Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
by Tommy Towery
One of the reasons I was a little later getting this week’s issue published is the fact Sue and I just got off a train after spending 33 hours crossing this great nation of ours from Denver to San Francisco. We are currently visiting a college friend and after he picked us up at the station we got to talking and catching up on events and before we knew it I was exhausted and headed for bed.
Last week Sue and I flew to Denver and spent a week visiting an old Air Force buddy and then on Friday we boarded the Amtrak train California Zephyr headed west. Since it was going to be such a long trip we booked a sleeper to allow us to thoroughly enjoy the trip better than we could if we had to sleep in the reclining coach seats.
I have to admit it was a wonderful experience and we never once got bored nor even had to resort to any of the multiple things we took to help us pass the time. We rode through the Rocky Mountains and through tunnels and over bridges testifying to the skill and abilities of railroad workers. Because we had booked the sleeper, all the meals were included in our fare and we enjoyed two breakfasts, two lunches, and a flat iron steak for the one dinner meal we ate.
There were only a few places we stopped including the major cities of Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Salt Lake City, and Sacramento being the most recognized. We enjoyed sitting in the glass Observation Car watching the various views of the countryside and the comfort of the sleeper, and talking to various dinner companions assigned to eat with us.
For anyone considering a similar journey, I give it my highest recommendation. For us it filled a spot in our bucket list and will always be remembered as our summer of planes, trains, and automobiles.
Walnut Creek, California - Enjoying a few days visit with an old college friend then we will be off to visit the daughter in Southern California for a while and then winging our way home after that.
TV Westerns of the 50s and 60s
A Tribute to James Garner 1928-2014
by John Drummond
One of the first entries in our series remembering TV Westerns featured "Maverick", a breakout role for James Garner, who died this past week at age 86. He was born James Scott Bumgarner (some references say Baumgarner) in Norman, Oklahoma. His mother died when he was only 5 years old; friends and relatives cared for him and his two brothers for a time while his father was in California. In 1957, he married TV actress Lois Clarke, who survives him after 56 years of marriage.
As his character Brett Maverick, and in a later TV series "The Rockford Files" (1974-1980) he was best known for his low-key, wisecracking style, and quick-witted avoidance of conflict. When challenged to a duel, he preferred to "get out of Dodge" rather than face off a mean cowboy in a gunfight.
Throughout his film career, James Garner demonstrated versatility in comedies, suspense, Westerns, action films and drama. His only Oscar nomination came in 1985 for "Murphy's Romance" opposite Sally Field. His favorite film was "The Americanization of Emily" (1964), a cynical World War II drama, opposite Julie Andrews. Ken Megginson and I saw it at Woody's Drive-In (We must have not had dates, because I remember we both sat in the front seat). He and Julie Andrews co-starred again later in "Victor, Victoria", (1982), a musical comedy which was a hoot.
Other personal favorite films of mine include "The Great Escape" (1963) with Steve McQueen and Sir Richard Attenborough, and "Space Cowboys" (2000) with Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and Marcia Gay Harden. In the latter film, the four actors play retired, aging astronauts who are called into service to repair a broken space station that the four had put together many years ago. In one scene, the female doctor, (Harden) has them all stand up in a line, shoulder-to-shoulder, totally nude, so she can inspect their bare backsides. According to Garner, when asked by a film critic, "there were no stunt butts" used during this scene.
He even scored in commercials. During the late 1970s, he was paired with actress Mariette Hartley in a popular series of ads for Polaroid cameras. Their on-screen banter felt so authentic that many viewers mistakenly believed that they were actually husband and wife.
The persona he perfected was never less than manly, good with his dukes, and charming to the ladies. But his heroics were kept human-scale thanks to his gift for the comic turn. We guys wanted to either BE James Garner, or hang out WITH him. He remained one of the people.
TCM will run a 24-hour Marathon of his films beginning tomorrow, Monday July 28, at 6:00 A.M.
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