James Garner, an actor at home playing drama, comedy or a combination of both, died July 19 at 86, according to AN ASSOCIATED PRESS OBITUARY on the Los Angeles Times website. (UPDATE: You can view The New York Times obit BY CLICKING HERE.)
The Oklahoma-born Garner was best known for the 1950s Western television series Maverick and the 1970s detective show The Rockford Files. Garner’s Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford preferred to outwit rather than outfight adversaries. But neither character was to be taken lightly and could handle themselves in a variety of situations.
In both series, Garner & Co. weren’t afraid to poke fun at their genres.
One Maverick episode, “Gun-Shy,” was a parody of Gunsmoke, as Marshal Mort Dooley keeps running Maverick out of town. A sixth-season Rockford Files, “Nice Guys Finish Dead,” has Rockford instructing would-be a private eye on the art of smiling and sucker punching opponent. Meanwhile, ace private investigator Lance White (Tom Selleck) is aghast, saying a proper detective begins a fight by saying, “Put up your dukes!”
In the end, Lance White corners the villain, says, “Put up your dukes!” and knocks him out with one punch.
Garner was popular enough in both roles he participated in revivals: a one-season series called Bret Maverick in the early 1980s and a series of Rockford Files television movies in the 1990s.
The actor had plenty of other work, with other highlights including The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, Grand Prix (where he did much of his own racecar driving), Marlowe and Support Your Local Gunfighter.
Here’s an excerpt of a long interview Garner did about his career. It concerns the early days of The Rockford Files.