Monday, July 21, 2014


James Garner has died. He was in quite a few movies, and even got an Oscar nomination, but I'll always think of him as one of the great TV stars.

In the mid-50s he was a handsome TV personality occasionally getting movie roles, such as his appearance in Sayonara, starring Marlon Brando.  But it was his work on the show Maverick, starting in 1957, that got him noticed.  Bret Maverick was a cowboy/gambler, making his way through the old West, doing the best he can, generally trying to avoid gunfights and other hassles.  It established Garner's persona as a relaxed charmer, just on the edge of being a con man.

He spent most of the 60s starring in movies, such as Boys Night Out, The Great Escape, The Americanization Of Emily, Mister Buddwing, Grand Prix and Support Your Local Sheriff--a mix of comedy, action and Westerns.

In 1971, he returned to the TV Western with the one-season-and-out Nichols--which famously killed off Garner's character at the start of the final episode.  A few years later, however, he had his biggest series hit--The Rockford Files. Jim Rockford, P.I. could barely make ends meet and didn't particularly like to fight, but somehow managed to solve the case before the final commercial.  If Garner is remembered for anything, I think it'll be this role.  He returned for several TV movies as Rockford years later. He'd also return as Bret Maverick.

He continued appearing in movies, and was memorable as King Marchand in Blake Edwards' elegant farce Victor/Victoria.  He also starred in the romantic comedy Murphy's Romance, for which he got that Oscar nomination.

In his last couple decades he shuttled between TV and film.  He had another failed series in the early 90s, Man Of The People (which I remember because one of the cast was my friend Taylor Nichols), and was one of the leads in the highly popular film Space Cowboys.

I still watch him on cable on a cowboy station where they show Maverick reruns.  Though you have to watch out, since there are a lot of episodes starring Bart Maverick and even Beau Maverick.  Trust me, you want Bret.


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