He starred in his fair share of excellent movie roles alongside Marlon Brando, Julie Andrews (twice), Mel Gibson, and Clint Eastwood. It was in television he shined and became best known for the 1950s TV series “Maverick” and the 1970s “The Rockford Files.” James Garner, 86, passed away on Saturday of natural causes. .
“Maverick” is what made him best known, even after a film career. The television western was the perfect match for Garner. He was born and raised in Norman, Oklahoma. His mother was half-Cherokee who later died when he was five years old. In September 1957 “Maverick” made its debut on ABC. It was a Western unlike the many already on the TV landscape. The series would go on until 1962, though he left the show in 1960.
Brett Maverick (James Garner) and his faithful brother Bart were quasi-mercenaries, stealing from the rich in various card games and giving their winnings to the poor. Sometimes they had the aide of a lovely female card rogue assisting them. This made the character even more likeable with viewers, because the Mavericks followed traditional Western values with a good sense of humor. In 1994 Garner reprised is role as Brett, this time as a feature film, along with Mel Gibson as his brother, and Jodie Foster as their female rogue.
“The Rockford Files” premiered on NBC in September 1974 until 1980. Jim Rockford (Garner) is an ex-con who served time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, but was later pardoned. After his release he lives in a trailer in Malibu, California driving a Pontiac. He’s now a private investigator solving a different crime each week with the aide of his father Joseph “Rocky” Rockford, someone from the L.A.P.D., and a band of other characters from his prison days.
The show’s theme song was a Top 40 hit on the radio charting as high as number 10. During “The Rockford Files” opening montage an answering machine comes on with “This is Jim Rockford, at the tone leave your name and message and I'll get back to you." Technology has certainly come a long way since then, but James Garner’s contribution to television will always live on.