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

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent — Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

Country-pop singer, Lizzie Sider sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to perform songs from her new album, “Butterfly,” and to talk about her anti-bullying tour.

Blogs

African Music Treasures