An East Texas town is remembering the famous actor who put their small city on the map. James Garner, best known for his role in a 1970’s TV show, The Rockford Files, died at age 86. You may also remember his role as the elderly Duke, in "The Notebook."
Garner earned several awards for his work, but for folks in the town of Maydelle, it was the movie “The Long Summer of George Adams,” that had the biggest impact. Garner and crew spent about a week in 1981 filming that movie at a building in Maydelle. Locals said they will always remember the actor’s kindness as they drive by that old building.
Though the building has since aged, through the cracked paint, you can still make out the words Cushing Hotel.
“Henry Glidden ran a meat market there all during World War II,” Glen Ezell, a local shop owner, said.
It was never really a hotel. It was first built in 1911 as a bank, and then used as a market until it sat vacant for years only to be used again as a set for a James Garner movie.
“When he did the movie here in Maydelle I worked security for him and he was just so friendly to everybody and it surprised me that he was that friendly,” Joe French, a Maydelle native, said.
French was a state trooper at the time and spent his off hours protecting Garner.
“I never heard him say a cross word to no one on the screen or in the movie or anything. He was just as nice as he could be,” French said.
The tiny town of just over 200 people was suddenly bombarded by Hollywood actors and all that came with them.
"Some of the old timers got a little upset about all these people here,” Ezell laughed.
It was a time and an encounter many in the town said they’ll never forget.
“We just all gathered up out there, it was right out there, it was a whole field full of people, I mean, if that’s what you want to call it out there,” Wanda Ezell, Glen’s wife, said.
He was kind to the community while he was there, they said.
“I had people come up and start talking to him and I said he’s waiting for another picture or shot, they called it, and he’d say I can talk to them for a little bit and he was just as friendly with everybody,” French described.
The actor spent time signing autographs. Despite his fame, they said he was just one of them for that short week.
“It’s sad that he’s gone. He was a great actor,” Glen said.
More than that, they said, he was an even better person.
“You know, as far as I’m concerned I’ve lost a friend,” French said.
Garner was found dead in his Los Angeles home Saturday night. Officials said he died of natural causes.
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