Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer Under the Stars: James Garner

Movie Dearest continues our daily previews of Turner Classic Movies' month long "Summer Under the Stars" celebration:

Now Playing Star Profile for James Garner - Stardates: Born April 7, 1928, Norman, Oklahoma. Star Sign: Aries. Star Qualities: Easygoing charm, fine sense of humor, knack for ironic underplaying. Star definition: "Jim is funny and dear, and he laughs at my jokes." -- Sally Field. Galaxy of Characters: Lt. Commander Charles E. Madison in The Americanization of Emily, Mister Buddwing in Mister Buddwing, Philip Marlowe in Marlowe, Jason McCullough in Support Your Local Sheriff!

Two years before he started fighting crime in primetime on The Rockford Files, Garner starred as a small town police chief faced with a murder by Doberman in They Only Kill Their Masters. This low budget potboiler is mostly remembered (if at all) as the last feature filmed on the famed MGM backlot before it was bulldozed and sold off to developers. Nevertheless, it does contain some "celluloid closet" content that figures into the plot; cue the spoiler warning.

Seems the murderer is not a dog but a psychotic repressed lesbian played by ... June Allyson! That's right, MGM's Miss Wholesome Girl-Next-Door is behind all the canine carnage; among her victims is Allyson's former Good News co-star Peter Lawford. Throw in some tacky set decoration and homophobic slurs (courtesy of Garner and his love interest Katharine Ross) and you may want to skip this one and watch Garner deflower Julie Andrews in The Americanization of Emily instead.

They Only Kill Their Masters, which also features a surprisingly all-star cast including Hal Holbrook, Tom Ewell, Edmond O'Brien, Arthur O'Connell and Ann Rutherford, airs tomorrow on TCM at 11:30 PM EST.

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