R.I.P. James Garner, 1928-2014

Hollywood lost another legend today.
R.I.P. James Garner, 1928-2014

Some sad news today out of Hollywood:

James Garner, a master of light comedy who shot to fame in the 1950s as the charming and dry-witted gambler on the hit TV western "Maverick" and later won an Emmy Award as the unconventional L.A. private eye on "The Rockford Files," has died. He was 86.

Garner died Saturday at his home, his publicist Jennifer Allen told The Times. Garner, who lived in Los Angeles, underwent quintuple bypass heart surgery in 1988 and suffered a stroke in 2008. He had been in poor health for some time but the cause of his death was not immediately known.

Once described by Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales as having "embodied the crusty, sardonic and self-effacing strain of American masculinity" in his iconic roles as Maverick and Rockford, the Oklahoma-born Garner amassed more than 80 movie and TV-movie credits during his more than 50-year career.

An off-screen Hollywood maverick who successfully battled two studios in court, Garner easily moved between small screen and big screen in roles ranging from light comedy to drama.

"I have long thought that Jim Garner was one of the best actors around," filmmaker Robert Altman, who directed him in the 1980 comedy "Health," told Esquire magazine in 1979.

"He is often overlooked because he makes it look so easy, and that is not easy to do," Altman said. "I don't know anyone in the business with his charm and charisma who can act so well."

Garner was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as a widowed small-town pharmacist opposite Sally Field's much younger single mother in the 1985 romantic comedy "Murphy's Romance."

His films include "The Children's Hour," "The Great Escape," "The Americanization of Emily," "The Thrill of It All," "Move Over, Darling," "Grand Prix," "Support Your Local Sheriff," "Marlowe," "Victor/Victoria," "Space Cowboys" and "The Notebook."

But it was television that made Garner a household name, and once he returned to series TV in the early 1970s after a decade starring in films, he remained a welcome presence on the small screen.

Garner’s survivors include his wife, Lois, whom he married two weeks after they met in 1956; his stepdaughter Kimberly; and his daughter Greta, who also is known as Gigi. Always sad to see one of the legends go. I'd like to post this scene from one of my favorite 90s movies growing up, "My Fellow Americans" where Garner plays a former Democratic President and stars alongside Jack Lemmon, a former Republican President and Garner's long time rival.


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