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James Garner ‘Couldn’t Talk’ to Women Yet His Co-star Thought He Had an Affair With His 1st Wife

Stephen Thompson
Mar 02, 2022
06:20 A.M.
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Legendary American actor James Garner was famous for portraying handsome characters on television, yet he found it hard to talk to women. Find out more about his off-screen relationships and life. 


James Garner was an American actor famous for his roles in several television series and a hugely successful career that spanned seven decades. 

Garner played handsome characters like Bret Maverick in "Maverick" and Jim Rockford in "The Rockford Files." He also starred in the famous film "The Great Escape."

James Garner, US actor, wearing a blue Royal Air Force uniform, in a publicity portrait issued for the film, "The Great Escape," circa 1963. [left], Portrait of James Garner and Marie Windsor on "The Quick and the Dead" on December 8, 1957[right] | Source: Getty Images


Despite being good-looking and tall, Garner could not talk to women easily. He admitted to this in a reported interview in 1981.

When asked if he was frightened about romance, Garner said he was scared about it. He further revealed that he had known women who he melted around. 

Garner said he could not talk to women because he was afraid he might do or say something wrong that would make them dislike him. Thus, he remained silent out of fear. 

James Garner on January 4, 1967 | Source: Getty Images


Although Garner was scared of talking to women, it did not stop his co-star from suspecting him of sleeping with his wife. 

Garner had a love-hate relationship with his "Great Escape" co-star Steve McQueen, who he wrote about in his book. 

Garner and McQueen were neighbors, and whenever the former was not around, the latter would urinate on his co-star's balcony. 

James Garner and Lois Clarke circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images


Garner wrote McQueen was jealous of him because he (McQueen) had wrongly suspected that Garner once had an affair with his wife. 

Garner wrote in his 2011 memoir, "The Garner Files," that McQueen was not an actor but a poser who cultivated the image of a macho man. He said he believed McQueen was insecure. 

He also mentioned in the memoir that his other "The Great Escape" co-star Charles Bronson was a difficult person to work with who used and abused people, which he disliked. 

James Garner and wife Lois Clarke on August 25, 1991 | Source: Getty Images



Besides starring in famous films and television series, Garner also featured in popular commercials like the Polaroid ads. 

Garner featured in the hilarious Polaroid ads alongside Mariette Hartley, an actress who played his wife in the commercials. 

Initially, Hartley was meant to come in for a day's work, but after her instant connection with Garner, they started doing the ads back and forth.

James Garner and wife Lois Clarke in Westwood, California in June 2004 | Source: Getty Images


Polaroid turned the pair into a winning comedy team with their famous ads and sold millions of its OneStep cameras during the holidays. 

Garner and Hartley's chemistry in the ads was so great that many people believed they were a real-life couple. 

The assumption that the pair were in a relationship was so much that Hartley started wearing a T-shirt that read, "I AM NOT MRS. JAMES GARNER." 

James Garner as Sheriff Jim Nichols in "Nichols" in 1971. | Source: Getty Images


She also had one made for her son and husband, Patrick Boyriven, that read "I AM NOT JAMES GARNER'S CHILD" and "I AM NOT JAMES GARNER," respectively.  Garner could not help but join in on the fun by sporting a T-shirt with the words, "I AM MRS. JAMES GARNER."

Hartley's appearance in the famous commercials earned her recognition, and she soon bagged a role in "The Rockford Files." 

James Garner on February 5, 2005 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images


Hartley remembered Garner during an interview with the Chicago Tribune. She revealed that he taught her so much about comedy before adding

"People got attached to us, and nobody could do that sort of thing with such grace and humor as Jimmy. I just loved working with him."

James Garner at the 39th Emmy Awards. | Source: Wikimedia Commons


Hartley also lauded Garner for being humble despite being a tough guy. She remarked that he never came off as a "know-it-all," explaining

"You know what the key was to Jimmy's success? He listened. Just like Henry Fonda on screen, like Spencer Tracy, Jimmy really listened. I don't know how you can act without that."

James Garner at the Walt Disney Studios on 31, October, 2005. | Source: Getty Images



Due to his admittance that he feared talking to women, one would be forgiven for thinking Garner never tied the knot. However, the truth is that he was married to one woman for nearly six decades. Impressive!

The woman in question was Lois Clarke, who Garner spotted at a rally for Democratic Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson in 1956. 

Before Garner spotted Clarke at the rally, they met a few days at the pool during a friend's barbecue. Garner was instantly smitten by Clarke as he flipped out over her, stunned by how gorgeous she was. 


American actor James Garner and his wife Lois Clarke on March 1,1964. | Source: Getty Images

Garner did not delay making his advances at Clarke as he asked her out to dinner. She accepted his request, and they went out that night and every night afterward for two weeks. 


The lovebirds tied the knot 14 days after their first meeting at the Beverly Hills courthouse on August 17, 1956. 

Garner's family objected to the marriage. Their reason for doing so was Clarke's Jewish origin, which contrasted with his Methodist background. However, the lovebirds were not religious and did not consider such hindrances as issues. 

James Garner and his wife Lois Clarke at an event. | Source:


In "The Garner Files," Garner wrote that he and Clarke saw as strengths what others considered to be weaknesses. 

Clarke's marriage to Garner was her second. She was previously married and had a daughter named Kim from the relationship. 

Two years after tying the knot with Garner, they welcomed a daughter named Gigi. Garner adopted Kim, solidifying his family in the process. 

James Garner in a portrait photo with his family in 1959. | Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain


Garner and Clarke were married for 57 years until his death in 2014. However, the couple endured difficulties in their marriage. 

For instance, they separated for three months in 1970, 14 years after their marriage. In 1979, they separated again, this time for 18 months. 

At the time of their second separation, Garner was filming "The Rockford Files" and rumored to be in a relationship with Lauren Bacall, who guest-starred on two episodes of the series. 


However, he always denied those speculations and insisted that his marriage to Clarke was never in trouble. Garner revealed that the major reason for their separation was him needing to spend time alone to get his head together and away from the pressures of filming "Rockford Files."

Garner and Clarke raised their family quietly. He valued his family so much, a fact his daughter Gigi alluded to during an interview with Closer Weekly. She said

"I really hit the jackpot with my dad. He was the type of father that got down on the floor and played with you. He was very present. The greatest father in the world."

Actor James Garner poses for a portrait in 2004 | Source: Getty Images

Garner died of a heart attack on July 19, 2014. He was 86. The legendary actor had endured a brutal childhood and survived a war before enjoying a successful acting career.

Also, he found love in a beautiful woman with who he shared his life for many years and enjoyed being a father to his kids. He will always be remembered as a Hollywood icon and an incredible family man.