James Garner

For other uses, see James Garner (disambiguation).
James Garner

at the 39th Emmy Awards in September 1987
Born James Scott Bumgarner
(1928-04-07)April 7, 1928
Norman, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died July 19, 2014(2014-07-19) (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Other names James Scott Garner
James Bumgarner
James Scott Bumgarner
Occupation Actor, producer, voice artist
Years active 1954–2013
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Lois Josephine Fleischman Clarke (1956–2014; his death)
Children 2

Military career

Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1944–1952[1]
Rank Corporal
Awards Purple Heart

James Garner (born James Scott Bumgarner; April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014) was an American actor, producer, and voice artist. He starred in several television series over more than five decades, including such popular roles as Bret Maverick in the 1950s western comedy series Maverick and Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files,[2] and played leading roles in more than 50 theatrical films, including The Great Escape (1963) with Steve McQueen, Paddy Chayefsky's The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Blake Edwards' Victor Victoria (1982), Murphy's Romance (1985), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, Space Cowboys (2000) with Clint Eastwood, and The Notebook (2004).

Early life

Garner was born in Norman, Oklahoma on April 7, 1928. He was the youngest of three sons of Weldon Warren Bumgarner and Mildred Scott (Meek).[3][4] His older brothers were Jack Garner (1926–2011) and Charles Bumgarner, a school administrator who died in 1984.[5][6] His family was Methodist.[7] His mother died when he was 5 years old.[8][9] After their mother's death, Garner and his brothers were sent to live with relatives. Garner was reunited with his family in 1934, when Weldon remarried.[10]

Garner's father remarried several times.[11] Garner came to hate one of his stepmothers, Wilma, who beat all three boys (especially him). He said that his stepmother also punished him by forcing him to wear a dress in public. When he was 14 years old, he fought with her, knocking her down and choking her to keep her from killing him in retaliation. She left the family and never returned.[12][13] His brother Jack later commented, "She was a damn no-good woman".[13] Garner's last stepmother was Grace, who he said he loved and called "Mama Grace", and felt that she was more of a mother to him than anyone else had been.[11]

Shortly after his father's marriage to Wilma broke up, his father moved to Los Angeles, leaving Garner and his brothers in Norman. After working at several jobs he disliked, Garner joined the United States Merchant Marine at age 16 near the end of World War II. He liked the work and his shipmates, but he suffered from chronic seasickness.[10]

After the war, Garner joined his father in Los Angeles and enrolled at Hollywood High School, where he was voted the most popular student. A high school gym teacher recommended him for a job modeling Jantzen bathing suits.[14] It paid well ($25 an hour), but in his first interview for the Archives of American Television,[15] he said he hated modeling; he soon quit and returned to Norman. He played football and basketball at Norman High School), and competed on the track and golf teams.[16] However, he dropped out in his senior year. In a 1976 Good Housekeeping magazine interview, he admitted, "I was a terrible student and I never actually graduated from high school, but I got my diploma in the Army."[9]

He enlisted in the National Guard, serving his first 7 months in California. He then went to Korea for 14 months, as a rifleman in the 5th Regimental Combat Team during the Korean War. He was wounded twice, first in the face and hand by shrapnel fire from a mortar round, and the second time in the buttocks from friendly fire from U.S. fighter jets as he dove headfirst into a foxhole. Garner received the Purple Heart in Korea for the first wound. He qualified for a second Purple Heart (eligibility requirement: "As the result of friendly fire while actively engaging the enemy"), but he did not actually receive it until 1983, 32 years after the event.[14][17][18][19] Garner was a self-described "scrounger" for his company in Korea, a role he later played in The Great Escape[20] and The Americanization of Emily.



Earliest roles

In 1954, a friend named Paul Gregory, whom Garner had met while attending Hollywood High School, persuaded Garner to take a nonspeaking role in the Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, where he was able to study Henry Fonda night after night.[10] During the week of Garner's death, TCM broadcast most of his movies, introduced by Robert Osborne, who said that Fonda's gentle, sincere persona rubbed off on Garner, greatly to Garner's benefit.

Garner subsequently moved to television commercials[21] and eventually to television roles. In 1955, Garner was considered for the lead role in Cheyenne, but that role went to Clint Walker because the casting director could not reach Garner in time (according to Garner's autobiography), and Garner wound up playing an Army officer in the pilot, instead. His first film appearances were in The Girl He Left Behind and Toward the Unknown in 1956.

In 1957, he had a supporting role in the TV anthology series episode on Conflict entitled "Man from 1997," portraying Gloria Talbott's (as Maureen) brother "Red"; the show stars Jacques Sernas as Johnny Vlakos and Charlie Ruggles as elderly Mr. Boyne, a librarian from 1997, and involved a 1997 Almanac that was mistakenly left in the past by Boyne and found by Johnny in a bookstore.[22] The series' producer Roy Huggins noted in his Archive of American Television interview that he subsequently cast Garner as the lead in Maverick because of Garner's comedic facial expressions while playing scenes in Man from 1997 that were not originally written to be comical.

