News / Arts & Entertainment

Actor James Garner of 'The Rockford Files' Dead at 86

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.

James Garner smiles with his award at the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Feb. 5, 2005.James Garner smiles with his award at the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Feb. 5, 2005.
x
James Garner smiles with his award at the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Feb. 5, 2005.
James Garner smiles with his award at the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Feb. 5, 2005.

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 Cary Grant.

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.

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 1990s.

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 Ritter.

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.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.