Rockford Files Star James Garner Dies

James Garner, star of The Rockford Files and Maverick, has died aged 86.

Garner, who during a six-decade career largely played charming, good-natured anti-heroes, was found dead at his Los Angeles home on Saturday evening by an ambulance crew, according to police.

Garner won an Emmy for his role as the ex-con turned private eye Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files and received the highest honour of the Screen Actors Guild in 2005.

On receiving the lifetime achievement award, he joked: “I’m not at all sure how I got here.”

Equally at home in comedy and drama, he was one of the first of TV’s leading men to cross over into films in the 60s with such popular movies as The Thrill of It All and The Americanization of Emily.

His breakthrough role in showbiz came as the wise-cracking Bret Maverick in the comedy Western that hit the small screen in 1957, and where the character used his wits to get out of trouble.

Garner said about the role: “I’m playing me. Bret Maverick is lazy: I’m lazy. And I like being lazy.”

He stayed in the series until 1960, when he quit in a dispute with Warners.

Garner went on to secure roles in a series of films including The Great Escape, and Grand Prix, which gave him a passion for motor racing.

But it was back on TV that he enjoyed greatest success in the detective series, The Rockford Files, that ran from 1974-80.

He was nominated for an Oscar for his role opposite Sally Field in Murphy’s Romance in 1985, and gained a new following with his cameo role in the 1994 big screen version of Maverick, with Mel Gibson in the lead.

As well as small screen roles, his film career continued into the 2000s with the comedy Space Cowboys, alongside Clint Eastwood, and the 2004 hit The Notebook.

He remained active well into his 70s, but suffered a stroke in 2008, just weeks after his 80th birthday.

Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman, Oklahoma.

Before becoming an actor he had been a merchant seaman, and briefly worked in his father’s carpeting business in Los Angeles, before serving in the Korean War, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart military medal.

Garner is survived by his wife, the TV actress Lois Clarke, who he married in 1957, their daughter Greta “Gigi” Garner; and an adopted daughter, Kimberly, from Clarke’s first marriage.

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