James Garner, who starred in the Western TV series Maverick and as a private investigator (P.I.) in The Rockford Files, died at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday at the age of 86. Garner also starred in several movies during his long career, such as Sayonara, The Thrill of It All, The Great Escape and Darby’s Rangers.
According to Variety, James Garner began his career when Paul Gregory, a theater producer friend of his, got him a job cueing actor Lloyd Nolan in rehearsals before “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial” headed to Broadway. He later got a non-speaking role in the play and he studied the acting of its star, Henry Fonda, to learn more about being a successful actor, himself. In 1954, he landed a role in the stage production of “Caine.”
Then, James Garner gained the notice of studio execs at Warner Brothers and he picked up small roles in the TV series Cheyenne. He acted in the movie Sayonara with lead star, Marlon Brando. What began as a supporting role in the movie Darby’s Rangers became a lead starring role with Charlton Heston’s exit from the project.
Garner gained wide-spread fame when he became the star of the 1950’s TV show Maverick. The series ended in 1960. He earned the first of his three Golden Globe award for his role and also he was nominated in 1959 for his first Emmy.
After Maverick ended, James Garner went on to star in other movies, such as The Thrill of It All and Move Over Darling, in which he acted opposite actress Doris Day. He also appeared in the movies Hour of the Gun, The Great Escape Steve McQueen and Boys’ Night Out. He starred opposite Julie Andrews in The Americanization of Emily and The Art of Love with comedian Dick Van Dyke. In the decade from 1961-1971, James Garner acted in 21 movies altogether.
The hugely popular series, The Rockford Files, which ran from 1974-80, marked Garner’s return to TV after Maverick as the laconic and wise-cracking P.I. Jim Rockford. In 1977, James Garner won an Emmy for the role.
Garner continued to act after that and he appeared in the movie The Notebook, as an older version of Ryan Gosling. He also acted in Space Cowboys, The Ultimate Gift and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Then, in 2005, James Garner was presented with the Screen Actor’s Life Achievement Award.
Several actors tweeted about James Garner following the news of his death, paying tribute to him. The actors and celebrities who tweeted about Garner include Piers Morgan, Donny Osmond, william shatner, John Stamos, Tom Bergeron, Josh Elliot, Melissa Joan Hart, LeAnn Rimes, Reese Witherspoon, Ron Howard, Marlee Maitlin and Kaley Cuoco.
In 1988, James Garner underwent a quintuple heart by-pass. Then, 20 years later in 2008, a minor stroke side-lined him during his later years. His acting career spanned more than 50 years, though he will still be remembered perhaps the most for his roles in the TV series Maverick and The Rockford Files. Garner leaves behind his wife, Lois, daughter, Greta and step-daughter, Kim. James Garner’s contributions to the cinematic industry and TV were great. He was much-beloved and will be missed.
Written By Douglas Cobb