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R.I.P. James Garner, A TV Legend Dead At 86
“Don’t cry over spilled milk. It could have been whiskey”
That’s one of the greatest quotes I’ll ever know, uttered by James Garner’s “Pappy” in the iconic series Maverick. Sadly, Garner passed away late Saturday night, on July 19, leaving millions of fans worldwide to cry over neither milk nor whiskey. The Hollywood and television veteran was 86 years old.
As first reported by TMZ, Garner was found dead at his home in Los Angeles by ambulance workers called to the scene. At the time of this writing, a cause of death has not been announced. I wonder if “being a badass for almost 60 years” is a suitable reason for someone’s demise.
TV actors are lucky to find one character to solidify their careers with, much less two (or four, depending on how deep your Garner love ran.) Westerns were all the rage in the 1950s when Garner was finding his acting footing, and he found a role of a lifetime as Bret Maverick, the fast-talking poker player who was much just as likely to deliver a beatdown at the card table as away from it. The original Maverick lasted five seasons, and Garner reprised the role in The New Maverick, Young Maverick, and Bret Maverick. He was perfect in Richard Donner’s feature version of Maverick, only playing a U.S. Marshal opposite Mel Gibson’s enjoyable spin on Bret Maverick.
After a couple of seasons as the titular sheriff in the Vietnam War-era western Nichols, Garner once against struck gold for eight seasons as the brainy lothario private investigator Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files, for which he won an Emmy Award. As a down-on-his-luck guy who was more interested in using his words than his gun, Rockford became the prototype for many realism-based detectives and P.I.s in television's later years. (And he always managed to make those schlubby suits look proper.) He continued to play the role through several made-for-TV movies through the 1990s.
On the film side of things, Garner’s career was unstoppable through the 1960s, with roles in movies like John Sturges’ The Great Escape opposite Steve McQueen, Norman Jewison’s The Thrill of It All opposite Doris Day, and Paul Bogart’s Marlowe, where he starred as the titular Raymond Chandler character. He was nominated for an Oscar for 1985’s Murphy’s Romance, and his later career included The Notebook, Space Cowboys and My Fellow Americans, which I completely forgot about. Garner and Jack Lemmon? How could I possibly forget such a classic pairing?
Most recently, he starred as the grandfather Jim Egan in the sitcom 8 Simple Rules, and had a voice role in the sci-fi animated film Battle for Terra. He also voiced Shazam in some recent DC Showcase animations. His last live action role was in Michael O. Sajbel’s 2006 family drama The Ultimate Gift.
Cinema Blend would like to throw down our cards to send our thoughts and condolences to Garner’s family and loved ones in their time of grief.
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