The Boyfriend of the Week

August 30, 2005

As you guys all know, I'm not really much of a fan of the romantic comedy genre. In fact, for the most part, I steer as clear of romantic comedies as I do of the gigantic pothole on 15th down the street from our house. I see that asphalt abyss comin' and I yank that steering wheel as far to the side as I can, careening around it at warp speed as I let out a mighty yawp of victory and never look back. On the rare occasion I'm not paying close enough attention and I somehow find myself slamming into that pothole instead of avoiding it, my response is most likely going to involve some swearing, shaking of my fist, and, on a really bad day, the declaration that when I'M Queen of the Universe, potholes will be SHOT ON SIGHT (I never said I'd rule with reason, after all). Luckily, romantic comedies are usually easier to avoid, unless I happen to have made the mistake of putting my twin sister in charge of the movie selection for the night.

But, desperate as I often am to avoid the triple helpings of cheese that typically go hand-in-hand with a rom-com, what you may not know is that there is actually an exception to my "no stupid smooching scenes" rule. That exception is, and you might want to sit down for this because it's going to throw you for a loop --

Doris Day!

I know, I know -- it sounds weird. After all, I too saw "Calamity Jane" and was, as a fan of the Western genre, as completely mortified as you were. In fact, I need only see the picture from the movie poster or video cover to start feeling all vertiginous and queasy. You know -- the one in which she's leaning backwards belting out some inane song, clad entirely in fringed leather? REAL COWBOYS NEITHER SING NOR WEAR FRINGE. And yes, Gene Autry, THIS MEANS YOU.

But honestly, even I could not resist the charms of The Double-D when she is put alongside a hunky 60's male and left do her silly blonde thing. Because nine times out of ten, the result of that combination is sheer comedic genius.

What's strange about this is that while I've seen at least six or seven Doris Day romantic comedies, and loved them all, I had somehow gotten this far along in life without ever having realized she made two of them with this week's Boyfriend, James Garner. And the reason why that's so strange is that I've been madly in love with James Garner ever since the days of "The Rockford Files" (in fact, for years and years, I could never remember his real name and only ever called him "Jim Rockford"). And yet, knowing how totally adorable, funny, and dapper he was in the 70's, it never once occurred to me he might've gotten his start starring in a film or two with America's old sweetheart way back in the 60's.

And had it not been for ye old remote control and a drowsy summer afternoon, I might never have known. As it happened, though, about a month and a half ago, I had spent almost an entire afternoon doing yard work on a hot day and had come into the house to chug a gallon of water and relax. Plunking down on the couch, I turned on the TV and started to flip around. Now, I should probably say at this point, since I've been talking about flipping channels a lot lately, that I never used to be a channel flipper. In fact, until just the last six months or so, I never used to turn on the TV at all without a plan carefully worked out in advance. The problem is that about that long ago, the local newspaper apparently decided that accuracy in reporting (of TV show schedules anyway) is just one of those dispensable things -- one of those things that doesn't really deserve much in the way of time or effort. They probably figured, hey, everybody has TiVo now anyway, who needs a TV guide anymore? Ever since, I, the last person on the planet who still doesn't have TiVo, apparently, have been forced to change the way I watch television.

Now, instead of sitting down every Sunday with my red pen and going through the guide to circle all the stuff I wanted to watch over the next week (and yes, I really did do that), I just chuck the worthless thing into the recycling with the rest of newspaper and leave most of my TV viewing to chance. And what luck I've been having too! Because that hot, tired afternoon, I flipped past the AMC channel just as an old Doris Day movie was firing up.

It was called "Move Over, Darling," and it was just absolutely hilarious from start to finish. Doris Day plays a woman whose husband thinks she's been lost at sea. A few years after she disappeared, he finally has her declared legally dead and then immediately marries another woman. That night, they head off to their honeymoon. . . just as Doris Day returns home after having been rescued off the deserted island she'd washed up on so many years before.

Horrified by the news that James has gotten remarried, she follows the newlyweds to their hotel. And when he sees her, after the initial shock wears off, he realizes he's still madly in love with her. There's just one small problem with this -- he absolutely cannot muster up the gumption to confess to his new wife that his dead wife has returned.

It's just riotously funny, and tremendously sweet and good-natured. I loved every single minute. And as soon as it was over, I logged onto the IMDb to see if they'd made any other films together. Which is how I came to see my NEXT movie in the JG/DD series, "The Thrill of It All."

