James Garner in 1961’s Angel

Looking out for your favourite actor in an unfamiliar setting is nothing new, the chance to see them in a role other than their hit TV show or film usually a welcome one.

The downside to being a fan of actors who enjoyed much of their fame in the 1950s, 60s or 70s, on TV and at the cinema, is that trying to track down their various TV movie exploits or guest appearances on other series can be tricky. Thanks goodness then for YouTube.

While carrying out a periodic search for new James Garner and Robert Culp clips (we all do that, right?) I stumbled upon an episode of a US comedy called Angel from 1961, starring French-born American actress Annie Fargé as the lead character.

With its title sequence looking like a dry run for Bewitched, which wouldn’t air for another four years, this short-lived CBS comedy from the creator of I Love Lucy found Fargé playing a heavily accented French woman, who now lives in America with husband Marshall Thompson. Hilarious escapades follow Angel as she battles with American culture, while the series keeps cutting away to commercial breaks, which even the actors are forced to take part in.

There’s not much to recommend about Angel, even though TIME Magazine went for Fargé in a big way, claiming she was the “brightest newcomer to comedy.”

The reason I mention the programme at all is that the February 23 episode, The French Lesson, features James Garner, playing himself. Garner needs to learn some lines of French for his new role, and Angel is recommended to him. His arrival turns Angel’s head, and she soon begins to think she too can become a famous actor, changing from meek housewife to glamourous wannabe in the space of 15 minutes.

Garner, who had recently left Maverick but who had a number of film roles to his name, fits in perfectly to the set-up, his effortless style well suited to the sitcom role. This must have been an easy pay cheque for Jim, as there’s nothing particularly taxing about the role, he gets a few decent lines and it’s all over before it even began. Had he not decided to settle on a movie career, I suspect a role in a weekly sitcom would have suited him, something he did finally manage to do 40 years later, when he arrived in Eight Simple Rules as the grandad.

It’s a bit of an oddity for Garner, and I can’t see a connection between any of his previous roles, a director or producer for example, which suggests how he ended up here, but perhaps the money was good. If IMDB is to be believed, this would be Garner’s last TV role for around a decade, until he returned in 1971’s Nichols.

Thanks to YouTube we can now see the episode in full, though if you can stomach a second helping of Angel then I’ll be impressed:


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