He changed his last name from Bumgarner to Garner after the studio had credited him as "James Garner" without permission. He then legally changed it upon the birth of his first child, when he decided she had too many names.[15]


Garner as Bret Maverick in Maverick (1959)

Garner was closely advised by financial adviser Irving Leonard, who also advised Clint Eastwood in the late 1950s and 1960s.[23][24] After several feature film roles, including Sayonara with Marlon Brando, Garner got his big break playing the role of professional gambler Bret Maverick in the comedy Western series Maverick from 1957 to 1960.[25]

Garner with Karen Steele in 1957

Only Garner and series creator Roy Huggins thought Maverick could compete with The Ed Sullivan Show and The Steve Allen Show. The show almost immediately made Garner a household name.[10] Various actors had recurring roles as Maverick foils, including Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as "Dandy Jim Buckley", Richard Long as "Gentleman Jack Darby", Leo Gordon as "Big Mike McComb", and Diane Brewster as "Samantha Crawford" (Huggins' mother's maiden name).

Garner as Bret Maverick and Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick

Garner was the lone star of Maverick for the first seven episodes, but production demands forced the studio, Warner Brothers, to create a Maverick brother, Bart, played by Jack Kelly. This allowed two production units to film different story lines and episodes simultaneously. The series also featured popular cross-over episodes featuring both Maverick brothers, including the famous "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres", upon which the first half of the 1973 movie The Sting appears to be based, according to Roy Huggins' Archive of American Television interview. Garner and Clint Eastwood staged an epic fistfight in an episode entitled "Duel at Sundown", in which Eastwood plays a vicious gunslinger. Critics were positive about Garner and Jack Kelly's chemistry, but Garner quit the series after the third season because of a dispute with Warner Brothers.[10]

Garner did make one fourth-season Maverick appearance, in an episode filmed in third season but held back. The studio attempted to replace Garner's character with a Maverick cousin who had lived in Britain long enough to pick up an English accent, portrayed by Roger Moore, but Moore quit the series after filming only 14 episodes as Beau Maverick. Warner Brothers also dressed Robert Colbert, a Garner look-alike, in Bret Maverick's outfit and called the character Brent, but Brent Maverick did not have a chance to catch on with viewers since Colbert made only two episodes toward the end of the season. This left the rest of the series run to Kelly, alternating with reruns of episodes with Garner. Garner still received billing in these newly produced Kelly episodes, aired in the 1961–62 season, though he did not appear in them and had left the series two years previously, but the studio reversed the billing at the beginning of each show and in advertisements during the fifth season, billing Kelly above Garner.

When Charlton Heston turned down the lead role in Darby's Rangers before Garner's departure from Maverick, Garner was selected and performed well in the role. As a result of Garner's performance in Darby's Rangers, coupled with his Maverick popularity, Warner Brothers subsequently gave him lead roles in other films, such as Up Periscope and Cash McCall.

1960s: Film career peak

With Bob Hope in a 1961 Hope TV special

After his acrimonious departure from Warner Bros. in the 1960s he starred in such films as The Children's Hour (1962) with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, Boys' Night Out (1962) with Kim Novak and Tony Randall, The Thrill of It All (1963) with Doris Day and Move Over, Darling, a 1963 remake of My Favorite Wife also starring Doris Day in which Garner played Cary Grant's role. The remake began as Something's Got to Give, but was recast and retitled after Marilyn Monroe died and co-star Dean Martin chose not to continue with a new actress.

Next came the war dramas The Great Escape (1963) with Steve McQueen, The Americanization of Emily (1964) with Julie Andrews and 36 Hours (1965) with Eva Marie Saint, the romantic comedy The Art of Love (1965) with Dick Van Dyke, and the westerns Duel at Diablo (1966) with Sidney Poitier, and as Wyatt Earp in Hour of the Gun (1967) with Jason Robards, Jr. as Doc Holliday, along with nine other theatrical releases during the decade. In the smash hit The Great Escape, Garner played the second lead for the only time during the decade, supporting fellow ex-TV series cowboy McQueen among a cast of British and American screen veterans including Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence, David McCallum, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson in a story depicting a mass escape from a German prisoner of war camp based on a true story. The film was released in the same month as The Thrill Of It All, giving Garner two films at the box office at the same time.

The Americanization of Emily, a literate antiwar D-Day comedy, featured a screenplay written by Paddy Chayefsky and has remained Garner's favorite of all his work.[26][27] In 1963, exhibitors voted him the 16th most popular star in the US.[28]

Grand Prix, directed by John Frankenheimer, left Garner with a fascination for car racing that he often explored by actually racing during the ensuing years.[25] The expensive Cinerama epic did not fare as well as expected at the box office.

In 1969, Garner played Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in Marlowe,[29] a detective drama featuring an early karate scene with Bruce Lee.[30] The same year, Garner scored a hit with the comedy Western Support Your Local Sheriff! featuring Walter Brennan and Jack Elam.


In 1971, Garner returned to television in an offbeat series, Nichols. The motorcycle-riding antihero character was killed in what became the final episode of the single-season series. Garner was recast as the character's more normal twin brother, in the hopes of creating a more popular series with few cast changes.[31] According to Garner's 1999 videotaped Archive of American Television interview, not only did the network change the name of the series to James Garner as Nichols, but Garner had Nichols killed in the last episode so that a sequel could never be made.[32]

The year 1971 also had him star in Support Your Local Gunfighter! (with many similarities to Support Your Local Sheriff!), and the frontier comedy Skin Game, featuring Garner and Louis Gossett, Jr. as con men pretending to be a slave and his owner during the pre-Civil War era. The following year, Garner played a modern sheriff investigating a murder in They Only Kill Their Masters with Katherine Ross. He appeared in two films co-starring Vera Miles as his leading lady, One Little Indian (1973) featuring Jodie Foster in an early minor role and The Castaway Cowboy (1974) with Robert Culp, before returning to television with a new detective series.

