James Garner, Witty, Handsome Leading Man, Dies at 86 – NYTimes.com

Gigi and James Garner

Mr. Garner came to acting late, and by accident. On his own after the age of 14 and a bit of a drifter, he had been working an endless series of jobs: telephone installer, oilfield roughneck, chauffeur, dishwasher, janitor, lifeguard, grocery clerk, salesman and, fatefully, gas station attendant. While pumping gas in Los Angeles, he met a young man named Paul Gregory, who was working nearby as a soda jerk but wanted to be an agent.

Years later, after Mr. Garner had served in the Army during the Korean War — he was wounded in action twice, earning two Purple Hearts — he was working as a carpet layer in Los Angeles for a business run by his father. One afternoon he was driving on La Cienega Boulevard and saw a sign: Paul Gregory & Associates. Just then a car pulled out of a space in front of the building, and Mr. Garner, on a whim, pulled in. He was 25.

Mr. Gregory, by then an agent and a theatrical producer, hired him for a nonspeaking part in his production of Herman Wouk’s “Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” which starred Henry Fonda, John Hodiak and Lloyd Nolan. It opened in Santa Barbara and toured the country before going to Broadway, where it opened in January 1954 and ran for 415 performances. Mr. Garner said he learned to act from running lines with the stars and watching them perform, especially Mr. Fonda, another good-looking actor with a sly streak.

“I swiped practically all my acting style from him,” he once said.

via James Garner, Witty, Handsome Leading Man, Dies at 86 – NYTimes.com.

Subscribe to Podcast


  1. July 20, 2014

    He was one of the best.

  2. July 20, 2014

    He certainly was one of the best. I’m very sad. He was such a major part of my childhood and early twenties.

    • July 23, 2014

      I know acting is the family profession, did you or your dad work with him? I’m so sorry. xox, V

  3. July 20, 2014

    One of my favorites. Thanks for the background!

    • July 23, 2014

      I only grabbed the picture, The New York Times did all the work!

  4. July 20, 2014

    I remember Rockford Files sneaking up on me, gradually realizing how funny it was, and how fun he was! FYI Gretchen Corbett is from Portland, and has been back here working for 15 years or so. Any actor who got to work with Julie Andrews (twice?) is tops in my book 🙂

    • July 23, 2014

      At least twice! Although I have only the haziest memory of The Americanization of Emily.

  5. George Kaplan
    July 20, 2014

    Oh, no! One of my favorite actors, I was thinking and reading about him being in The Rockford Files and Maverick just a few days ago after I discovered that he was in a dire way after his strokes (I’d tried to find more information about him post-stroke but hadn’t been able to, I’d hoped that he was recovering particularly after I found he’d written his autobiography). How sad. He was an underrated actor, an often witty, slightly unconventional presence with an edge in films such as The Skin Game, Support Your Local Sheriff, and The Great Escape and later tv movies including Barbarians at the Gate and My Name Is Bill W. And matchlessly wonderful in his iconic performances as Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford, charismatic, intelligent, good-looking, humorous men who tended to use their wits first to get them out of any situation rather than employing useless machismo (perhaps Mr Garner’s wartime experiences influenced his liking for those sorts of roles?) and who had a real vein of integrity running through them (even if they did their best to hide it under a veneer of cynicism and sardonicism) enhanced by a loathing of bullying and pomposity. Not unlike the real man (he punched Anthony Franciosa for being a bully!) Such a loss. Rest In Peace, Jim.

    • July 23, 2014

      I was wondering if you’d like to write a tribute to him? I love your take.

  6. July 20, 2014

    This one hits hard. My entire TV and movie experience, starting from childhood, had him in it. I’m going to miss him greatly. May he rest in peace.

    • July 23, 2014

      I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re so right… Do you remember how The Great Escape was rerun on television every year?

      • July 23, 2014

        Oh, yeah! It’s how I first saw it. Take a decade or two, but I’d finally catch it up on the big screen. Loved his Hendley ‘The Scrounger’ and the relationship with Blythe ‘The Forger’. He and Donald Pleasence worked so well together.

  7. July 23, 2014

    Since I was born in 1966, I was not old enough to be watching Mr. Garner’s shows with any interest at the time… but thank goodness for film, and film preservation, and the digitalization of older programs. Thanks to those wonderful technologies, we can still watch the greats do their thing. For example… my husband and I have just started watching “Columbo”, starting with Season 1, Episode 1. I’m getting a kick out of finding out exactly why my mother had a crush on Peter Falk when I was a kid! Oh, and one more thing….

    • July 23, 2014

      Lt. Columbo: I was wondering, Doctor. Would you take me on as a patient?
      Flemming: Take you on as a what?!?
      Lt. Columbo: No, I mean it. Maybe you can help me. I don’t know that– There must something wrong with me. I seem to bother people. I seem to make them nervous and maybe you could tell me why.

      Loved that show!

  8. George Kaplan
    July 23, 2014

    Everyone with taste loves Columbo! I was born in the decade after you, Marcheline, so I was probably the perfect age to catch reruns of Columbo and The Rockford Files. 😉

    • July 23, 2014

      I’m glad to know I’m a person of taste, and we’ll leave the “refinement” alone 😉 .

  9. George Kaplan
    July 23, 2014

    Vickie, you know you are the very Soul of Taste and Refinement, ma’am! Yours, Lt Columbo 🙂

Comments are closed.