Entertaining real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on December 2nd, 2014

James Garner: Who survived a hellish early life to become a Hollywood superstar.

James Garner
James Garner   Photo: news.com.au

Born in 1928, Jim grew up in Oklahoma, a child of the Great Depression. His mother died when he was just 4 years old, and he was beaten severely and humiliated by his stepmother.

At the age of 14, Jim left his family and thereafter was on his own, struggling to support himself.

Over the years, he hauled sheet rock, was a dishwasher, a dockworker, a janitor, a hod carrier (carrier of bricks to a bricklayer), carpet layer, chicken processor, and he held various other jobs, all to keep a roof over his head and food on the table.

One time between jobs, Jim got so hungry; he survived by stealing crackers off restaurant tables.

Then in 1950, he was drafted into the Army to fight in the Korean War.

Twice Jim was wounded. The second time, under enemy attack, he rolled down a hill, dislocating his shoulder and damaging his knees, injuries he would live with for the rest of his life.

But Jim survived the war.

Six months later, he was in Los Angeles working for his dad as a carpet layer. One day while driving in Hollywood Jim's life changed dramatically, when he saw a building sign that read, "Paul Gregory and Associates."

Several years earlier, Jim had worked in a Los Angeles gas station and befriended Paul, a fellow Oklahoman who worked at the drug store across the street.

Paul believed he would one day be a big Hollywood agent, and told Jim he would "represent" him if Jim became an actor.

As the years passed, Paul indeed became a big Hollywood agent.

Jim hesitantly drove into the crowded parking lot, and just then a woman pulled out of her parking place in front of the building.

"It was fate," Jim later recalled, saying if that space hadn't been there he would have driven away, and not have met with Paul, who convinced him to become an actor.

Paul then got Jim an acting job and Jim's remarkable acting career had begun.

Jim not only succeeded as an actor, but as a result of the trauma of his childhood, he became a producer who cared for his crew, getting to know their names and taking an interest in their lives. They became family to him.

But we can't end our story without discussing a part of Jim's life most people are unaware of:

On August 1st, 1956 he went to a political rally where he met Lois Clarke.

"It was love at first sight," Jim would later say. "Within the first few minutes she told me she had a daughter from her first marriage, Kimberly, who had polio."

17 days later, Lois and Jim got married. They would soon have another daughter, Gigi and their marriage continued for the rest of Jim's life, 58 years.

For Lois and their daughters provided Jim with the stable, loving home he had never known, one he deeply needed and valued, and he became a loving husband and father.

Editor's Note: The primary source for this two part story was "The Garner Files: A Memoir" by James Garner and Jon Winokur (2011)

In the next KazanToday: A disabled rights activist whose actions led to major changes that helped the disabled worldwide.

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