James Garner of 'The Rockford Files' dead at 86
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[July 21, 2014]
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor James
Garner, best known for his prime-time television roles as the
wisecracking frontier gambler on "“Maverick" and as an ex-con turned
private eye on "“The Rockford Files," has died at age 86, Los
Angeles police confirmed early on Sunday.
Garner, who built a six-decade career playing ruggedly
charming, good-natured anti-heroes and received the highest
honor of the Screen Actors Guild in 2004, was found dead from
natural causes on Saturday night at his Los Angeles home,
according to police.
There were no further details immediately available on the
circumstances of his death. Garner underwent surgery for a
stroke in 2008, two years after appearing in his last big-screen
role as a wealthy grandfather for a film adaptation of the
best-selling book "The Ultimate Gift".
An Oklahoma native, Garner entered show business in the 1950s
after serving in the Korean War and first rose to fame on the TV
western "“Maverick," a sardonic alternative to the more serious
frontier shows then popular on American prime time.
He was Bret Maverick, a cardsharp and ladies man who got by on
his wits instead of a six-gun and would just as soon duck a
fight as face a showdown. Co-star Jack Kelly played his more
straight-laced brother, Bart.
Garner left the ABC show in 1960 in a contract dispute with
producers but brought his "“Maverick"-like alter ego to a series
of films, including "“Thrill of It All," "“Move Over, Darling,"
“"The Great Escape" and “"Support Your Local Sheriff!"
Garner once said his screen persona as an easy-going guy smart
enough to steer clear of a fight actually ran only so deep.
“"At times it's like me, but I used to have this temper," he
told Reuters in a 2004 interview. “"I used to get in a fight in
a heartbeat. But that was many years ago."
With his wry, low-key presence, good looks and thick dark hair,
Garner was hailed by some as Hollywood's next Clark Gable or
But he ended up scoring his next big hit on the small screen in
the 1970s, starring as canny private detective Jim Rockford, a
wrongly accused ex-convict starting life over in a beachfront
trailer home, on “"The Rockford Files."
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The show ran on NBC from 1974 until Garner abruptly quit the series
in 1980. He reprised Rockford for several TV movies in the late
BACK TO THE BIG SCREEN
The role earned Garner an Emmy Award in 1977. He received his sole
Oscar nomination for his work opposite Sally Field in the 1985
feature comedy “"Murphy's Romance."
Garner said his favorite role was as the cowardly U.S. soldier who
falls for Julie Andrews before being sent on a dangerous wartime
mission in the 1964 film "“The Americanization of Emily."
He teamed up with Andrews again in the 1982 film “"Victor/Victoria."
He returned to the big screen in 2000 in Clint Eastwood's astronaut
adventure "“Space Cowboys" and two years later in “"Divine Secrets
of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."
In a spate of late-career TV work, Garner played a recurring role as
a hospital chief executive on "“Chicago Hope" in 2000 and starred as
a conservative Supreme Court chief justice in the short-lived 2002
series “"First Monday."
In 2003, he joined the cast of the ABC sitcom “"8 Simple Rules,"
playing a grandfather after the untimely death of series star John
The following year, Garner showed off his big-screen acting chops
again, starring opposite Gena Rowlands as the devoted elderly
husband of an Alzheimer's disease sufferer in Nick Cassavetes'
adaptation of the bestseller "“The Notebook."
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Rosalind Russell and Raissa
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