By Jueseppi B. The Militant Negro
James Garner, a master of light comedy who shot to fame in the 1950s as the charming and dry-witted gambler on the hit TV western “Maverick” and later won an Emmy Award as the unconventional L.A. private eye on “The Rockford Files,” has died. He was 86.
Garner died Saturday at his home, his publicist Jennifer Allen told The Times. Garner, who lived in Los Angeles, underwent quintuple bypass heart surgery in 1988 and suffered a stroke in 2008. He had been in poor health for some time but the cause of his death was not immediately known.
Once described by Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales as having “embodied the crusty, sardonic and self-effacing strain of American masculinity” in his iconic roles as Maverick and Rockford, the Oklahoma-born Garner amassed more than 80 movie and TV-movie credits during his more than 50-year career.
An off-screen Hollywood maverick who successfully battled two studios in court, Garner easily moved between small screen and big screen in roles ranging from light comedy to drama.
“I have long thought that Jim Garner was one of the best actors around,” filmmaker Robert Altman, who directed him in the 1980 comedy “Health,” told Esquire magazine in 1979.
“He is often overlooked because he makes it look so easy, and that is not easy to do,” Altman said. “I don’t know anyone in the business with his charm and charisma who can act so well.”
Garner was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as a widowed small-town pharmacist opposite Sally Field’s much younger single mother in the 1985 romantic comedy “Murphy’s Romance.”
His films include “The Children’s Hour,” “The Great Escape,” “The Americanization of Emily,” “The Thrill of It All,” “Move Over, Darling,” “Grand Prix,” “Support Your Local Sheriff,” “Marlowe,” “Victor/Victoria,” “Space Cowboys” and “The Notebook.”
But it was television that made Garner a household name, and once he returned to series TV in the early 1970s after a decade starring in films, he remained a welcome presence on the small screen.
That included stints as a celebrity pitchman for such entities as the Beef Industry Council, Mazda, Chevy Tahoe and, most famously, Polaroid cameras.
Indeed, the humorous series of Polaroid spots Garner made with actress Mariette Hartley in the late ’70s and early ’80s only burnished Garner’s status as a TV icon.
Garner’s seemingly effortless flair for delivering humorous dialogue — and delivering straight dialogue humorously — made him one of television’s biggest stars.
North side of the 6900 block of Hollywood Boulevard
James Garner (born James Scott Bumgarner; April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014) was an American film and television actor. He starred in several television series over more than five decades, which included such popular roles as Bret Maverick in the 1950s western-comedy series Maverick and Jim Rockford in the 1970s detectivedrama 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).
||James Scott Bumgarner
April 7, 1928
Norman, Oklahoma, U.S.
||July 19, 2014 (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
||Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
||University of Oklahoma
||Norman, Oklahoma, U.S.
||Lois Clarke (m. 1956–2014, his death)
||Greta Garner [GiGi], Kimberly Garner
For his contribution to the film and television industry, Garner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard). In 1990, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was also inducted into the Television Hall of Fame that same year. In February 2005, he received the Screen Actors Guild‘s Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role that year, for The Notebook. When Morgan Freeman won that prize for his work in Million Dollar Baby, he led the audience in a sing-along of the original Maverick theme song, written by David Buttolph and Paul Francis Webster. In 2010, the Television Critics Association gave Garner its annual Career Achievement Award.
On April 21, 2006, a 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) bronze statue of Garner as Bret Maverick was unveiled in Garner’s hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, with Garner present at the ceremony.
Marriage and family
Garner was married to Lois Clarke, whom he met at an “Adlai Stevenson for President” rally in 1956. They married 14 days later on August 17, 1956. “We went to dinner every night for 14 nights. I was just absolutely nuts about her. I spent $77 on our honeymoon, and it about broke me.” According to Garner, “Marriage is like the Army; everyone complains, but you’d be surprised at the large number of people who re-enlist”.
When Garner and Clarke married, her daughter Kim from a previous marriage was seven years old and recovering from polio. Garner had one daughter with wife Lois: Greta “Gigi” Garner. In an interview in Good Housekeeping with Garner, his wife, and two daughters conducted at their home that was published in March 1976, Gigi’s age was given as 18 and Kim, 27.
Garner’s knees would become chronic problems during the filming of The Rockford Files in the 1970s, with “six or seven knee operations during that time.” In 2000 he had both knees surgically replaced.
On April 22, 1988, Garner had quintuple bypass heart surgery. Though he rapidly recovered, the doctors insisted that he stop smoking. Garner complied—17 years later.
Garner underwent surgery on May 11, 2008, following a minor stroke he had suffered two days earlier. His prognosis was reported to be “very positive.”
