James Garner died of natural causes at his California home Saturday, July 19, at the age of 86. It almost does not seem possible, as I am sure that somewhere right now an episode of “The Rockford Files” is playing.
We all loved James Garner's TV characters, who with no visible heroic traits could somehow beat the bad guys in the end.
Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford were basically the same character in different footwear, the antithesis of almost every traditional protagonist on television.
Maverick was a gambler who aspired to become nothing higher than a hustler, happy to finesse a few bucks and leave town untroubled by any gunfire he heard behind him on his way out. He didn't use a gun much. He started with his wits and when necessary moved on to his fists.
Low-budget private investigator Jim Rockford lived in a mobile home and liked to eat Mexican food. He hung out with a bizarre posse whose help often got him beaten up. He constantly was taking cases so low-end you wondered how they ever got on television, yet the show developed characters like a good drama and put them in situations that sometimes seemed closer to a good sitcom.
Garner’s charisma served him well on the big screen, starring in more than 50 films and earning an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in the 1985 romantic drama “Murphy’s Romance.”
He acted well into his 70’s only slowing down after suffering a stroke. He is survived by his wife of 55 years and two children.