James Scott Bumgarner and Lois Josephine Fleishman Clarke did nearly the impossible for both Hollywood couples and average married couples. They met, married, and remained in each other’s corner, even through poor health, for nearly a lifetime. According to the New York Times, the couple was reaching nearly 58 years of marriage before the American actor passed away in 2014 from a heart attack in Los Angeles, California. He was 86 years old.
James Garner and Lois Clarke’s 14-Day Love Story
In 1956, James Garner had yet to play roles as popular as Bret Maverick in movies and tv series. The pair met at a friend’s pool party and again a few days later at a Democratic presidential rally. Garner asked her out to dinner that night, and she accepted. They then proceeded to have dinner together every night for 14 nights. Soon enough, against the advice of some friends, but mostly family, they got married. Their families didn’t think that two would work out because of their backgrounds and religious views.
While Lois Clarke was local to Los Angeles and came from a Jewish background, the soon to be Academy Award winning movie star, Garner, was a Methodist from Oklahoma. There was also the fact that Lois had her daughter Kim(Kimberly) from a previous marriage, who also happened to be recovering from polio. Nevertheless, Garner later adopted her, and the Hollywood couple had their daughter Gigi Garner(Greta “GiGi” Garner) a few years later.
The Rockford Files
Over the years that the two were married, their love story would face its own set of trials. One of which was the 18-month separation during the filming of the television series The Rockford Files. According to Garner, who played private investigator Jim Rockford, he and his wife Lois were never in any real danger. They separated due to the pressures that The Rockford Files was putting on him and his family. He is quoted telling PEOPLE Magazine that “Ninety-nine percent of the problem was the pressures of Rockford. It wasn’t us, it was me needing to get away to get my head together.”
Garner made the effort to keep good working relationships with the actresses he worked with, but to keep even better relationship with his wife. He will be forever remembered for being a wonderful actor appearing in roles from Maverick, The Great Escape, 8 Simple Rules, Grand Prix, Murphy’s Romance, The Children’s Hour, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and The Notebook. He will also always be remembered for being a dedicated, caring husband.
The Garner Files: A Memoir
Simon & Schuster published Garner’s autobiography, called The Garner Files: A Memoir. The book details the life of Garner, explaining everything from the abuse he suffered from his stepmother, to graduating from University of Oklahoma in Norman, to working on films with Sally Field and Steve McQueen, to smoking weed the majority of his life.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 23, 2019.