Sunday, July 20, 2014

R.I.P. James Garner.

With all the talk about MAVERICK around here of late, it is particularly sad to note the passing of actor, and star of MAVERICK, James Garner, on July 19, 2014, at the age of 86. 

Beyond MAVERICK, James Garner had a long and successful run starring in THE ROCKFORD FILES and, in between, headed the short-lived western series NICHOLS – and even returned to the character of “Bret Maverick” in a 1981-1982 series titled (what else?)  BRET MAVERICK. 

I’ve never seen that later MAVERICK series, but should try to catch it someday. 

HERE is his vast list of credits from IMDB.

The New York Times might have said it best with:
Mr. Garner was a genuine star but as an actor something of a paradox: a lantern-jawed, brawny athlete whose physical appeal was both enhanced and undercut by a disarming wit.
"Who, me?"

And, it was that “disarming wit” that made MAVERICK a standout from what was then a glut of TV westerns – and set the standard for “the other Mavericks that followed”, Jack Kelly as “Bart”, Roger Moore as “Beau”, and the all-too-quickly-fleeting Robert Colbert as “Brent”.   

That extensive New York Times obit can be found HERE.   It’s very much worth reading! 

As I said in a previous comment thread:
“[MAVERICK] was smack in the thick of the huge proliferation of TV westerns of the mid-to-late-fifties thru the early-to-mid-sixties.  But, it did its thing with a healthy sense of humor.  Not exactly going so far as to call it ‘camp’, but its tone was more often ‘fun’ over grim.”

And for that, and so many other things, we have James Garner to thank!


TC said...

He is best known, of course, for Maverick and Rockford, but his list of credits at imdb shows a broader range than one might realize. He did drama, straight action-adventure, romantic comedy, and satire. Even "Maverick" and "Rockford" had enough variety (alternating the tongue-in-cheek episodes with serious ones) to show his versatility.

"Hour of the Gun" and "Duel at Diablo" can be real eye-openers for anyone who only knows Garner's easy-going image. Those movies were as brutal as just about anything that John Wayne or Clint Eastwood ever did.

Everybody liked those Polaroid commercials in the 1970's. To this day, a lot of people still think that Garner and Mariette Hartley were married IRL. (Well, they were, but not to each other.)

And, IMHO, Support Your Local Sheriff is still the best movie satire of Westerns ever made.

Joe Torcivia said...


It was Garner’s performance in MAVERICK that set the general tone for THE ROCKFORD FILES, not to mention other western vehicles like NICHOLS and “Support Your Local Sheriff”, something that I saw so long ago that I only have the vaguest memories of it.

I have not seen the other two films you mention. They sound like a very interesting counterpoint to pretty much most of his other performances.

So much so, that you wonder if the persona that would “be” that of James Garner was “created or otherwise set” by MAVERICK, or if MAVERICK took its cue from what naturally exuded from Garner.

And, those Polaroid commercials (…and shame on me for not mentioning them in the post) were just as good, in terms of the IMPRESSION they left on the public, as any recurring role on TV.

TC said...

The Maverick episode "Rope of Cards" was first broadcast on Jan. 19, 1958. The next day, every deck of playing cards in the US sold out.

That's the legend anyway. I'll go along with it. :)

Joe Torcivia said...


As I sometimes do, when a TV episode, film, or comic being discussed is not completely fresh in my mind, I want back and watched “Rope of Cards” before commenting.


Also featuring George (“George Jetson”) O’Hanlon, practically fresh off his long-running signature role for Warner Bros. “Joe McDoakes”, future “Sam Drucker” Frank Cady, and even the bombastically memorable “Warden’s Warden” from LOST IN SPACE, Tol Avery!

IMDB backs that “legend” in the “Trivia” section for the episode. Yeah, I can imagine lots of folks buying decks of cards, just to try out Bret Maverick’s assertion for themselves.

One final thought: This was a nice, straight episode. I wonder, had it been done for the Second or Third Season, if there might have been a bit of good natured satire of the very popular competing series PERRY MASON.