This one has Doris and James married to each other again. He's a doctor and she's a stay-home Mom. But one night, they go to dinner with some friends and encounter the president of a national soap company. She tells him a funny story about how her daughter had refused to let her wash her hair unless she used that specific brand of soap, and the president loves her so much, he hires her to star in their TV ad campaign. The only problem is, she can't act for beans and she's completely blows her whole first commercial (which was being aired live!). Luckily, her flailing charm woos over the viewers, and soon she's the talk of the town.

Meanwhile, her husband never gets to see her anymore, and though the story ends up going in a direction that I, as a woman of 2005, have to kind of object to on principle (ultimately, she decides to quit her successful career so she can do a better job of being at her husband's beck and call), it's just as fun and entertaining as “Move Over, Darling.”

And, more to the point, we get to see that much more of James Garner, who is without a doubt the cutest, sexiest, most dashing actor of his generation. Need evidence? Check out this picture!

While I was watching these two movies, actually, it got me to thinking about whether or not there are any actors around today who were like James Garner was back in the 60's. Garner has the same qualities, really, that I always attribute to Cary Grant -- he's hilariously funny in a very gently sarcastic sort of way, he's quite happy to make fun of himself whenever called upon to, and he's just outrageously good looking on top of it all. The one word that comes to mind whenever I hear the names "Cary Grant" or "James Garner" is "charming." They are both the very epitome of charming. Dapper, dashing, funny, smart, gentle, self-deprecating. A very unique combination of all the right factors.

I thought about this question for a couple of days, and after wracking my brain and poking through the Boyfriend archives, I could only come with one modern-day actor who sort of fits the same description -- Will Smith. My husband disagrees, but that probably has more to do with the fact that while I was making the case for the Will/James comparison, I accidentally let it slip that I also hoped one day to get the opportunity to slurp shots of tequila off Will's six-pack abs. Prooooobably should've kept that part to myself, in retrospect, because now my husband hopes Will Smith gets hit by a truck. Oh well. Live and learn.

Anyway, if you haven't seen any old James Garner movies lately and you've forgotten just how ridiculously good looking he used to be, you absolutely can't go wrong with a little Doris Day double-feature. But, if you don't care much for romantic comedies (and hey, I hear ya, cuz, like, DEATH TO THE POTHOLE!), there are a lot of other options for you. In fact, as it turned out, there were so many options, and so many of those options were irresistible options, that this write-up took me a MONTH to post simply because I couldn't stop renting and watching James Garner movies. I think I watched more movies prepping for this write-up than I have ever watched for any other Boyfriend. Want the list? Too bad, I'm giving it to you anyway.

Clip and save! And these are in the order in which I viewed them, by the way.

1. Doris Day Double-Feature, as discussed above. "Move Over, Darling" (1963) and "The Thrill of It All" (1963).

2. The Children's Hour (1961). This was a very interesting and wholly unexpected movie for me. It stars Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine as two young women who run a private school for girls. The two women have been best friends ever since they were kids, so it makes sense that when Audrey's character Karen falls in love with a local doctor (played by Garner), Shirley's character Martha gets a little jealous. When that jealousy turns to fear that she might lose Karen once the couple gets married, Martha explodes in frustration, confessing to one of the other teachers how much she cares for Karen. No big deal, except that the confession is overheard by the brattiest kid in the school -- a little girl who is constantly manipulating, lying, and bullying everyone around her. The next time she gets in trouble and is sent home, she gets her revenge on Karen and Martha by telling her grandmother that she has seen and heard the two women having a relationship that goes beyond the boundaries of friendship. In 1961, at a private girl's school, this is grounds for schoolwide panic. And before Karen and Martha even know what's happened, every parent has pulled their child out of classes and their reputations have been smeared nationwide by the media.

To me, this seemed like a really daring film for its time. Not just because it involves the issue of lesbianism, but because it has so much clear sympathy for gay women. Now, I think there are some parts of the movie you could use to disagree with that last statement, particularly the way it ends. But overall, I think the point it tries to make is that gay women are all around us and they're just like us, and they deserve to be respected and loved just like anybody else. To me, that seems daring for 1961. I loved this film. Oh, and by the way, James Garner is a total HOTTIE in a lab coat and stethoscope.

