Award-winning American film and television actor James Garner who starred in several television series & movies spanning a career of more than six decades has died at the age of 86. Garner was best known for his primetime television roles as a wisecracking frontier gambler on Maverick and as an ex-con turned private eye on The Rockford Files. Garner starred in more than 50 films including The Great Escape (1963), Paddy Chayefsky’s The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Blake Edwards’ Victor Victoria (1982), Murphy’s Romance (1985) for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and The Notebook (2004).
A purple heart awardee who was wounded twice in Korea, Garner entered showbusiness in the 1950s after serving in the Korean war and first rose to fame on the TV western Maverick, a sardonic alternative to the more serious frontier shows then popular on American primetime. Garner left the ABC show in 1960 in a contract dispute with producers but brought his Maverick-like alter ego to a series of films, including The Thrill of It All, Move Over Darling, The Great Escape and Support Your Local Sheriff! His next big hit was on the small screen in the 1970s, when he starred as the canny private detective Jim Rockford, a wrongly accused ex-convict starting life over in a beachfront trailer home in The Rockford Files. The show ran on NBC from 1974 until Garner abruptly quit the series in 1980. He reprised Rockford for several TV movies in the late 1990s. The role earned Garner an Emmy award in 1977. He also received an Oscar nomination for his work opposite Sally Field in the 1985 feature comedy Murphy’s Romance. His last few hit movies included Space Cowboys, The Notebook & he was on the final season of 8 Simple Rules.
He was married and had two children. According to police, an ambulance was dispatched to Garner’s Brentwood, Los Angeles home at around 20:00 on July 19, 2014. Garner was confirmed dead when paramedics arrived at his home. The cause of death was not immediately reported but initial law enforcement officers on the scene declared “natural causes” as the cause of death.
James Scott Bumgarner; April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014