten.
At some point, Weldon divided his three sons up and sent each one to live with a different relative. Perhaps wisely, Weldon had decided that he was unfit to be a parent. However, he changed his mind when he later remarried, calling for his three sons to come back home to him and their new stepmother. Once they came back home, the abuse that they had suffered previously only got worse. Not only that, but now Weldon’s new wife was joining in on the abuse.
Weldon’s new wife was a woman by the name of Wilma, though Weldon called her “Red”. She was perhaps even more physically abusive than Weldon was, often beating the kids with tree branches that they were forced to whittle down themselves before each lashing. Of the three children, James received the most abuse. In addition to the typical beatings, Wilma would often force James to wear her dresses and makeup so that she could ridicule him.
His Teen Years
Eventually, James grew to be a teenager. When this happened, it was only a number of days before the young adult was bound to snap. When James was 14, he decided that he had endured enough abuse at the hands of his stepmother. One fateful evening, James snapped and attacked his stepmother out of self-defense. While she was beating him, he turned the tables on her and pinned her to the ground. He began to strangle her, though he was pulled off by his father before he could finish the deed. According to James, he would’ve likely killed her if he could have.
After James snapped, Weldon once again decided that fatherhood wasn’t for him. He left James and his siblings to fend for themselves then headed off alone to find work. James would subsequently do many things before achieving Hollywood stardom and starting a family of his own, including fighting in the Korean War. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! While you’re at it, subscribe to the channel! If you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
James Garner’s Time in the Navy
After being left by his father, James Garner joined the merchant navy for a short period in the final days of World War II. Sadly, James didn’t end up faring very well in the merchant navy, as being on the ships made him seasick. After quitting his position in the merchant navy, James worked a variety of menial jobs. This included working as an underwear model, which proved to be his first flirtation with work in the entertainment industry.
In 1950, James Garner was drafted into the Korean War. During his time in service, he was awarded two Purple Hearts due to the fact that he was wounded twice. The first wound was caused by a piece of shrapnel that had come off of a mortar round. The second wound came from a fighter jet’s accidental friendly fire rounds. Certainly, it seems that James saw plenty of action while he was serving.
James Garner’s Life After War
After James returned from the war, he resumed working various menial jobs. At some point, he even got in touch with his father and began laying carpets with him. James also worked as a gas station attendant during this period, which is where he met a man by the name of Paul Gregory. Paul told James that he was interested in starting up his own talent agency. Not only that, but he told James that he felt that the young man had potential as an actor.
James didn’t think much of Paul’s words at first, but he remembered them when he saw Paul’s name on a talent agency sign many years later. Upon seeing the sign, James decided to pay his old friend a visit. This is how James ended up officially making his entrance into the entertainment industry. The first role that Paul got for his new client was in The Cain Mutiny Court-Martial. Though the part wasn’t a speaking role, it would lead to bigger things!
James Garner’s First Role
In 1957, James appeared alongside Marlon Brando in the film Sayonara. However, that same year was also the year that James debuted as the character of Bret Maverick. Maverick ran from 1957 to 1960, and James became famous for playing the titular card player. In 1974, James was given his role on the show The Rockford Files, playing the character of Jim Rockford. That show would last twice as long as the one that preceded it, running from 1974 to 1980. By the time The Rockford Files was done, James had been a successful television star for well over two decades!
James Garner and Lois Clarke
James was only married to one woman during his life, and he died by her side. That woman is Lois Clarke, who is still alive today! The two met in 1956 while they were attending an event for a presidential candidate by the name of Adlai Stevenson. The two apparently fell in love immediately, and it was only two weeks later that James proposed. Although many rushed marriages are doomed to fail, James and Lois’ ended up lasting for well over half of a century!
Despite the fact that James and Lois were truly in love, their families didn’t support their union due to differing religious beliefs. The two tied the knot anyways, and James adopted Lois’ daughter from a previous marriage. Soon after getting married, James and Lois had Gigi.
James Garner as a Father
Since James didn’t have a very good childhood, he wanted to ensure that his two daughters did. According to Gigi, James was a great father to her and her half-sibling. Gigi has said that James was the type of father who didn’t mind getting down on the floor and playing with the girls on their level. This is something that not every father is willing to do.
Although James never let his issues affect his family, he still suffered anxiety during his adult years due to the turbulent times that he had experienced growing up. James often suffered from anxiety and depression during his adult years, though he preferred to take it out on himself instead of those around him. According to Gigi, she never knew the pain that her father was going through during these dark episodes.
James Garner’s Health Issues
Many believe that James’ anxiety caused him health problems over the years. One health problem that is often attributed to his anxiety is the ulcers that he sufferd from during the 1970s. It was around this time period that James’ anxiety was at it’s worst, and it caused him to separate from his longtime wife for a short period of time. This is also while James was filming The Rockford Files, which was incredibly physically demanding on the actor.
James ended up getting back together with his wife and staying with her until his death in 2014. His cause of death was a heart attack, and he was 86 years old at the time. After his death, Gigi created the James Garner Animal Rescue Fund in her father’s honor.
Although audiences best know James Garner for his television roles, it seems that he was just as memorable in the role of real-life father to his two wonderful girls! Comment down below to share if you were surprised to learn about James’ difficult childhood or if you were glad to learn that he was able to break the cycle of abuse when it came time for him to start a family of his own. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!