Actor James Garner Has Died at 86

James Garner, who starred in Maverick and The Rockford Files, has died at 86.  

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James Garner, who starred in Maverick and The Rockford Files, has died at 86. From the Reuters report:

Garner, who built a six-decade career playing ruggedly charming, good-natured anti-heroes and received the highest honor of the Screen Actors Guild in 2004, was found dead from natural causes on Saturday night at his Los Angeles home, according to police.

Garner was such an institutional that there's already an intergenerational battle being waged over Garner's legacy as an actor:

Alan Sepinwall added this about Garner's turn as detective Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files:

It was the perfect marriage of storytellers, star and genre: a show where Rockford's cases didn't matter remotely as much as the chance to see Garner banter with Joe Santos as Rockford's cop friend Dennis Becker, or to watch him try to outmaneuver his con man friend Angel (Stuart Margolin), or just enjoy the company of his father, Joseph "Rocky" Rockford (Noah Beery Jr.).

The opening credits sequence is one of the best ever made, mixing Mike Post's irresistible California rock theme song with images of Rockford going through the mundane parts of his work (long stakeouts, working the pay phone) and personal life (shopping in the frozen food section, going fishing with Rocky). The show employed some great writers — it was the first significant TV gig for "The Sopranos" creator David Chase — all of whom understood what a star-driven show this was, and how much they could lean on Garner's smooth, seen-it-all persona.

Garner will also be remembered for getting his start on the TV Western Maverick, where he played Bret Maverick, the acerbic hero and foil to the more subdued Jack Kelly. Maverick was an antidote to the austere television frontier shows of that era. He later starred in the Mel Gibson movie of the same name.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.