James Garner, a legendary actor from Hollywood, had a troubled upbringing due to the influence of his first stepmother. His love life suffered as a result, and it became more challenging to be with him after that terrifying incident.
James Garner, the famous actor, is said to have come from a poor family. His grandfather, Weldon Bumgarner, owned and operated a hardware business that also served as a post office.
In the rear of the business was where Bumgarner resided with his family: his wife, Mildred Scott Bumgarner, and their children, Charlie, Jack, and James. James was just four years old when the family grandmother passed away. This was a sad event.
Another tragedy befell Weldon when the family business was destroyed by fire, and he was forced to seek employment in the carpet-laying industry. Because there was no mother figure in the home, he battled as an alcoholic to keep everything going smoothly.
As a last ditch effort, the parent of three children decided to disperse his offspring among other members of the extended family. Weldon was able to bring his children back together after six years thanks to his second marriage to Wilma.
After relocating, the newly formed mixed family settled into a leased house that would eventually turn out to be an unhappy home. Weldon didn’t stop drinking even when he found work as a volunteer firefighter, but he did manage to accomplish both.
In his autobiography titled “The Garner Files,” James said that he and his brother Jack were able to hear their parents bickering all the time since they lived in such a tiny place. He said in his account, “They battled like two men.” Furthermore, the actor from “Maverick” said that Wilma was the one who picked on him the most:
“I have no idea why, but she has been picking on me in particular. She assigned all of the unpleasant responsibilities on me, and if there was an issue that required a scapegoat, it was always me.
James related how his stepmother, who was known as “Red” due to the color of her hair, used to dress him up in dresses and demand that everyone refer to him as “Louise.” That grew to be his standard form of discipline for each transgression he committed.
“Red enjoyed dressing me up in dresses and having everyone refer to me as ‘Louise.’” Whenever I made a mistake of any kind, I was required to go put on the outfit. “My brothers would make fun of me and nickname me Louise, which would eventually lead to a fight,” James said, adding that he would go into hiding following the confrontation.
The actor from “The Great Escape” has stated that the traumatic event had a significant impact on him. He withdrew into his own little world, and it was a protracted process before he ultimately emerged from his cocoon. James said that he did not want to experience shame and humiliation ever again since he despised being mocked.
James felt as if he had a real mother in his new stepmother.
It was very fortunate for him that his father eventually got divorced from Wilma and remarried another lady whom he loved very much. According to Weldon’s son James, his father married a “nice lady” called Grace when he was far into his seventies.
Even though she was not his biological mother, he referred to her as “Mama Grace” since she was so unlike his biological mother. Grace made a significant improvement in James’s life:
“I adored her. She was the one person in my life who most resembled a mother figure to me.
James, on the occasion of his eighteenth birthday, contacted his father in Texas to beg for fifty dollars. Grace was able to listen in on the discussion taking place between the man’s father and his son. He informed the man’s son that he did not possess it.
She took over the phone and assured her stepson that everything would be OK the next morning. James disclosed the fact that she sent him the money through wire transfer, which enabled him to get back on his feet when he lost his job:
“I was there for her every step of the way for the remainder of her life.”
After working a never-ending string of odd jobs, James finally used his excellent looks to obtain a spot as a swimming trunks model, which paid him $25 an hour. But he was unable to continue working there, so he went back to Oklahoma.
Before he found himself working in the industry by complete chance, he had never even given acting a second thought. While James was working as a gas station attendant with a guy named Paul Gregory, who aspired to be a theatrical agent, Gregory saw that James’ rough appearance may get him into Hollywood. Gregory told James about his observation.
James was driving through Los Angeles some years later when she spotted a sign that read: “Paul Gregory & Associates,” and he chose to enter inside the business after seeing the sign.
He was surprised to learn that a former colleague of his was now working in the theater industry. Gregory was successful in securing him a role in the 1954 Broadway production of “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” that did not need him to speak.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, James reflected on the event and stated that, looking back on it now, he had a difficult time “staying up.” He was honest enough to admit, “I had no lines, and I had difficulties staying up.”
While he was living as a prominent person, the traumatic experiences he had had as a youngster continued to bother him as an adult. James previously claimed to have engaged a “PR guy to keep people away from me,” adding that he was particularly concerned about women:
“When I was a youngster, I was the definition of a wallflower, and ladies still terrify me.”
JAMES FOUND THE PERFECT PARTNER AND BEGINNING A CAREER FOR HIMSELF AND HIS FAMILY.
Despite this, he went ahead and tied the knot regardless of his concerns. When James met his one and only wife, Lois Clarke, she was a divorcee with a daughter called Kim. At the time, James was just starting out as an actor and making the bare minimum. The star of “The Notebook” fell head over heels in love at first sight.
James said in his autobiography that he fell in love with Clarke the moment he saw her for the first time on August 1, 1956, at an Adlai Stevenson rally: “When I saw Clarke for the first time, I fell in love with her.”
