James Garner’s memoir “The Garner Files” was published today, and far from being a glossed over look at his career, it’s very much matter of fact.
Although he defends actors who express their political views, he is critical of those who run for office.
“Too many actors have run for office,” he writes. “There’s one difference between me and them: I know I’m not qualified. In my opinion, Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t qualified to be governor of California. Ronald Reagan wasn’t qualified to be governor, let alone president. I was a vice president of the Screen Actors Guild when he was its president. My duties consisted of attending meetings and voting. The only thing I remember is that Ronnie never had an original thought and that we had to tell him what to say. That’s no way to run a union, let along a state or a country.”
Garner writes that he was asked to run for Congress in 1962 as a Republican, and “it didn’t stop them when I told them I was a Democrat. …They just thought I could win.” In 1990, Democratic leaders approached him about running for governor of California, but the discussion got to the issue of abortion and Garner says he answered, “I don’t have an opinion, because that’s up to the woman. It has nothing to do with me.” The conversation pretty much stopped there.
Garner is what he calls a “bleeding-heart liberal,” having participated in the 1963 civil rights March on Washington and later advocating for a number of progressive causes. He voted for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, he writes, but never cast a ballot for a Republican again. He voted for Adlai Stevenson in 1956, and calls him “the most intelligent presidential candidate we’ve ever had. I think Obama runs a close second.”
He’s also critical about Charlton Heston — either as an actor or defender of civil rights. As Garner describes it, Heston appointed himself leader of the Hollywood group that went to the March on Washington, and even tamped down a suggestion by Marlon Brando that the performers chain themselves to the Lincoln Memorial. But the next year, Heston switched parties and backed Barry Goldwater.