Farewell to James Garner, dead at 86


James Garner in Grand Prix

It would be easy – and wholly inaccurate – to view James Garner as just another TV star who made the jump to movies. For between Maverick and The Rockford Files were some interesting film roles that pointed to Garner’s diversity and his appeal as both affable hunk and edgy hero.

His was a reliable presence on the screen. Note his relationship with blind, doomed Donald Pleasence in The Great Escape (where Steve McQueen got the showier role and stole the film) or his partnering with Julie Andrews in The Americanization of Emily. But Grand Prix showed his harder side as the racer driven to win. 

If he had a screen persona it was as the tender tough guy with a lop-sided grin and a quirky sense of heroism. But he could be tough, as seen in The Rockford Files where that affability masked a genuine hard core. 

His later years were plagued by ill health but there were some lovely character roles as the hairline receded, the belly grew and the hot, hip handsome man of the ’60s and ’70s evolved into an elderly patriarch. And 86 isn’t a bad innings.

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