Garner was an owner of the “American International Racers” (AIR) auto racing team from 1967 through 1969. Famed motorsports writer William Edgar and Hollywood director Andy Sidaris teamed with Garner for the racing documentary The Racing Scene, filmed in 1969 and released in 1970. The team fielded cars at Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring endurance races, but is best known for Garner’s celebrity status raising publicity in early off-road motor-sports events.
Garner signed a three-year sponsorship contract with American Motors Corporation (AMC). His shops prepared ten 1969 SC/Ramblers for the Baja 500 race. Garner did not drive in this event because of a film commitment in Spain that year. Nevertheless, seven of his cars finished the grueling race, taking three of the top five places in the sedan class. Garner also drove the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 race in 1975, 1977, and 1985 (see: list of Indianapolis 500 pace cars).
Garner was an avid golfer for many years. Along with his brother, Jack, he played golf in high school. Jack even attempted a professional golfing career after a brief stint in the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball farm system. Garner took it up again in the late 1950s to see if he could beat Jack. He was a regular for years at Pebble Beach Pro-Am. In February 1990 at the AT&T Golf Tournament he won the Most Valuable Amateur Trophy.
Garner was noted as an enthusiastic fan of the Raiders in the NFL, particularly when they played in Los Angeles between 1982 and 1994, when he regularly attended games and mixed with the players.
University of Oklahoma
James Garner was a supporter of the University of Oklahoma, often returning to Norman for school functions. When he attended Oklahoma Sooners football games, he frequently could be seen on the sidelines or in the press box. Garner received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at OU in 1995. In 2003, to endow the James Garner Chair in the School of Drama, he donated $500,000, half of a pledged $1 million, for the first endowed position at the drama school. Tom H. Orr, the Director for the School of Drama (Acting/Camera Acting) and the Artistic Director of the University Theatre, currently holds the James Garner Chair at the university.
Garner was a strong Democratic Party supporter, contributing over $7,500 to Democrats running for federal office the past seven years, including Dennis Kucinich (for Congress in 2002), Richard Gephardt, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, and various Democratic committees and groups. Since 1982 Garner has given at least $29,000 to Federal campaigns, of which over $24,000 has been to Democratic Party candidates.
On August 28, 1963, Garner was one of several celebrities to join Martin Luther King Jr. in the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” In his autobiography, Garner recalled sitting in third row listening to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
For his role in the 1985 CBS miniseries Space, the character’s party affiliation was changed from Republican as in the book to reflect Garner’s personal views. Garner said, “My wife would leave me if I played a Republican”.
Prior to the entry of ex-San Francisco Mayor (later U.S. Senator) Dianne Feinstein, there was an effort by Democratic party leaders, led by state Senator Herschel Rosenthal, to persuade James Garner to seek the 1990 Democratic nomination for Governor of California.
According to police, an ambulance was dispatched to Garner’s Brentwood, Los Angeles, home at around 8:00 p.m. PDT 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.
Legendary Actor James Garner Dies
Published on Jul 20, 2014
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Legendary actor James Garner, the wisecracking star of TV’s “Maverick” who went on to a long career on both small and big screen, has died. He was 86. Garner was found dead of natural causes at his Los Angeles home Saturday evening. (July 20)
James Garner interview on Charlie Rose – Part 1
Published on Jul 17, 2012
A rebroadcast of an hour conversation with actor James Garner about his long career in Hollywood and in roles such as “The Americanization of Emily” and “The Great Escape”. Garner also discusses his roles on the television series “First Monday” and “Roughing It”, the latter of which is based on Mark Twain’s writings. He talks about what it means to be Native American in Hollywood and his role as a cultural pioneer. (June 25, 2002)
James Garner interview on Charlie Rose – Part 2
A Classic..James Garner….
This is the clip from Victor/Victoria. Ground breaking movie.
Published on Oct 5, 2012
Victor Victoria Trailer – Directed by Blake Edwards and starring Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston, Lesley Ann Warren, Alex Karras. A struggling female soprano finds work playing a male female impersonator, but it complicates her personal life.
James Garner.. “Maverick”..talks Steve McQueen,Brando and more…
Published on Oct 12, 2013
My first interview with tv and movie legend James Garner…a mans man!! Rockford,Maverick,The Great Escape…Grad Prix…so many great roles…Honest,Straight shooter!
James Garner discusses the end of “The Rockford Files”
Filed under: Politics | Tagged: Americanization of Emily, Garner, Great Escape, Jame Garner, Los Angeles, Maverick, Paddy Chayefsky, Rockford Files | 9 Comments »