3. Murphy's Romance (1985). I thought I had seen this movie already, to be honest, but after watching the first ten minutes, I realized I was confusing it with something else (I'm not sure what, but I feel certain Sally Field was in it). This is a very entertaining, extremely charming (there's that word again), yes, "romantic comedy" starring Sally Field as Emma Moriarty, a young single mother who moves with her teenaged son (Corey Haim!) to a small Southern town where she struggles to establish herself as a horse rancher. She quickly meets the local pharmacist, an older man played by James Garner, and as soon as she gets to talking to him, she is thoroughly wooed. And can you blame her? By this time, James is 57 years old and he STILL makes my knees all woozy. This would be a great companion film to the two Doris Day ones, actually. See how nicely that young dapper fella grew up!

4. Duel at Diablo (1966). Well, now, I couldn't watch a gazillion James Garner movies without including at least one Western, could I? In fact, I watched three James Garner Westerns, and would've watched four, except the fourth one I thought about renting was "Maverick," and I just wasn't in the mood for Mel Gibson. I started with this one, though, because it's the more "serious" one of the three I picked out. It costars Sidney Poitier, and is about two guys (Garner and Poitier) who end up having to battle a group of Apaches when they attack an isolated outpost. Unfortunately, it's not very good. The pacing is slow and the plot is boringly predictable. Not that Westerns aren't usually pretty predictable (that's the whole point, really, of watching a Western), but this one just didn't have enough of that extra something-or-other you need to make the same old story entertaining in a new way. You can pass on this one. You have my permission.

5. Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) and Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971). But you can't pass on these two, missy, because they are both hilarious and great. In fact, I think "Sheriff" might've actually been the first James Garner movie I ever saw (I so well remember being excited to see Harry Morgan in it -- I've been in love with Harry for as long as I can recall, which I think has a lot to do with the fact his character Colonel Potter reminds me so much of my Dad). Anyway, in "Sheriff," Garner is just passing through a small Western town on his way to Australia (don't ask) when he gets caught up in the town's gold rush. As soon as gold fever strikes, the town goes berserk, and Garner, wanting to stick around to try to strike it rich himself, agrees to take on the job of town sheriff. His sarcastic tongue, clever ruses, and fast gun quickly establish him as the best sheriff the town's ever had (and, of course, he's the only sheriff the town's ever had that has lasted longer than about three days). Commence town cleaning up. Definitely, definitely don't pass on this one, because it is one of Garner's best and funniest films, in my opinion.

"Gunfighter" is weaker, but luckily, Harry Morgan is back for more along with Jim so you can hardly lose. This isn't a sequel, really, because Garner is playing a different character. But the plot is very similar to "Sheriff" (guy passing through town decides to stay to try to make some money), except this time Garner is a con man who decides to pretend to be a famous gunfighter. He hopes to con the town just long enough to earn the money he needs to pay off his debts before the REAL gunfighter shows up and blows his cover. But, of course, things never work out as planned in a movie like this, and a lot of goofy slapstick comedy ensues. It's not as much fun as "Sheriff," but if you like the first one, you'll probably find this one entertaining as well. Plus, is it just me, or does James Garner have the cutest little devilish grin of all time? I love it when he plays someone who is a bit dishonest -- he clearly has so much fun with a part like that!

6. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002). Now, this was the movie I wanted to watch the least and I actually had to kind of force myself to sit down and tune in to it, because I wanted to have at least one relatively recent film represented in the write-up. Ironically, I actually ended up enjoying it quite a bit. How's that for a big ol' plate of crazy? This movie is about a young woman, Siddalee Walker (Sandra Bullock), whose complicated love-hate relationship with her mother has landed her in therapy for most of her adult life. When she has yet another huge blow-out with her mom, her mother's friends, the Ya-Yas (the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is what her mother and friends called their little circle back when they were girls), kidnap her and take her out to an old family cabin where they refuse to let her leave until she agrees to hear the truth about her mother. See, when Siddalee was a little girl, her mother had disappeared for several months, and Sidda always thought she'd abandoned her. But in reality, her mother had left for another reason entirely, one that has left her so ashamed of herself she could never bring herself to confess her secret to her children. Anyway, James Garner plays Sidda's father, and though his role in this is pretty small, his character is vital to both the main women characters -- he's sort of their port in a storm, so to speak. Half the movie is flashbacks to Sidda's mother's younger days, and I just really enjoyed this movie's sense of humor (go Maggie Smith, go!) and style. I fully expected to think of it as an annoying chick flick, but, and mark this day because you won't hear this often, I WAS COMPLETELY WRONG! Rent it; it's fun, and even better, it'll make you a li'l bit misty. Plus, all you guys who have been telling me I need to check out Angus MacFayden (who plays Sidda's boyfriend) can finally relax -- I'm TOTALLY on the Angus-lovin' bandwagon now!

