Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Rockford Files star James Garner dies at the age of 86

Maverick man: James Garner
Maverick man: James Garner

Hollywood was last night mourning the loss of James Garner, the wisecracking star of Maverick who enjoyed a long career on the small and big screen. He was 86.

He was found dead of natural causes at his home in Brentwood, Los Angeles, on Saturday night, police officer Alonzo Iniquez said.

Officers responded to a call at around 8pm local time and confirmed Garner's identity from family members, Mr Iniquez added.

Garner had suffered a stroke in May 2008. Although he was adept at drama and action, Garner was best known for his witty, low-key style, especially in Maverick and The Rockford Files.

Garner, who early in his career had been pegged by some in the industry as the next Cary Grant or Clark Gable, had worked into his late 70s, but had been in poor health since having surgery after the stroke in May 2008, a few weeks after his 80th birthday.

Just as he was understated in many of his roles, so his career was never studded with Oscars or other public plaudits. In 2005 Garner did, however, receive a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild, and at the ceremony he quipped, "I'm not at all sure how I got here." His only Oscar nomination was for his role opposite Sally Fields in the 1985 comedy Murphy's Romance.

In America he may be best remembered for his lead role in the 1950s TV Western series Maverick, in which he played a frontier gambler and womaniser who eschewed his gun and holster, preferring to duck confrontation whenever possible. Equally successful was The Rockford Files which earned him an Emmy.

Launched on NBC TV in 1974 the series again showcased Garner's talent as the anti-hero, playing a wrongfully convicted ex-prisoner who on release had begun a private detective agency from inside his caravan home.

His films included Grand Prix (1966), seen by some as the best racing movie of all-time, The Great Escape (1963), which saw him starring alongside his friend Steve McQueen, and Victor/Victoria with Julie Andrews (1982).

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