We always know how the West won.
But this is one of those rare occasions that the West has lost with the death of James Garner, who died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles Saturday night at the age of 86.
Garner is known to television fans for his roles of wisecracking con-man/gambler Bret Maverick and wisecracking private detective James 'Jim' Rockford on Maverick and The Rockford Files.
Created by Roy Huggins, both shows were tongue-in-cheek versions of the Western and detective genres, whereas Maverick and Rockford would rather talk than fight their way of dangerous situations by using their wits and humor -- yet they still come out on top and save the day.
Maverick (1957-62, ABC) premiered where the Western genre started to become more adult, mature, and somewhat cynical thanks to shows like Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, and Wanted: Dead or Alive. Garner also starred in director Richard Donner's 1994 big-screen adaptation of Maverick with Oscar winners Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson, who succeeded in the role of Bret Maverick.
The Rockford Files (1974-80, NBC) remains a critical and fan favorite, where Garner won an Emmy for the role of Rockford, wrongly imprisoned ex-con turned private investigator who takes on cases the police wouldn't touch. The series was co-created and executive produced by the late Stephen J. Cannell, who gone on to greater fame as creator/writer/executive producer of shows such as The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, Hardcastle & McCormick, Riptide, 21 Jump Street, and Wiseguy. Garner reprise the role of Rockford in a series of movies on CBS in the mid-1990s.
It is said that Rockford is the inspiration for Magnum, P.I. (1980-88, CBS) with Tom Selleck as handsome and heroic Thomas Magnum, Vietnam veteran turned private investigator who solves crimes in Hawaii. Selleck made two guest appearances on Rockford as dashing private eye Lance White, Rockford's opposite.
The Rockford Files is best known for its opening theme song, which begins with 'This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I'll get back to you. [Beep].'
Garner is also known on the big screen for his roles that includes 1963's The Great Escape with Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson; the Western comedies Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) and Support Your Local Gunfighter! (1971); Murphy's Romance (1985) with Sally Field, which earned Garner an Oscar nomination for Best Actor; 2000's Space Cowboys with Clint Eastwood (he made a guest appearance on Maverick before hitting the trail as Rowdy Gates on CBS' Rawhide), Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland, and 2004's The Notebook with Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, and Gena Rowlands).
Garner's work in recent years includes succeeding the late John Ritter when he became a regular on ABC's 8 Simple Rules in 2003, and remained with the show until its cancellation in 2005 after three seasons.
James Garner is survive by Lois Clarke, his wife of 47 years, their daughter Greta ('Gigi') and Garner's stepdaughter Kim, who was from a previous marriage by Lois.