James Garner’s family was against his marriage to Lois Clarke. Here’s the truth behind their tumultuous love story

When James Garner met Lois Clarke, he knew he had found the one and only lady he had been looking for. But things did not go as planned, and not everyone was pleased with their partnership.

Garner was born on April 7, 1928, in Norman, Oklahoma, to Weldon Warren “Bill” Bumgarner and Mildred Bumgarner. He was the third and final kid.

Charles Bumgarner and Jack Bumgarner were his two elder brothers. He was born during the Great Depression, when life was difficult for families.

Garner was just four years old when his mother died of uremic poisoning following a botched miscarriage. Following her death, the children were sent to the homes of other family members.

Three years later, after their father, Weldon, married for the second time to a lady they dubbed “Red,” the family reunited.

Unfortunately, Red verbally and physically tortured the boys, particularly Garner, whom she would dress up for and encourage his brothers to name Louise. Red allegedly loved abusing the children, and their father was of little assistance to them.

Weldon worked as an upholsterer and carpet installer, but he also struggled with alcohol. He’d come home intoxicated and force the kids to sing for him or face a beating.

After Red and Weldon separated, he relocated to Los Angeles, while Garner remained in Oklahoma. Later, he dropped out of school and worked odd jobs.

He also lied about his age in order to join the Merchant Marine towards the conclusion of WWII, but he only stayed for a year. He subsequently relocated to Los Angeles to live with his father, who was married to his third wife.

Garner began his education at Hollywood High, but that did not endure. He dropped out of school because he made more money working as a model for “Jantzen Bathing Suits” than his professors did.

His modeling career was cut short when he was inducted into the United States Army for the Korean War in 1950.

Garner was injured on his second day in Korea when a shrapnel fragment struck him. He says that a South Korean soldier jumped on him while he was looking for a foxhole, causing his shoulders to pop out of place and his knees to get hurt.

While recovering in the hospital for three months, he was awarded two purple hearts and returned to America. After that, he fell into acting by chance. An old buddy, a talent agent, approached him and promised him a job.

Garner was given a small part as a judge in the film “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.” Despite the fact that he was not the lead, he took advantage of the chance to learn from the film’s star, Henry Fonda.

Warner Bros. gave him a film deal after the picture was released in 1956. Garner had no desire to be an actor since he only wanted to make money. Following that, he co-starred with Marlon Brando in the 1957 film “Sayonara.”

His next role in the TV drama “Maverick” catapulted him to international recognition. He was cast as the lead in the comedic Western series, which regularly mimicked earlier westerns.

The series was not expected to fare well because it aired on the ABC network and competed with shows such as “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Steve Allen Show.”

It unexpectedly became the hottest show at the time, winning Sunday night time slots. After a while, Garner became enraged with the show’s producer and sued Warner Bros. for underpaying him. He won the case and then left the program.

Following his departure, film director William Wyler gave him the role of a compassionate doctor in the film “The Children’s Hour.” Two years later, he played Lt. Bob in the military film “The Great Escape.” He appeared in the film “The Americanization of Emily” in 1964.

However, his career apparently stalled about the time he participated in the “Grand Prix” (1996). The 1969 film “Support Your Local Sheriff” was a box office hit, but the 1971 sequel “Support Your Local Gunfighter” was not.

He quickly earned an Emmy for his role as Jim Rockford in “The Rockford Files.” After that, Garner starred in movies like “Tank” (1984) and “Murphy’s Romance” (1985), for which he was nominated for Golden Globe and Academy Awards.

He also appeared in “Sunset” with Bruce Willis. Garner garnered rave reviews for his roles in “Barbarians at the Gate” (1993) and the 1994 version of “Maverick” opposite Mel Gibson.

Garner and Clarke met at a Democratic Party rally for presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 1956. They had met in the pool the day before at a BBQ party given by a friend.

He invited her out to dinner that night, and he did so for the next two weeks. After that, they married on August 17, 1956, in Beverly Hills.

Garner’s family was opposed to marriage due to their differences. He was reared as a Methodist, but Clarke was Jewish in addition to being a native Los Angeleno.

The actor noted in his 2012 biography “The Garner Files” that neither he nor Clarke were religious, thus it was not a problem for them. He did, however, agree that what others perceived as their faults turned out to be their strengths.

Clarke, who had previously been married, had a daughter called Kim from his former marriage. Garner didn’t care because he had adopted the youngster. The couple had a child named Gigi two years after their marriage.

The actor’s marriage to Clarke lasted 57 years and was fraught with difficulties, including a three-month separation in 1970. This happened again in 1979, and this time the separation lasted 18 months.

Rumors circulated at the time that Garner was having an affair with his co-star Lauren Bacall, but the actor quickly denied the allegations. According to People, the actor and his wife have never had severe relationship problems.

He attributed the troubles that arose to his involvement in the film “Rockford.” As a result, he was forced to sue the show’s producer, MCA/Universal.

Garner says that he was cheated out of their money even though he owned 37.5 percent of the movie.He was also hurt while executing various feats, and when he discovered that no money was forthcoming, he became sad.

Garner needed to take some personal time away from the business and his family to consult with a therapist and straighten things out before everything was wrecked.

The Emmy winner thanked his wife for staying with him through it all, despite her own desire to be a superstar, which she abandoned when she realized the celebrity lifestyle was not for her.

Clarke was Garner’s staunchest supporter, describing him as a difficult man who suffered and covered up a lot of anguish, owing in part to his childhood and his mother’s death.

James Garner, 86, died of natural causes in July 2014. His wife, Lois, and daughters, Gigi and Kimberly, survive him. The chairman of the actor’s union sent a condolence letter to the actor’s family.

His daughter, Gigi, described her father as a kind man after his death. She revealed that the actor worked hard to stay in her life no matter where he went.

Garner would go first, according to Gigi, if she chose to leap over the balcony into the pool. She said that her father was the nicest person ever and that he couldn’t say no to a child. Her friends respected him not just because he was famous, but also because he was fun to be around.

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