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'MAVERICK' ACTOR 'MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING GOOD.

Byline: Valerie Kuklenski Staff Writer

James Garner, who has played everything from a handsome cardsharp to a frail grandfather, was praised for his talent in reacting as much as his acting in the presentation of the life achievement award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday.

The star of TV's ``Maverick'' and ``The Rockford Files,'' all well as numerous movies, was saluted by Mel Gibson, who played his Maverick character in the film remake, and Julie Andrews, who co-starred opposite him in ``The Americanization of Emily'' and ``Victor/Victoria.''

Garner, 76, was played on the stage to the ``Rockford'' theme and greeted Andrews with a warm hug and kiss. Audience members were on their feet, but he bid them to sit down.

``Don't do too much of that - I get very emotional,'' he said. ``I don't know if I deserve this award, but please, for tonight, you'll forgive me if I act like I do.''

Garner said he was unsure how he managed to earn a place beside other lifetime honorees such as Sidney Poitier, Edward Asner, Ruby Dee and her late husband, Ossie Davis.

``We actors, we seldom know how we're perceived by others, but this award lets me know, hey, Jim, you must have done something good.''

He thanked his wife of 48 years, Lois, as well as his fellow actors, before putting in a good word for the Screen Actors Guild itself.

``I've been a member of this guild for over 50 years, and it's a great guild,'' he said to the members in the house. ``You take damn good care of it.

``And now I get to go to work next week (on the series '8 Simple Rules') and start on my second lifetime.''

Earlier in the evening, Garner, who had been nominated for ``The Notebook,'' lost the supporting actor award to Morgan Freeman of ``Million Dollar Baby,'' but Freeman then saluted Garner with a verse from the ``Maverick'' theme song.

Before Garner was called on stage, clips were shown highlighting his career.

``There's a lot of things you forget,'' Garner said after watching the film. ``They bring up pictures, and I say, 'Oh, my god, I did that like in '63.' I enjoy them, but I never liked to watch my work. It's not that I'm not happy with it. It's just that I'm unsettled ... (but) it brings back fond memories.''

Valerie Kuklenski, (818) 713-3750

valerie.kuklenski(at)dailynews.com

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(color) James Garner, accepting the life achievement honors at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday, waves audience members back to their seats.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 6, 2005
Words:437
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