7. The Great Escape (1963). This one I didn't have to rent because I already own it on DVD. And actually, I probably didn't need to watch it either, because I also already have the whole damn thing memorized. This is one of my favorite movies of all time -- one of only a handful of films I consider to be absolutely flawless from start to finish. For those of you who have never seen it (and you must remedy that ASAP!), it's about a group of American and British POWs planning a massive escape from the German prison camp where they are confined. Garner plays "The Scrounger," the guy who can get you whatever you need. And though he starts out as a kind of reserved, almost cold character, he eventually comes to care so much about his roommate, "The Forger," that he ends up risking his life to save him in the end. This is just a wonderful, exciting, funny, and clever film. Don't miss this one!

8. Fire in the Sky (1993). I'd seen this movie before too, several years ago, but I'd completely forgotten that James Garner was in it so I decided to rent it again. It's not bad, actually, as far as alien abduction movies go. It stars D.B. Sweeney as a young logger who is out one night drinkin' in the woods with his buddies when they encounter a strange beam of light. Because he's a logger instead of a rocket scientist (no offense to loggers intended), D.B. goes, "Hey, pull over next to that strange beam of light so I can go stand in it and see what happens!" And, they pull over and he gets out of the truck and goes over to stand in the light, and what happens is that he's immediately beamed up by aliens and tortured with all kinds of disgusting gadgets (I'm cool with anal probes -- well, not COOL with them, I guess -- but the thing with his eyeball just freaked me the heck out). Anyway, after D.B. is sucked into the sky, the local sheriff (played by Jim, of course) pulls all his pals in for questioning about his disappearance. And just as it looks like they're all about to be put on trial for murder, D.B. shows up nekkid at the convenience store in the middle of the night, totally freaked the heck out. Must've been the thing with his eyeball that did it. It's actually one of the more, for lack of a better word, "freaky" alien abduction movies I've seen (and I've seen several). But the whole alien spaceship part goes on for far too long -- it would've been a better film had it left a little more room for skepticism. Nevertheless, it IS a movie full of cute guys (D.B., James, Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, Henry Thomas, and Robert Patrick), so it's probably worth a rental for that alone.

And, that's it! That's the list of the movies I watched just to prepare for this single write-up! A list that doesn't even take into consideration the fact I also, several months ago, had seen two other James Garner movies, "The Notebook" (which I thought was pretty bad, but please don't yell at me for saying that), and "Legalese," a pretty entertaining made-for-TV courtroom drama. That means in the last six months or so, I've seen TWELVE James Garner movies! That's over 24 hours of James James James! And now you understand, I hope, why it took me so dang long to get this monster posted. Once you start watching James do his thing, there's really no stopping until you've exhausted all the promising possibilities. The man simply cannot be ignored! Or taken for granted! Or put in a corner! Or careened around like a pothole on 15th!

And, what's even better about James is the fact that even now, at age 77, he is STILL out there doing his thing. Sure, he looks a little more withered than he did in 1963. His face is a bit on the droopy, wrinkled, splotchy side of things now. But his wit and his unbelievably sexy voice are still as spot-on as ever. And the even better news? Season One of "The Rockford Files" is coming soon to DVD! I don't know when yet, but you can already stick it in your queue at Netflix, which is a very, very good sign. Ah, life. You are sometimes veddy, veddy good to me.

MacGyver Factor Score: 98.62% I took a smattering of points off because my GOD was this write-up exhausting to put together. Honestly, the man has made so many movies I thought I might never be able to stop renting them and get back to the work of writing. Couple that with the fact I hit a mid-August slump in terms of motivation to do much of anything, including work on the web site, and what you end up with is one of the most pathetically overdue write-ups in Boyfriend history! I totally blame James Garner for this. Because, um, blaming myself just isn't as much fun. La la la! I love being the boss!

Tune in next week for another installment in the "Grave Dodgers" series! And by the way, I'm experimenting with skipping the biography section of the write-up to see it helps keep the write-ups a little bit shorter (and get them posted a little bit faster). If you want to learn about Garner's history, check out the Boyfriend-Related Links below!


Boyfriend-Related Links

James's IMDb Page
James Garner OnLine
James's Museum of Broadcast History entry (good bio info)
Rockford Files fan site
Netflix's James Garner collection


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