It was like falling in love all over again. The so-called “thunderbolt.” She was as lovely as she was endearing to everyone she met. From the time we first made eye contact, I couldn’t get enough of her. Still am.”
As a result of an occasion involving a BBQ, he found himself in the pool with children, and it was at this time that he was able to engage in conversation with Clarke. A few minutes into their talk, she disclosed that she had a daughter named Kimberly from a previous marriage. James went on to explain that Kimberly had been affected by polio.
After that point, the two began to see one other on a daily basis until the day of their wedding, which took place 14 days later, on August 17, 1956. The Beverly Hills courthouse served as the setting for the happy couple’s wedding.
However, James’s family did not approve of the couple’s relationship, stating that they had very little in common and that their personalities could not be more different from one another. In spite of the opposition, Clarke and James decided to be married, and they spent their honeymoon at the La Jollan, a historic hotel in San Diego. They stayed there for three days and two nights.
James said that it was all they could afford due to the nature of his employment as a contractor. Therefore, there was nothing particularly luxurious about the accommodations.
They were newlyweds when they leased a modest apartment in Sherman Oaks on Dickens Street. The unit was convenient to their place of employment and within the couple’s price range since “money was tight.”
During this time, James’ daughter, who was referring to Clarke’s kid as “my daughter,” was released from the hospital but was in a fragile condition as a result of her condition. Later on, however, her esophagus became paralyzed, which rendered her unable to swallow, and she was thus readmitted to the hospital.
While James was scrambling to find employment so that the pair could afford treatment, Clarke learned that not only was she carrying the couple’s first child together, but she was also pregnant. A year later, in January 1958, the couple welcomed their daughter Gigi into the world.
James soon found himself shouldering an increasing number of responsibilities and taking on the role of primary provider for his family of four. The famous actor from television has stated that he had no clue what he was doing when he first began acting:
I was aimlessly wandering about in the hopes of striking it rich.
The actor, who is now a father of two, has remarked that having a family has helped him take his his job and life more seriously. James was aware that he needed to maintain his composure in order to provide for his family, and although he gladly accepted the duty, he was also burdened by it.
Thankfully, the additional pressure caused him to sharpen his concentration as an actor and inspired him to develop a profession rather than just going through the motions.
Following his appearances in advertisements, he moved on to starring roles in television series and later films. The signing of a contract with Warner Bros. for a period of seven years was James’s big break.
However, the role that he played as the main actor in the Western TV series “Maverick,” which ran on television from 1957 through 1962, is often regarded as the defining point of his career in Hollywood.
James became a household name overnight because to his performance as Bret Maverick, the show’s antagonist. On the silver screen, he was a leading man who starred alongside Hollywood starlets such as Julie Andrews, Doris Day, and Audrey Hepburn, amongst others.
HIDDEN ROCKS OF JAMES & LOIS’ 58-YEAR MARRIAGE
While this was going on, things at home began to get difficult. Although James and his wife Clarke had the appearance of being the ideal pair, they did struggle with some problems.
In April of 1985, his brother Jack gave an interview to People in which he said, “Being married to Jim is not easy because of the way people fall all over him.” James dismissed the accusation with laughter and stated that he had never cheated on his wife.
Although he had previously worked with lovely women, the “Grand Pix” actor told Clarke that he had made it his “job not to fall in love with them.” At the time, the “Grand Pix” star was considered a sex symbol.
At that point in time, the couple had already been through two divorces; the first one lasted for three months, and the second one, which occurred in 1979, lasted for 18 months. During this time, James became romantically involved with the actress Lauren Bacall, who appeared in three films with him, including “Rockford” and two more.
James refuted the charges and said that there was never any strain in his relationship with Clarke. He said that the primary problem was the stress from working on “Rockford,” and that he wanted to get into a decent headspace:
“Lois and I were never in any kind of significant difficulty. The pressure from ‘Rockford’ was responsible for 99 percent of the issue. It wasn’t us; it was just me wanting some time apart to gather my thoughts and figure things out.
While this was going on, Clarke shared with her friends that her husband was a “complex guy” who was keeping his pain to himself. She claimed that James developed into a lonely and deprived individual due to the fact that he had to endure an abusive upbringing. The traumatic experiences that James had as a youngster followed him throughout his whole life.
However, his marriage to Clarke remained one of Hollywood’s long-lasting relationships until he unfortunately died away 58 years later. James died from natural causes in July 2014 in Brentwood, LA. He was 86.
The man’s wife and two kids also survive him. He was originally from Oklahoma. Seven years later, the tragedy that was his life’s love also took her own life.
Gigi, the couple’s youngest child, took to Twitter in October 2021 to break the heartbreaking news to their followers. She wrote, “Please excuse my absence, but my mother Lois Garner, born July 6, 1923, has passed away,” and attached a grainy black and white photo of her parents from their younger years. The age of Clarke was 98.