The Rockford Files

In the 1970s, Roy Huggins had an idea to remake Maverick, but this time as a modern-day private detective. Huggins worked with co-creator Stephen J. Cannell, and the pair tapped Garner to attempt to rekindle the success of Maverick, eventually recycling many of the plots from the original series. Starting with the 1974 season, Garner appeared as private investigator Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. He appeared for six seasons, for which he received an Emmy Award for Best Actor[33] in 1977. Veteran character actor Noah Beery, Jr. (Noah Beery, Sr.'s son and Wallace Beery's nephew) played Rockford's father, Joseph "Rocky" Rockford. Gretchen Corbett portrayed Rockford's lawyer and sometime lover, Beth Davenport, until she left the series over a salary dispute with the studio. Garner also invited another familiar actor, Joe Santos, to play Rockford's friend in the Los Angeles Police Department, Detective Dennis Becker. Rounding out the cast was a character actor and friend of Garner's who had previously co-starred with him on Nichols, Stuart Margolin, playing Jim's ex-cell mate and treacherous "friend" Angel Martin. In the first episode of season six, "Paradise Cove", Mariette Hartley guest-starred as Court Auditor Althea Morgan.

"Tall Woman in Red Wagon" episode (1974)

Garner had previously appeared with Rockford Files co-star Hartley in a series of Polaroid Camera commercials. After six seasons, The Rockford Files was cancelled in 1980. Although low ratings were primarily to blame, the physical toll on Garner was also an issue.[34] Appearing in nearly every scene of the series, doing many of his own stunts — including one that injured his back — was wearing him out.[34] A knee injury from his National Guard days worsened in the wake of the continuous jumping and rolling, and he was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer in 1979.[34]

Margolin said of his longtime colleague that despite Garner's health problems in the later years of The Rockford Files, he would often work long shifts, unusual for a starring actor, staying to do off-camera lines with other actors, doing his own stunts despite his knee problems.[34] When Garner later made The Rockford Files television movies, he said that 22 people (with the exception of series co-star Beery, who died late in 1994) came out of retirement to participate.[34]

In July 1983, Garner filed suit against Universal Studios for US$16.5 million in connection with his ongoing dispute from The Rockford Files. The suit charged Universal with "breach of contract; failure to deal in good faith and fairly; and fraud and deceit." Garner alleged that Universal was "creatively accounting", two words that are now part of the Hollywood lexicon.[35] The suit was eventually settled out of court in 1989. As part of the agreement, Garner could not disclose the amount of the settlement.[13][36]

"The industry is like it always has been. It's a bunch of greedy people," he stated in 1990.[37] Garner sued Universal again in 1998 for $2.2 million over syndication royalties. In this suit, he charged the studio with "deceiving him and suppressing information about syndication." He was supposed to receive $25,000 per episode that ran in syndication, but Universal charged him "distribution fees". He also felt that the studio did not release the show to the highest bidder for the episode reruns.[36]

The New Maverick

Garner and Jack Kelly reappeared as Bret and Bart Maverick in a 1978 made-for-television film entitled The New Maverick, which served as the pilot for a failed series, Young Maverick, starring Charles Frank as a younger cousin named Ben Maverick. The series itself, which only featured Garner for a few moments at the beginning of the first show, was canceled so rapidly, some of the episodes filmed were never broadcast.


After the abrupt disappearance of Young Maverick two seasons earlier, an attempt to make a "Maverick" series without Garner, he returned to his earlier TV role in 1981 in the revival series Bret Maverick, but NBC unexpectedly canceled the show after only one season despite reasonably good ratings. Critics noted that most of the scripts did not measure up to the first series. Jack Kelly (Bart Maverick) was slated to become a series regular had the show been picked up for another season, and he appeared in the last scene of the final episode in a surprise guest appearance.

During the 1980s, Garner played dramatic roles in a number of television films, including Heartsounds (with Mary Tyler Moore), Promise (with Piper Laurie), and My Name Is Bill W. In 1984, he played the lead in Joseph Wambaugh's The Glitter Dome for HBO Pictures, which was being directed by his Rockford Files co-star Stuart Margolin. The film generated a mild controversy for a bondage sequence featuring Garner and co-star Margot Kidder.[38]

Garner at the 39th Emmy Awards in September 1987, nominated for producing and performing in Promise (1986)

He was nominated for his only Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role in the movie Murphy's Romance opposite Sally Field. Field, and director Martin Ritt, had to fight the studio, Columbia Pictures, to have Garner cast, since he was regarded as a TV actor by then (despite having co-starred in the box office hit Victor Victoria opposite Julie Andrews two years earlier). Columbia did not want to make the movie, because it had no "sex or violence" in it. But because of the success of Norma Rae (1979), with the same star (Field), director, and screenplay writing team (Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch), and with Field's new production company (Fogwood Films) producing, Columbia agreed. Columbia wanted Marlon Brando to play the part of Murphy, so Field and Ritt had to insist on Garner.[39][40][41] Part of the deal from the studio, which at that time was owned by The Coca-Cola Company, included an eight-line sequence of Field and Garner saying the word "Coke", and also having Coke signs appear prominently in the film.[42][43] In A&E's Biography of Garner, Field reported that her on-screen kiss with Garner was the best cinematic kiss she had ever experienced.[44]

Garner played Wyatt Earp in two very different movies shot 21 years apart, Hour of the Gun in 1967 and Sunset in 1988. The first film was a realistic depiction of the O.K. Corral shootout and its aftermath, while the second centered around a fictional adventure shared by Earp and silent movie cowboy star Tom Mix. The film featured Bruce Willis as Mix in only his second movie role. Although Willis was billed over Garner, the film actually gave more screen time and emphasis to Earp.

