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James Garner Said Wife Lois’ Job Was to Make His Life ‘Comfortable’ after His Parents Condemned Their Marriage

Gracious Egedegbe
Mar 30, 2022
09:40 P.M.
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James Garner and Lois Clarke had been married for more than a decade when rumors that the actor was unfaithful made the rounds. Did they overcome the trying time? Find out.

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Before his demise, James Garner was majorly known as an American actor and producer. Born in Norman, Oklahoma, on April 7, 1928, the star's movie career skyrocketed after appearing in the 1957 Western TV series "Maverick." 

The show lasted for three years, after which Garner featured in other hit movies like "The Great Escape," "Victor Victoria," and "Grand Prix." Garner also had a wonderful love life apart from having a successful career.

[Left] Actor James Garner with his wife Lois Clarke attends a party in Los Angeles, California, circa 1962; [Right] James Garner and wife Lois during "The Notebook" - Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California | Source: Getty Images

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He was married to Lois Clarke for 57 years before their marriage ended in 2014 due to his death. Here are details about the actor's exceptional relationship with his wife, whom he called "tough" and "stubborn."

JAMES AND LOIS' TWO-WEEK LOVE STORY 

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

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Clarke is a native of Los Angeles. Her love with Garner began at a Democratic party rally for Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 1956. 

The lovebirds had met a few days earlier at the pool courtesy of a barbecue party a friend organized. The actor explained that for him, it was love at first sight.

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

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"I just flipped out over this girl. She was gorgeous," Garner revealed. "I asked her to go to dinner that night. We went out every night for two weeks and got married," he added.

On August 17, 1956, the pair tied the knot in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, Garner's family was against the union because of their religious differences. 

James Garner and his wife Lois Clarke at an event. | Source: Youtube.com/AssociatedPress

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The actor was born and raised a Methodist, while his wife was Jewish, apart from being a longtime Los Angeleno. In his memoir "The Garner Files," released in 2012, the actor stated that neither he nor Clarke was disturbed about their religion. Garner wrote:

"But neither of us was ever what you would call religious, so it wasn't an issue, at least not for Lois and me."

Actor James Garner with his wife Lois Clarke attends a party in Los Angeles, California, circa 1958 | Source: Getty Images

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Instead, he admitted that what others saw as their weakness became their strength. In his words," None of the naysayers had stopped to consider that Lois and I complemented each other. What they saw as weaknesses, we saw as strengths."

Two years after they walked down the aisle, the couple welcomed their daughter, Gigi. In addition, Garner adopted Kim, Clarke's daughter, from a previous relationship.

THE COUPLE'S TWO SEPARATIONS AND GARNER'S LOVE SCENES 

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

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Garner and Clarke's marriage spanned 57 years, and like every other union, it was not void of rocky situations. In 1970, the couple had issues that led to a three-month separation. Eventually, they got back together but separated nine years later for 18 months.

During that time, rumors emerged that Garner was having an affair with his co-star Lauren Bacall, but the actor denied the rumors. During an interview, the "Grand Prix" star revealed:

"Lois and I were never in serious trouble, and everything is fine with us now — 99 percent of the problems was the pressures of Rockford. It wasn't us, it was me needing to get away to get my head together."

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Actor James Garner and wife Lois Clarke attend 24th Annual SHARE Boomtown Party on May 21, 1977 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California | Source: Getty Images

The star often claimed to be faithful despite filming love scenes with beautiful actresses. One of the love scenes was with Blair Brown, and although Garner said nothing about his wife's thoughts, his brother Jack opened up about how difficult it must have been for Clarke. He said:

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"It's not easy being married to Jim because of the ways fans fall all over him"

In his response, Garner noted, "I've worked with a lot of great-looking actresses, and I make it my business not to dislike any of them. I also make it my business not to fall in love with them either."

INSIDE THE COUPLE'S MARRIED LIFE: LOIS' DREAM, JAMES' PAST

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

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Garner was undoubtedly one of the most talented actors, but the icon had a terrible childhood. His mother passed away when he was four, and his father left him and his brothers with relatives.

Eventually, Garner's father remarried and reunited with his boys a few years later. Sadly, the woman physically abused Garner and his brothers. He recalled:

"Whenever I did anything wrong, she'd put me in a dress and make everyone call me 'Louise'.'"

The terrible experiences affected the actor so much that he decided to stick up for people being bullied. Even while on set, Garner would jump in whenever a director began to abuse people. 

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Although the actor seemed strong, Clarke revealed that he covered up a lot of hurts, which fuelled her decision to drop her acting dreams and care for her husband. She relayed:

"Jim is a rather complicated man and is covering up lots of hurt. Growing up, he was abused, lonely and deprived." 

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

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During an interview, Garner spoke candidly about his marriage and how Clarke took good care of him. He declared:

"She's tough, she's tough because she's always on my case…  She's always on the phone telling, 'I don't like this, I don't like that. Fix this, Fix that.' But she does it in a way that I don't find out until it's too late. But she has great taste."

In addition, Garner noted that Clarke was a great helpmate. "She takes care of me. I mean my life is so good because she sees that I'm comfortable and I have what I need, and that's her job, that's her life," he confessed.

James Garner in a portrait photo with his family in 1961 | Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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For Garner, having his wife stick with him irrespective of the problems was one of the best experiences. "She stuck with me. I guess she's stubborn too," the actor admitted.

Seeing everything he had experienced in marriage, Garner confessed, "Marriage is like an army. Everyone complains, but you'd be surprised at the large number of people who reenlist."

WHAT KIND OF FATHER WAS JAMES GARNER

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

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Balancing parenthood and an acting career is one of the most challenging tasks, but Garner pulled it off effortlessly. He was a doting father to his daughters, making Gigi full of praises for the star, even in death. In her words:

"The truth about my dad is that people think he's like he was on TV, but there were many sides to his personality. He was funny and jovial; in fact he was the funniest person I ever knew, so witty and so quick. At the same time, he was shy and introverted in some respects."

She further said, "He had a different mindset and went about things, even in the industry, much differently than other people did. He had a core sense of moral values… he was truly an exemplary human being."

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Actor James Garner poses for a portrait in 2004 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Even though Garner was a movie star, Gigi only saw him as her father. "I don't look at my dad as some TV star or movie star. I look at him as, 'Oh, it's my dad.' Just like you would look at your dad," Gigi noted. She continued:

"But I do realize that I'm very lucky that I do get to see him anytime I want to because he's immortalized on film and TV.  A lot of people don't have the privilege."

Garner was ever-present for his kids, and even though he is not alive, Gigi still considers him the greatest father in the world.

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