From Maverick and The Rockford Files to The Notebook, James Garner was a TV and film legend. Garner, age 86, died Saturday, July 19, 2014 at his Los Angeles home. As of press time the cause of death is unknown.
Garner had a distinguished career in TV and film, and could easily move between light-hearted comedies to dramas. He dropped out of high school at age 16 and joined the Merchant Marines and then later served in the Army fighting in the Korean War before he turned his attention to acting. His first breakout role was as dry-witted gambler Brett Maverick in the 1950s hit Western Maverick, which aired on ABC from 1957-1962.
“Maverick, he didn’t want to fight. He’d rather smile and laugh. He was the reluctant hero… Yeah, I’m a maverick. Always have been. Which is a bit of a rebel,” Garner said in an interview for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Emmy TV Legends library.
In the 1960s Garner focused on his film career, further bolstering his resume with successful films like The Thrill of It All (1963), The Great Escape (1963), Move Over, Darling (1963) and Grand Prix (1966).
The 1970s led to Garner’s most memorable role as Jim Rockford, the easy-going ex-con turned private detective in NBC’s The Rockford Files — a character he played for six seasons from 1974 to 1980. After the series, he spent several decades starring in made-for-TV movies and miniseries, many of those being Rockford Files movies.
Later some of his other more notable film credits included 1985’s Murphy’s Romance, which he was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, Space Cowboys, Maverick (1994) and 2004’s romantic classic The Notebook.