Sad news from the west coast this morning:
James Garner, the wry and handsome leading man who slid seamlessly between television and the movies but was best known as the amiable gambler Bret Maverick in the 1950s western “Maverick” and the cranky sleuth Jim Rockford in the 1970s series “The Rockford Files,” was found dead in his California home on Saturday night, the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed on Sunday. He was 86.
Sad news, indeed. I’ve always been a huge James Garner fan. I watched The Rockford Files when it first aired in the 1970s. It was, in my opinion, the best PI show ever. Later, I discovered Maverick, a western that had more comedy than shootouts. Then there were the movies; Support Your Local Sheriff, Support Your Local Gunfighter (they were essentially the same movie with several plot elements reworked), and The Great Escape. In his later years came Victor Victoria, Space Cowboys, and the big screen adaptation of Maverick. Garner just had this laid back screen presence that made him slip effortlessly into any role he played.
Here are a few of my favorite James Garner scenes. This one is from Support Your Local Sheriff:
Testing some moonshine for a 4th of July celebration in The Great Escape:
Jim Rockford, having at it with his frequent foil, Lt. Chapman:
And here’s a compilation of the answering machine messages from the first season of The Rockford Files: