James Garner died in his home in Los Angeles yesterday. He was 86. Born James Scott Bumgarner he was one of the first Hollywood actors to do both TV and films. He starred in several television series spanning a career of more than five decades which included Bret Maverick in the 1950s western-comedy series, Maverick, and Jim Rockford in the 1970s detective drama, The Rockford Files. He also starred in more than 50 films including The Great Escape (1963), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Blake Edwards’ Victor Victoria (1982) and most recently The Notebook (2004). He starred along side Gena Rowlands who played his wife and was directed by Rowlands’ son Nick Cassavetes. He was nominated for the role by the Screen Actor’s Guild. In 2000 Garner appeared with Clint Eastwood (who had played a villain in the original Maverick series) as astronauts in the movie Space Cowboys which also featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland. In 2011 Garner’s autobiography “The Garner Files: A Memoir” appeared recounting his career and detailing the childhood abuses he suffered at the hands of his stepmother and offered frank, unflattering assessments of some of Garner’s co-stars like Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. The first time I became aware of this man was the Rockford Files, a detective show unlike any other than came before. Jim Rockford was a mess, lived in trailer and was struggling to make ends meet but of course, he was a great sleuth and always solved the case. His sarcastic “What next?” attitude was impossible not to like, just like the man himself.
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