For the second half of the 1980s, Garner appeared in several of the North American market Mazda television commercials as an on-screen spokesman.[45]


In 1991, Garner starred in Man of the People, a television series about a con man chosen to fill an empty seat on a city council, with Kate Mulgrew and Corinne Bohrer.[46] Despite reasonably fair ratings, the show was canceled after only 10 episodes. In 1993, Garner played the lead in a well-received HBO movie, the true story Barbarians at the Gate, and went on to reprise his role as Jim Rockford in eight The Rockford Files made-for-TV movies beginning the following year.[47] Practically everyone in the original cast of recurring characters returned for the new episodes except Noah Beery, Jr., who had died in the interim.

In 1994, Garner played Marshal Zane Cooper in a movie version of Maverick, with Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick (in the end it is revealed that Garner's character is the father of Gibson's Maverick) and Jodie Foster as a gambling lass with a fake Southern accent.[48] In 1995, he played lead character Woodrow Call, an ex-lawman, in the TV miniseries sequel to Lonesome Dove entitled Streets of Laredo, based on Larry McMurtry's book. In 1996, Garner and Jack Lemmon teamed up in My Fellow Americans, playing two former presidents who uncover scandalous activity by their successor (Dan Aykroyd) and are pursued by murderous NSA agents.[49] In addition to a major recurring role during the last part of the run of TV series Chicago Hope, Garner also starred in two short-lived series, the animated God, the Devil and Bob and First Monday, in which he played a Supreme Court justice.

Later years

In 2000, after an operation to replace both knees,[50] Garner appeared with Clint Eastwood (who had played a villain in the original Maverick series) as astronauts in the movie Space Cowboys,[51] also featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland.

In 2001, Garner voiced Commander Rourke in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. In 2002, following the death of James Coburn, Garner took over Coburn's role as TV commercial voiceover for Chevrolet's "Like a Rock" advertising campaign. Garner continued to voice the commercials until the end of the campaign. Also in 2002, he played Sandra Bullock's father in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (film) as Shepard James "Shep" Walker. After the death of John Ritter in 2003, Garner joined the cast of 8 Simple Rules as Grandpa Jim Egan (Cate's father)[52] and remained with the series until it finished in 2005.

In 2004, Garner starred as the older version of Ryan Gosling's character in the film version of Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook alongside Gena Rowlands as his wife, directed by Nick Cassavetes, Rowlands' son. The Screen Actors Guild nominated Garner as best actor for "Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role."[53]

In 2010, Garner voiced Shazam in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam.[54]

On November 1, 2011, Simon & Schuster published Garner's autobiography The Garner Files: A Memoir. In addition to recounting his career, the memoir, co-written with nonfiction writer Jon Winokur, detailed the childhood abuses Garner suffered at the hands of his stepmother. It also offered frank, unflattering assessments of some of Garner's co-stars such as Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. In addition to recalling the genesis of most of Garner's hit films and television shows, the book also featured a section where the star provided individual critiques for every one of his acting projects accompanied by a star rating for each. Garner's three-time co-star Julie Andrews wrote the book's foreword. Lauren Bacall, Diahann Carroll, Doris Day, Tom Selleck, and Stephen J. Cannell and many other Garner associates, friends, and relatives provided their memories of the star in the book's coda.[55]

The "most explosive revelation" in his autobiography was that Garner smoked marijuana for much of his adult life. "I started smoking it in my late teens," Garner wrote.

I drank to get drunk but ultimately didn't like the effect. Not so with grass. It had the opposite effect from alcohol: it made me more tolerant and forgiving. I did a little bit of cocaine in the Eighties, courtesy of John Belushi, but fortunately I didn't like it. But I smoked marijuana for 50 years and I don’t know where I'd be without it. It opened my mind and now it eases my arthritis. After decades of research I’ve concluded that marijuana should be legal and alcohol illegal.[55]

Awards and nominations

Nominated for 15 Emmy Awards during his television career, Garner received the award in 1977 as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (The Rockford Files) and in 1987 as executive producer of Promise.[56]

For his contribution to the film and television industry, Garner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard).[51] In 1990, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was also inducted into the Television Hall of Fame that same year. In February 2005, he received the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award.[2][51] He was also nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role that year, for The Notebook. When Morgan Freeman won that prize for his work in Million Dollar Baby, he led the audience in a sing-along of the original Maverick theme song, written by David Buttolph and Paul Francis Webster.

In 2010, the Television Critics Association gave Garner its annual Career Achievement Award.

