Maverick and The Rockford Files Star James Garner Is Dead at 86

By LizRaftery

Jul 20, 2014

Legendary actor James Garner died Saturday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, The Associated Press reports. He was 86.

Garner was best known for his television roles on Maverick and The Rockford Files, as well as for playing the older version of Ryan Gosling's character in 2004's The Notebook.

Born James Bumgarner in Norman, Oklahoma, Garner joined the Merchant Marines at the end of World War II, when he was 16, and later served in the National Guard and the U.S. Army. He received two Purple Hearts for his Army service during the Korean War.

Garner first moved to Los Angeles at age 17 and dabbled in modeling, but didn't begin acting until the mid-1950s, when a high school classmate encouraged him to take a non-speaking role on Broadway. He eventually transitioned to film and television, and was one of the first actors to find equal success in both.

He took on the stage name "James Garner" after a production studio credited him as such, and then legally changed his last name after the birth of his first child. His brother Jack, also an actor, also uses the last name Garner.

Garner starred as Bret Maverick in the TV Western Maverick from 1957 to 1960.

In the 1960s, he starred in several films, including The Great Escape, before returning to television in the 1970s with the single-season series Nichols in 1971 and The Rockford Files starting in 1974. Garner starred as private investigator Jim Rockford on the show for six seasons, as well as in several TV movies, and won an Emmy Award for Best Actor for the role in 1977.

Garner was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1990 and also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2005, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild, and he was honored with a Career Achievement Award by the Television Critics Association in 2010.

Garner's career continued through the 1990s and 2000s, when he appeared in films like Space Cowboys and The Notebook, as well as on TV, where he starred as Grandpa Jim Egan on 8 Simple Rules. He published an autobiography in 2011.

Garner suffered a stroke in 2008 and was reported to be in failing health in May of this year.

He is survived by Lois Clarke, his wife of 57 years, as well as a daughter and a stepdaughter.

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  • WavSlave Jul 21, 2014

    A sad loss of a great talent. I'll miss him and always remember him fondly. Like Paul Newman, I tend to believe that he was a genuinely good guy. Not many marriages in Hollywood last even a tenth as long as theirs did.

  • torque_smacky Jul 20, 2014

    Okay, this is a good a time as any to ask this....

    I remember as a little kid seeing a movie on tape with my grandparents that was about as clean a film as I've ever seen. There was absolutely nothing objectionable in it at all despite being aimed at adults. And yet it was rated PG, for ONE solitary moment: they showed a clip from Friday the 13th Part 3 where the girl is stabbed through the hammock. It came out of nowhere and spooked the stuffing out of me for days.

    My memory pegs this movie's title as "Murphy's Romance," which starred Garner and Sally Field. But memories can be wrong. Is that right or not?

  • MikeyTL Jul 21, 2014

    Murphy's Romance. The characters played by Sally Field and James Garner take Sally Field's young son to the movies and Friday the 13th is playing. I think the only reason the movie was PG 13 is that it had some mature themed conversations about sex and one f***

  • Writerpatrick Jul 20, 2014

    Maverick was the show that made him a star, and overall he's probably better known for his TV work than his movie work, but he did do a few significant movies and started out as more of a movie actor. By the time he did Rockford he was already famous.

  • DSniner Jul 20, 2014

    One of the all time greats,an extremely talented actor and one of my personal favorite actors of all time.Really sad to hear he passed away.I had great memories of watching his movies and reruns of Rockford Files and Maverick and consider Rockford Files one of the better Private Eye series on TV(they don't make shows like that anymore).No matter what he did,whether it was movies or TV series,I liked him in everything.A true Hollywood legend,a TV icon and a hell of an actor.I think I will pay tribute today to Mr.Garner by watching some episodes of Rockford Files and some of his classic movies and relive some great memories and watch a talented man do his thing.
    Jim Rockford has solved his last case.R.I.P.Mr.Garner,you will be missed but never forgotten.

  • EsmeBuffay Jul 20, 2014

    Damn shame.

  • Muderboy Jul 20, 2014

    Never saw him in anything I didn't like. He was an incredible presence and will definately missed. RIP, Jim Rockford.

  • Raccoon1459 Jul 20, 2014

    I saw him in The Great Escape. Awesome war film!

    RIP, Mr. Garner.

  • vicbjones Jul 20, 2014

    Did Garner find equal success in movies and television? I can't say I anybody who puts Move Over, Darling or A Man Called Sledge in the same league as Maverick and The Rockford Files. I also find it interesting how this obituary completely ignores the significance of his contract dispute with Warner Bros.

  • Akyriel Jul 20, 2014

    Probably not meant to be an in-depth, multi-hundred page biography. It's just a note of hiis passing and an general overview of his career highlights.

  • MikeyTL Jul 20, 2014

    Loved this man.

  • JT_Kirk Jul 20, 2014

    The screen will never again know the casual ease that James Garner graced it with. Garner was one of Hollywood's finest actors because he played to his strengths and came off as incredibly likable and everyday while still enjoying the fruits of his labors. His is a great loss to both television and movies, as well as the public in general. My thoughts go out to his family, and I hope it brings them some small comfort to know how many lives he touched with his acting, how many days were and continue to be brightened enjoying episodes of Maverick and The Rockford Files, watching Victor/Victoria and Support Your Local Sheriff, and so much more of his work.

  • Muderboy Jul 20, 2014

    If you haven't seen Support Your Local Sheriff--arguably the funnist movie ever made--you're really missing out on something great.

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