Manny P. here…
James Garner was one of the first Hollywood actors to excel in both cinema and television. He starred in a number of roles spanning a career of more than five decades. These included popular roles as Bret Maverick in the 1950s Western-comedy Maverick; and as Jim Rockford in the 1970s detective drama The Rockford Files. He starred in more than fifty films, such as The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, Grand Prix, Victor Victoria, and Murphy’s Romance, which he received an Academy Award nomination.
Garner joined the United States Merchant Marine near the end of World War II. Later, he joined the National Guard, serving seven months. He then went to Korea in the regular Army, serving in the 5th Regimental Combat Team. He received two Purple Hearts for battle injuries he received. JAMES GARNER —->
In 1954, a friend he had met while attending Hollywood High School, persuaded Garner to take a non-speaking role in the Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, where he was able to study actor Henry Fonda each evening. After several feature film performances, including Sayonara with Marlon Brando, Garner was considered for the lead in a Warner Brothers Western series Cheyenne, but the part went to Clint Walker because the casting director couldn’t reach Garner in time.
Only Garner and series creator Roy Huggins thought Maverick could compete with the Ed Sullivan Show and the Steve Allen Show. Production demands forced Warner Brothers, to create a Maverick brother, Bart, played by Jack Kelly. This freed Garner to venture into motion pictures with ease.
The studio subsequently gave James lead roles in other films, such as Up Periscope and Cash McCall. The 1960s were kind to James Garner, when he was cast in The Children’s Hour, The Thrill of it All, Move Over Darling (both with Doris Day), and Support Your Local Sheriff. In 1971, Support Your Local Gunfighter was an intriguing sequel. He remained a top box office draw during his long career, co-starring in comedy-dramas with Jack Lemmon, Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Kevin Kline, and Clint Eastwood, among others.
In the 1970s, Roy Huggins teamed with Stephen J. Cannell to create The Rockford Files. He would win an Emmy for portraying Jim Rockford. Veteran character actor Noah Beery Jr. played his father. Since Garner performed his own stunts, the program took a heavy toll on his health, especially over the last decade.
After the series ended, Garner returned to playing Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford various times throughout his later career. In 2011, the PBS television documentary series Pioneers of Television, which briefly profiled Garner’s contribution to the television series Maverick and other Westerns, illustrated with film clips, rare stills, and interviews with Garner and Cannell. A ten-foot bronze statue of Garner as Bret Maverick was recently unveiled in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, with the iconic actor present at the ceremony. He also received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild.
Simon & Schuster published his autobiography The Garner Files: A Memoir. It offered frank and unflattering assessments of some of his co-stars like Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. Garner’s three-time co-star Julie Andrews wrote the book’s foreword. Lauren Bacall, Diahann Carroll, Doris Day, Tom Selleck, and Stephen J. Cannell, and many other associates, friends, and relatives provided their memories of the star in the book.
A 12-movie tribute is expected all day on Turner Classic Movies on July 28th. And, you can enjoy his television work on The Rockford Files each weekday on MeTV, check local listings.
The genial James Garner, who played the everyman to perfection, was 86.
Until next time> “never forget”