James Garner has died at the age of 86, but is known as a man of many roles. He was never type-cast even during his Western years, and will live on in the hearts of many—old and young.
One of the greatest films he was ever fortunate to star in was The Great Escape. He played Hendley “The Scrounger,” the American pilot who tried to help his blind roommate escape. However, he arguably only made his way onto the screen because of the Western era in the 1950s and 1960s. He joined the likes of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne.
Despite that, he was never type cast. The younger fans will remember him as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files and even Duke in The Notebook. He played the older version of Ryan Gosling’s character, and was the one to tell the story to his wife who was suffering from dementia. He brought heart and soul to that character that many other actors would fail to do.
Shortly after that, he played another grandfather role. This time it was in The Ultimate Gift, where he was teaching his spoilt rich-kid grandson 12 lessons through a video will. Only after learning these lessons would the grandson, played by Drew Fuller, inherit the fortunes. It was another touching movie, and there were some wonderful moments despite him being on his own on the screen for the majority of his parts in the movie.
While being a man of many roles, Garner was also a grounded individual. Despite being awarded with two purple hearts for his actions in the war, he would always speak with dignity, respect and compassion. He regularly admitted that his actions were not of a hero, but just not quite being in the right place at the right time. He was hit with “friendly fire” rather than being involved in a large attack.
Garner was no stranger to comedy. One of the last roles he played was opposite Katey Sagal and Kaley Cuoco in 8 Simple Rules. His character, Jim Egan, was brought into the show after John Ritter’s real-life death. His character, Paul Hennessy, was killed off in the show, and Jim moved in with the family to help his daughter, Cate (played by Sagal) move on and continue to raise her three children.
From 2010 he chose to step back from acting, but did appear as himself on TV until 2012. There was also archive footage used in the 2013 movie The Ultimate Life, which was a prequel to The Ultimate Gift. His health was deteriorating and he decided that it was time for retirement. It brought an end to a career that span almost six decades.
As well as acting, he was fortunate enough to direct TV shows and movies. He was living his dream, and would have it no other way. He will be sadly missed by the world, but he will continue to live on on-screen. Whatever people remember him for, Garner proved that he was a man of many roles and many talents.
Opinion by Alexandria Ingham