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1958 Golden Globe Award Most Promising Newcomer – Male Won
1959 Primetime Emmy Award Best Actor in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series Maverick Nominated
1963 Golden Globe Award Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy The Wheeler Dealers Nominated
1978–1980 Golden Globe Award Best TV Actor – Drama The Rockford Files Nominated
1977 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Won
1976, 1978–1980 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
1981 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical Bret Maverick Nominated
1982 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
1984 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Heartsounds Nominated
1985 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special Nominated
1985 Academy Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Murphy's Romance Nominated
1985 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical Nominated
1986 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Promise Nominated
1987 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special Won
1987 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special Nominated
1989 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special My Name is Bill W. Nominated
1989 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special Nominated
1990 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Decoration Day Won
1991 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special Nominated
1993 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Barbarians at the Gate Won
1993 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special Nominated
1994 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Breathing Lessons Nominated
1994 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special Nominated
1994 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance in a TV Movie or Miniseries The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A. Nominated
1995 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance in a TV Movie or Miniseries The Rockford Files: A Blessing in Disguise Nominated
1998 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance in a TV Movie or Miniseries Lagalese Nominated
2004 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role The Notebook Nominated
2004 Screen Actors Guild Award Life Achievement Award Won
2008 TCA Awards TCA Career Achievement Award Nominated
2010 TCA Awards TCA Career Achievement Award Won


On April 21, 2006, a 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) bronze statue of Garner as Bret Maverick was unveiled in Garner's hometown of Norman, Oklahoma,[51] with Garner present at the ceremony.

Personal life

Marriage and family

The Garners in 1961. Greta is on Garner's lap; Kim is looking out between Garner and his wife Lois.

Garner was married to Lois Josephine Fleischman Clarke,[57][58][59][60] whom he met at an "Adlai Stevenson for President" rally in 1956. They married 14 days later on August 17, 1956. "We went to dinner every night for 14 nights. I was just absolutely nuts about her. I spent $77 on our honeymoon, and it about broke me."[14] According to Garner, "Marriage is like the Army; everyone complains, but you'd be surprised at the large number of people who re-enlist."[61]

When Garner and Clarke married, her daughter Kim from a previous marriage was seven years old and recovering from polio.[9] Garner had one daughter with Lois: Greta "Gigi" Garner.[9] In an interview in Good Housekeeping with Garner, his wife, and two daughters conducted at their home that was published in March 1976, Gigi's age was given as 18 and Kim's as 27.[9]

In late 1979, Garner separated from his wife (around the time The Rockford Files stopped filming), splitting his time between living in Canada and "a rented house in the Valley."[62][63] The two reconciled in September 1981, and remained married for the rest of his life. Garner died less than a month before their 58th wedding anniversary.

Health issues

Garner's knees became a chronic problem during the filming of The Rockford Files in the 1970s, with "six or seven knee operations during that time." In 2000, he underwent knee replacement surgery for both of them.[14]

On April 22, 1988, Garner had quintuple bypass heart surgery.[64] Though he recovered rapidly, he was advised to stop smoking. Garner quit smoking 17 years later.[65]

Garner underwent surgery on May 11, 2008, following a severe stroke he had suffered two days earlier.[66] His prognosis was reported to be "very positive."[66]


Garner was an owner of the "American International Racers" (AIR) auto racing team from 1967 through 1969.[67] Motorsports writer William Edgar and Hollywood director Andy Sidaris teamed with Garner for the racing documentary The Racing Scene, filmed in 1969 and released in 1970.[68] The team fielded cars at Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring endurance races, but is best known for Garner's celebrity status raising publicity in early off-road motor-sports events.[67] In 1978, he was one of the inaugural inductees in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.[67]

Garner signed a three-year sponsorship contract with American Motors Corporation (AMC).[69] His shops prepared ten 1969 SC/Ramblers for the Baja 500 race.[70] Garner did not drive in this event because of a film commitment in Spain that year. Nevertheless, seven of his cars finished the grueling race, taking three of the top five places in the sedan class.[71] Garner also drove the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 race in 1975, 1977, and 1985 (see: list of Indianapolis 500 pace cars).[67]


Garner was an avid golfer for many years. Along with his brother, Jack, he played golf in high school.[16] Jack even attempted a professional golfing career after a brief stint in the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball farm system.[72] Garner took it up again in the late 1950s to see if he could beat Jack.[14] He was a regular for years at Pebble Beach Pro-Am.[72] In February 1990 at the AT&T Golf Tournament, he won the Most Valuable Amateur Trophy.[8] Garner appeared on Sam Snead's Celebrity Golf TV series which aired from 1960 – 1963. These matches were 9-hole charity events pitting Snead against Hollywood celebrities.


Garner was noted as an enthusiastic fan of the Raiders in the NFL, particularly when they played in Los Angeles between 1982 and 1994, when he regularly attended games and mixed with the players.[73] He was also present when the Raiders won Super Bowl XVIII over the Washington Redskins in January 1984 at Tampa, Florida.

