Sunday, July 5, 2020

Jack Garner, longtime film critic and friend to Louise Brooks, dies

Jack Garner, longtime Rochester, New York film critic and friend to Louise Brooks and the Louise Brooks Society, has died at the age of age of 75. Garner was the longtime film critic for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Garner began reviewing films for the paper in 1977, beginning with the original Star Wars. A decade later he was chosen the chief film critic for Gannett newspapers, and provided reviews for more than 100 newspapers. He retired in 2007, though continued writing freelance arts columns. The Democrat and Chronicle ran an article earlier today noting his passing and recounting Garner's career, "Jack Garner, legendary film critic and institution in Rochester arts world, dies at 75." The Rochester NPR station, WXXI, also carried a remembrance. Read or listen to it HERE. Another local station, WHAM, also carried the news.

Jack Garner at the Little Theater in Rochester, NY - via WXXI

Garner's longtime residence in Rochester made him a local legend. He was a trustee at the Eastman Museum, and the second recipient of the museum's prestigious George Eastman Medal of Honor. Earlier this year, Garner was elected an Honorary Trustee of the Little Theatre. Garner's residence in Rochester also brought him into contact with the city's famed silent film star, Louise Brooks. Garner spoke with Brooks a number of times before her passing, and visited her at her Rochester apartment. He wrote a number of article for the Democrat and Chronicle about Brooks, and on a number of other occasions, quoted Brooks in articles on other films stars she new. Garner's journalism related to Brooks constitutes a noteworthy body of work on the actress. Garner also wrote the introduction to Peter Cowie's 2006 book, Louise Brooks, Lulu Forever.

I considered Jack a friend, and am grateful for his coverage of the Louise Brooks Society. In fact, he first mentioned the LBS in an article in the year 2000, twenty years ago. His piece, about film websites, described the LBS as "A fine example of a fan page, a thoughtful, artful site devoted to the life and times of a fabled silent movie legend, with rare articles from the '20s and superb photos." It was great exposure for my then 5 year old site: the article also appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Nashville Tennessean, Louisville Courier-Journal, Shreveport Louisiana Times, Asbury Park Press, Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, and and numerous other newspapers around the United States.

Over the years, Jack was also kind enough to have written about and reviewed each of my books in the pages of the Democrat and Chronicle, including most recently, my 2018 book, Louise Brooks, the Persistent Star. He also wrote up my DVD audio commentaries on Diary of a Lost Girl and Beggars of Life, giving each favorable notices.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Garner in 2015 when I visited Rochester and the Eastman House (now Eastman Museum) on a research trip. We met for dinner, and talked all night about Louise Brooks. That's when he so graciously signed my copy of Louise Brooks, Lulu Forever, "Any friend of Louise is a friend of mine...." The following day, Jack and I and documentary filmmaker Charlottle Siller appeared on WXXI to speak about the silent film star at the center of our lives. I am pictured below on the far left, Charlotte Siller is center, and Jack Garner is at the center right. Host Megan Mack is far right. You can listed to out conversation HERE.

I don't know what else to say about Jack. We remained in touch over the years, and were also friends on Facebook. He was a big guy - standing 6'9". He was also a fine fellow, someone greatly interested in the world, and in jazz. (Some of Garner's interests / journalism is contained in his 2013 book, From My Seat on the Aisle: Movies and Memories. There is also a chapter on Louise Brooks.) He also shared a Pulitzer Prize, for his pre-film critic journalism when he covered the Attica prison riot in 1971. I will always remember Jack, and will be grateful for his support and interest in Louise Brooks and my work.

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