This woman is not James Garner's Wife
Some catchy commercials have brought Mariette Hartley fame, fortune-and a mistaken identity. By Ellen Torgerson.
Mariette Hartley spends lots Of time telling people that she isn't married to James Garner. And that she has an equally handsome husband of her very own. And that they have two beautiful and bright children, And that she is perfectly happy being Mrs. Patrick Boyriven. And that she doesn't even know the real Mrs. Garner.
Poor Mariefte. Fame has its pernicious price. For years, she could walk down the street unrecognized by the masses of humanity. If anyone noticed her, it was because she looks like the kind of tall, rosy-cheeked, Baltic blue-eyed blonde millionaires want to marry.
Now, since the advent of the Polaroid commercials in which she and James Garner charmingly exchange 10 to 60 seconds of battling marital bad-in age about a camera, people come up to her and say, "Don't I know you?"
' They probably, at first, thought I was their high-school teacher," Mariette says modestly. "Now they ask me if I'm not Mrs. James Garner." Since Marietta has done some 30 commercials with Garner -in the past year and a half, one sees why viewers think she is married to the hero of not only the Polaroid ads but of The Rockford Files. "it [the commercial] didn't start out to be husband and wife," Marietta says. "But now I know why people think Jim and I are married. We talk in husband- and-wife banter."
Garner shrugs it oft as nonchalantly as the casually humorous Rockford would: "It's OK with me," he says' But he admits maybe "it bothers my wife a little bit."
Nor is Mariette herself spared the discomfiture arising from mistaken identity. During much of 1978, pregnant with her second child, she finally took to wearing a T-shirt that pro-claimed, in bold letters: "THIS IS NOT JAMES GARNER'S BABY." (A mild fad ensued and other ladies took to wearing the same T-shirt.)
"When Justine was born," Mariette says, "I had a T-shirt made for her that said: 'NO, I AM NOT JAMES GARNER'S BABY'." That's as far as it went. Marietta amused herself with the idea of two more annunciatory T-shirts. One for Sean, her 3-year-old boy, saying: "MY FATHER IS NOT JAMES GARNER." And one for her French husband, Patrick, an ad executive: "I AM NOT JAMES GARNER."
Before any of this fortuitous notoriety came to Mariette, she had already earned a reputation as a fine actress. Born in New York City and bred in Weston, Conn., she had started acting at 8 in a marionette theater. At 14, she received a scholarship to study Shakespeare, Chekhov and Ibsen with Eva Le Gallienne, and then was awarded another by John Houseman to the American Shakespeare Festival Theater. Later, she appeared with Bert Lahr in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Married at 19, Mariette went off to Hollywood at the behest of her new husband, a publicist, where her first movie part-after some difficulty getting it-was in an acclaimed masterpiece: the role of the young bride in Sam Peckinpah's "Ride the High Country." "I've never topped it," she says.
But trouble loomed. Her marriage faded, her father died, a suicide, and she was, in her own words, "on the verge of a nervous breakdown." At this point, she went to a psychoanalyst. Four and a halt years later, Marietta rose from the couch forever. But the relationship with her analyst continued: on her wedding day, he gave her away.
Before Polaroid, Marietta did any-thing and everything her craft demanded of her-Gunsmoke, M*A*S'H, The Incredible Hulk, "The Last Hurrah." And 35 episodes of Peyton Place job she genuinely loathed: "The character I was playing was supposed to be frigid. I didn't smile for 35 days. On my last day I smiled."
Her selection as Mrs. Polaroid was a real fluke, she says. "I auditioned. I found myself in a group of all these pretty, model types. When that happens, I know I'm not the one they'll want. But they asked me to come back.
"The first day on the set," she recalls, "Garner came over and gave me a big hug and said he was thrilled I'd gotten the part. Working with him is like good tennis. Jim is sweet and very supportive of me; he didn't sign his new contract until they offered me more money." Mariette is now happily negotiating with Polaroid for an ex-tended contract..
Perhaps her next T-6hirt should read: "THOUGH I'M NOT MRS. JAMES GARNER, I THINK HE'S WONDERFUL."
Mariette Hartley index page