University of Oklahoma

Garner was a supporter of the University of Oklahoma, often returning to Norman for school functions. When he attended Oklahoma Sooners football games, he frequently could be seen on the sidelines or in the press box. Garner received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at OU in 1995.[74] In 2003, to endow the James Garner Chair in the School of Drama, he donated $500,000, half of a pledged $1 million, for the first endowed position at the drama school.[74][75] Tom H. Orr, the Director for the School of Drama (Acting/Camera Acting) and the Artistic Director of the University Theatre, currently holds the James Garner Chair at the university.[76][77]


Garner was a strong Democratic Party supporter. From 1982, Garner gave at least $29,000 to Federal campaigns, of which over $24,000 was to Democratic Party candidates, including Dennis Kucinich (for Congress in 2002), Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, and various Democratic committees and groups.[78]

On August 28, 1963, Garner was one of several celebrities to join Martin Luther King, Jr. in the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." In his autobiography, Garner recalled sitting in the third row listening to King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

For his role in the 1985 CBS miniseries Space, the character's party affiliation was changed from Republican as in the book to reflect Garner's personal views. Garner said, "My wife would leave me if I played a Republican."[79]

There was an effort by California Democratic party leaders, led by state Senator Herschel Rosenthal, to persuade Garner to seek the Democratic nomination for Governor of California in the 1990 election. However, future United States Senator and former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein received the nomination instead, losing to Republican Pete Wilson in the election.[80][81]


On Saturday evening, July 19, 2014, police and rescue personnel were summoned to Garner's Los Angeles-area home, where they found the actor dead at the age of 86.[82][83][84] Garner had suffered a massive heart attack caused by coronary artery disease.[85]


Year Title Role Notes
1956 Toward the Unknown[86] Major Joe Craven
1956 The Girl He Left Behind[86] Preston
1957 Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend[86] Sgt. John Maitland
1957 Sayonara[86] Capt. Mike Bailey, USMC
1958 Darby's Rangers[86] Col. William Orlando Darby
1959 Up Periscope[86] Lt. j.g. Kenneth M. Braden
1959 Alias Jesse James Bret Maverick Scenes deleted from some later reissue prints
1960 Cash McCall[86] Cash McCall
1961 The Children's Hour[86][87] Dr. Joe Cardin
1962 Boys' Night Out[86] Fred Williams
1963 The Great Escape[87] Flt. Lt. Robert Hendley "The Scrounger"
1963 The Thrill of It All[87] Dr. Gerald Boyer
1963 The Wheeler Dealers[86] Henry Tyroon
1963 Move Over, Darling[87] Nick Arden
1964 Action on the Beach Himself Short documentary
1964 The Americanization of Emily[87] Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison
1965 36 Hours[86] Major Jefferson F. Pike
1965 The Art of Love[86] Casey Barnett
1966 Grand Prix: Challenge of the Champions Himself (uncredited) Short documentary
1966 A Man Could Get Killed[86] William Beddoes Also executive producer
1966 Duel at Diablo[86] Jess Remsberg
1966 Mister Buddwing[86] Mr. Buddwing
1966 Grand Prix[87] Pete Aron Also executive producer
1967 Hour of the Gun[86] Wyatt Earp
1968 Once Upon a Wheel Himself Documentary
1968 The Man Who Makes the Difference Himself (uncredited) Short documentary
1968 How Sweet It Is! Grif
1968 The Pink Jungle Ben Morris
1969 The Racing Scene Narrator Also producer; documentary
1969 Support Your Local Sheriff![87] Jason McCullough
1969 Marlowe[87] Philip Marlowe
1970 A Man Called Sledge Luther Sledge
1971 Support Your Local Gunfighter! Latigo Smith Also executive producer
1971 Skin Game[86] Quincy Also executive producer
1972 They Only Kill Their Masters[86] Abel Marsh
1973 One Little Indian Keyes
1974 The Castaway Cowboy Lincoln Costain
1980 HealtH[87] Harry Wolff
1981 The Fan Jake Berman
1982 Victor Victoria[87] King Marchand
1984 Heartsounds[87] Harold Lear TV film
1984 Tank Sgt Maj Zack Carey
1985 Murphy's Romance[87] Murphy Jones
1985 Promise[87] Bob Beuhler TV film; also executive producer
1988 Sunset Wyatt Earp
1989 My Name is Bill W.[87] Dr. Robert 'Dr. Bob' Holbrook Smith TV film; also executive producer
1990 Decoration Day[87] Albert Sidney Finch
1990 Take Me to your Leaders Narrator Documentary
1992 The Distinguished Gentleman Jeff Johnson
1993 Fire in the Sky Frank Watters
1993 Barbarians at the Gate[87] F. Ross Johnson TV film
1994 Breathing Lessons-[87] Ira Moran TV film
1994 Maverick Marshal Zane Cooper
1995 Larry McMurtry's Streets of Laredo Texas Ranger Woodrow F. CallMiniseries
1996 Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick Himself Documentary
1996 My Fellow Americans[88] President Matt Douglas
1997 The Hidden Dimension Narrator Documentary
1997 Dead Silence[88] John Potter TV film
1998 Twilight Raymond Hope
1998 Legalese Norman Keane TV film
1999 One Special Night Robert Woodward TV film
2000 The Last Debate Mike Howley TV film
2000 Space Cowboys[87] Tank Sullivan
2001 Atlantis: The Lost Empire Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke (voice)
2002 Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood[86] Shepard James Walker "Shep"
2003 The Land Before Time X Pat (voice) Direct-to-DVD
2004 The Notebook[87] Old Noah Calhoun "Duke"
2004 Al Roach: Private Investigator Al Roach Short
2007 The Ultimate Gift Red Stevens
2007 Battle for Terra Doron (voice)
2010 Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam Shazam (voice) Short film


