Usually plump and always decidedly "ethnic," this dependable character player of stage, screen and TV was already nearly 30 years old when he made his film debut with a memorable bit as a "smut peddler" in Brian De Palma's "Greetings" (1968). This once daring comedy about draft dodging and other happenings in Greenwich Village was fairly typical of the kind youth-oriented films from the counterculture with which Garfield quickly became associated in the late 1960s and early 70s. No one's idea of a hippie, Garfield could typically be found during this period playing sleazy small businessmen, gabby hustlers and lumpen proletarians.
Then in a satirical mode, young writer-director De Palma looked upon that unglamorous but richly expressive mug and saw a philosophical porno producer teaching the tricks of the trade to aspiring filmmaker Robert De Niro in "Hi, Mom!" and a brassy brassiere salesman in "Get to Know Your Rabbit" (1972). Michael Ritchie cast him as the extroverted Producer who crafts slick political spots for Robert Redford's campaign in "The Candidate" (1972) while Francis Ford Coppola capitalized on Garfield's smarmy qualities for "The Conversation" (1974), wherein he played an alternately chummy and envious competitor of surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman). Garfield worked with Coppola again on "One From the Heart" (1982) and "The Cotton Club" (1984). He held his own amid the large colorful ensemble of Robert Altman's "Nashville" (1975), as the protective husband of fragile C&W star Ronee Blakely.
Often effectively cast as showbiz execs--some crass, some sympathetic, Garfield has personified the ambivalence that some filmmakers feel toward their industry. Reviewing his portrayal of MGM lion Louis B. Mayer in "Gable and Lombard" (1976), DAILY VARIETY wrote that Garfield was "one of the most subtle and versatile character actors in films today, giving his. . . interpretation an even-handed blend of autocracy and sincerely-felt paternalism." On the other end of the Hollywood food chain, he was convincing as the screenwriter resigned to being dominated by director Peter O'Toole in Richard Rush's "The Stunt Man" (1980) and a desperate indie film producer in Wim Wenders' "The State of Things" (1982). Garfield sole outing in a feature starring role came playing a cheap detective in John G Avildsen's "Cry Uncle/Super Dick" (1970), an X-rated, soft-core comedy thriller.
A native of Newark, NJ, Garfield had paid his dues as a working journalist long before stepping in the limelight. He started out as a copy boy for the NEWARK STAR LEDGER and worked his way up to sports reporter before taking up the reins of managing editor for the LINDEN LEADER in Linden, NJ. Garfield even did a stint Down Under as a staff writer for Australia's SUNDAY MORNING HERALD. He also boxed in his youth, retiring as an undefeated Golden Gloves champ. At some point, Garfield segued to acting, studying drama at the Anthony Mannino Studio and the Actors Studio. At the latter, he learned from such masters as Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman and Elia Kazan. In turn, Garfield was the founding director of the Actors Shelter where he teaches acting and directing. He has also remained active on the stage as an actor and director.
Garfield's 1968 film debut preceded his bow on the Broadway stage ("Inquest," a 1970 drama about the Rosenbergs) and his inaugural TV guest shot (a 1971 appearance on "Mod Squad"). The small screen has provided him with steady employment opportunities, playing cops and/or crooks in TV-movies and miniseries, starring in a busted sitcom pilot ("Sonny Boy" CBS, 1974, directed by Rob Reiner), numerous guest shots and several recurring or two-part roles including a detective on "Matlock" and psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Kadalski on "Chicago Hope." His only stint as a series regular was on the limited sitcom series "The Boys" (Showtime, 1989) as "Sir" Arnie, the cookie king. He was affecting as UN chief counsel Abe Feller who falls prey to the machinations of anti-Communist lawyer Roy Cohn (James Woods) in "Citizen Cohn" (HBO, 1992).
Garfield's recent feature credits include supporting roles in three critical and commercial flops of 1995: "Stuart Saves His Family," "Destiny Turns on the Radio" (as a music industry biggie) and "Diabolique" (as a wimpy teacher). He has also received a Filmmakers Grant from the American Film Institute to direct his original screenplay for "Allegiance," a political thriller in which he will also act.
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Film acting debut, played Smut Peddler in Brian De Palma's "Greetings", a draft evasion comedy; first collaboration with the writer-director
First feature starring role, "Cry Uncle/Super Dick", an X-rated comedy feature
Broadway acting debut, "Inquest", a play by Donald Freed about the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Played Joe Banner, a philosophical porno producer who guides aspiring dirty filmmaker Robert De Niro, in De Palma's "Hi, Mom!", a sequel (of sorts) to "Greetings"
TV acting debut, a guest shot on "Mod Squad"
TV-movie acting debut, "Footsteps", a CBS crime drama
Starred as 35-year-old mama's boy Sonny Waller on "Sonny Boy", a busted CBS sitcom pilot
Played major supporting role in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" as a rival of Gene Hackman's surveillance expert; first collaboration with producer-writer-director Coppola
Played the protective husband of a fragile C&W recording star (Ronee Blakely) in Robert Altman's "Nashville"
TV miniseries debut, "Sins", a CBS drama set in the fashion industry
Made TV series debut as a regular on "The Boys", a limited Showtime sitcom series, as "Sir" Arnie, the baker and founder of Arnie's Cookies
Portrayed UN chief counsel Abe Feller, a political victim of the red-baiting Roy Cohn (James Woods), in the well-received HBO biopic "Citizen Cohn"