Year Title Role Notes
1955 Cheyenne[87] Lt. Brad Forsythe episode: Mountain Fortress
1956 Zane Grey Theater Lt. Jim Collins Episode: "Star Over Texas"
1956 Cheyenne[87] Lt. Lee Rogers episode: Decision
1956 Cheyenne[87] Bret episode: The Last Train West
1956–1957 Conflict Red / Jim Curtis 3 episodes: The People Against McQuade, Man from 1997, and Girl on the Subway
1957–1962 Maverick Bret Maverick / Beau 'Pappy' Maverick 60 episodes
1957 Sugarfoot Bret Maverick Episode: "Misfire"
1957 Cheyenne[87] Willis Peake episode: War Party
1958 Wide Wide World Himself Episode: "The Western"
1958 This Is Your Life Himself Episode: "James Garner"
1960–1964 The Bob Hope Show Himself Episodes: 4-20-1960, and 12-18-1964
1961-1962 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Himself Episodes: 2-26-61, 4-16-61 and 11-11-62
1971–1972 Nichols[86] Sheriff Frank Nichols 24 episodes
1974 Backlash of the Hunter Jim Rockford TV movie, Pilot for "The Rockford Files"
1974–1980 The Rockford Files Jim Rockford 122 episodes; director of episode: "The Girl in the Bay City Boys Club"
1978 The New Maverick Bret Maverick TV movie
1979 Young Maverick Bret Maverick Episode: "Clancy"
1981–1982 Bret Maverick Bret Maverick 18 episodes
1991–1992 Man of the People Councilman Jim Doyle 10 episodes
1993 Return to 'The Great Escape' Himself/Hendley "The Scrounger" Video Documentary Short
1994 The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A. Jim Rockford TV movie (also executive producer – uncredited)
1994 HBO First Look Himself/Bret Maverick TV series Documentary Episode: Maverick
1994 100 Years of the Hollywood Western Himself Documentary TV movie
1995 The Rockford Files: A Blessing in Disguise Jim Rockford TV movie (also executive producer)
1995 Streets of Laredo Woodrow F. Call Mini-series
1996 The Rockford Files: If the Frame Fits... Jim Rockford TV movie
1996 The Rockford Files: Godfather Knows Best Jim Rockford TV movie
1996 The Rockford Files: Friends and Foul Play Jim Rockford TV movie (also executive producer)
1996 The Rockford Files: Punishment and Crime Jim Rockford TV movie (also executive producer)
1996 The Rockford Files: Shoot-Out at the Golden Pagoda Jim Rockford TV movie
1999 Century of Country Host Mini-series (13 episodes)
1999 The Rockford Files: If It Bleeds... It Leads Jim Rockford TV movie (also producer)
2000 Chicago Hope Hubert "Hue" Miller 4 episodes
2000 Biography Himself Episode: James Garner: Hollywood Maverick
2000–2001 God, the Devil and Bob God 13 episodes
2002 "Roughing It"[89] Mark Twain TV Movie
2002 First Monday[86] Chief Justice Thomas Brankin 13 episodes
2002 The Making of 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire' Himself/Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke Video/Documentary
2003–2005 8 Simple Rules Jim Egan 45 episodes
2005 James Garner On-Camera Interview: Rockford Files Season 1 DVD Himself/Jim Rockford Video Documentary Short
2006 The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy Himself Video
2011 Pioneers of Television Himself/Jim Rockford TV series Documentary episode: Crime Dramas
2011 Pioneers of Television Himself/Bret Maverick TV series Documentary episode: Westerns
2013 The Ultimate Life Howard "Red" Stevens sequel to The Ultimate Gift

See also



  1. "Cpl James Scott Garner". TogetherWeServed. 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-20.
  2. 1 2 Micheal Moynihan (July 23, 2014). "James Garner in the 'Rockford Files' was an irresistible force on our TV screens". Irish Examiner.
  3. His surname is spelled, 'Bumgarner', as stated by Garner in an interview at Archive of American Television Interview with James Garner (Part 1 of 6)
  4. James Garner, Jon Winokur, Julie Andrews (2011). The Garner Files: A Memoir. Simon and Schuster. p. 5.
  5. Rieger, Andy (September 15, 2011). "Jack Garner dies at age 84". Norman Transcript. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  6. "Dame Bernice Lake dies". Variety Magazine. September 14, 2011. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  7. "BOOK REVIEW: 'The Garner Files': Jim Rockford a Curmudgeon? Say It Ain't So!". Huntington News. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  8. 1 2 "James Garner". WCHS TV. Archived from the original on May 19, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5
    (US Census records for 1900 show that Mr. Garner's maternal ancestor, Charles Meek, listed as "white", resided on the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma.) "James Garner: A Really Nice Guy makes Good". Good Housekeeping. New York City: The Hearst Corporation. March 1976. Page: 46, photo caption: "Though Gigi Garner, 18, . . ." Page 46, JG: "I was a terrible student and I never actually graduated from high school, but I got my diploma in the Army." Page 48: "my two daughters, Kim and Gigi" Page 48: "to his darkly pretty, very bright wife, Lois" Page 48, Lois: "When I first met him, I was an emotional wreck. My seven-year-old daughter, Kim, was in a hospital with polio." Page 58: "Jim's mother, who was half Cherokee Indian, a beautiful woman who died when he was five." (The interview was conducted on the set of Rockford Files and at his home with his wife and two daughters present, who lived at home. Kim's age was given as "27".
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Robert Sellers. "James Garner: The actor known for his portrayals of an honourable man in a dishonourable world | Obituaries | News". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  11. 1 2 James Garner, Jon Winokur, Julie Andrews (2011). The Garner Files: A Memoir. Simon and Schuster. p. 15.
  12. Grobel, Lawrence. The Art of the Interview. New York: Three Rivers Press. 2004, p. 161. ISBN 1-4000-5071-5
  13. 1 2 3 Strait, Raymond . James Garner. New York, New York: St. Martin's Press. 1985. ISBN 0-312-43967-9
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Cunneff, Tom. "Jim Dandy" Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. People (February 7, 2005) Retrieved on May 30, 2008
  15. 1 2 James Garner interview at Archive of American Television – (c/o Google Video; March 17, 1999)
  16. 1 2 "Proud to be an OKIE". Tulsa World (July 15, 2007)
  17. "Actor James Garner Receives Purple Heart 32 Years Late". Associated Press (c/o The Daily Oklahoman; January 25, 1983)
  18. "Garner Has a Heart ... 30 Years Late" United Press International c/o Philadelphia Daily News. January 25, 1983
  19. "Jim Garner Gets Behind a Cause". Philadelphia Daily News (May 12, 1995). Retrieved on August 3, 2008
  20. Rubin, Steve. Documentary: Return to 'The Great Escape. MGM Home Entertainment (1993)
  21. Brian Pendreigh (2014-07-21). "Obituary: James Garner, actor". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  22. The Man From 1997 (TV Pilot) on YouTube
  23. Broadcasting. Cahners Pub. Co. 1965. p. 69. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  24. McGilligan, Patrick (1999). Clint: The Life and Legend. London: Harper Collins. p. 177. ISBN 0-00-638354-8.
  25. 1 2 "James Garner, Witty, Handsome Leading Man, Dies at 86". New York Times. July 20, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
  26. "Lowly Brother Amidst The Sisterhood" Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Film Monthly (June 3, 2002) Retrieved on June 2, 2008
  27. Murray, Rebecca. Press Release: "James Garner Honored with the Screen Actors Guild's Life Achievement Award". Screen Actors Guild (January 29, 2005) Retrieved on June 2, 2008
  28. 'Doris Day Heads Top 10' The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959–1973) [Washington, D.C] Jan 14, 1964: A27. Also 1965 Classic "36 Hours"
  29. McNamara, Mary (July 20, 2014). "James Garner dies; actor changed what a hero could be like". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
  30. Gerstenzang, Peter (July 21, 2014). "James Garner's Five Best Sleeper Films". Village Voice. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
  31. "Appreciation: James Garner, reluctant hero". USA Today. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
  32. Garner, James (March 17, 1999). "Interview with James Garner". Archive of American Television (Interview). Interview with Karen Herman, Morrie Gelman. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
  33. "James Garner | Television Academy". Emmys.com. 2014-07-19. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  34. 1 2 3 4 5 "James Garner: Hollywood Maverick." Biography (October 2, 2000)
  35. Neville Johnson (July 23, 2014). "James Garner: A Lawyer Reflects on the Actor's Legal Legacy". The Hollywood Reporter.
  36. 1 2 Garner files 'Files' suit Archived January 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.. – Reuters. – (c/o Variety; September 14, 1998). Retrieved on June 1, 2008
  37. Todd Leopold (July 21, 2014). "Famed actor James Garner dies at 86". CNN.
  38. "The Glitter Dome". The New York Times.
  39. Cameron, Julia. – "Garner Fits Romantic Role, Not Hollywood Pigeonhole." Chicago Tribune (January 19, 1986)
  40. Laurence, Robert P. "Garner doesn't go by the book in role in 'Breathing Lessons.'" San Diego Union-Tribune (February 6, 1994)
  41. Rosenthal, Phil. "Garner Remains TV's Class Act." Daily News of Los Angeles (February 6, 1994). Retrieved on August 3, 2008
  42. Baltake, Joe. "The Packaging of Hollywood of Advertising." Sacramento Bee (May 13, 1990)
  43. "Blowing Smoke — They've Coma a Long Way, Baby, In pushing Cigarettes on Screen. Sacramento Bee (January 14, 1996). Retrieved on August 3, 2008
  44. Nelson, Ted. – "James Garner: Hollywood Maverick." A&E Biography (October 2, 2000). New York: A & E Home Video; ISBN 978-0-7670-3361-9
  45. Horovitz, Bruce (February 10, 1989). "Mazda Drops Garner to Try New Route in Commercials". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 22, 2014. "four-year stint as a spokesman for Mazda... contract expires in March" (i.e. March 1985–89)
  46. TV Guide. "Man of the People Cast and Details". TV Guide. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  47. Strait, Raymond (1985). James Garner. New York: St. Martin's. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-312-43967-5.
  48. Hall, Carla (May 15, 1994). "SUMMER SNEAKS '94 : Was, Is and Always a Maverick : His signatures are Rockford and Maverick—can anybody in Hollywood do cool and canny better than James Garner?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
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  50. King, Susan (April 12, 2000). "At 'Chicago Hope,' They've Called In a Maverick Talent". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  51. 1 2 3 4 Ella Alexander (2014-07-20). "James Garner death: The Notebook, Maverick and Rockford Files actor dies aged 86 | People | News". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  52. "James Garner to Join '8 Simple Rules'". People. October 16, 2003. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
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  54. "R.I.P. TV and Film Icon James Garner, 1928–2014". Comicbook.com. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
  55. 1 2 "James Garner: Why Steve McQueen was like my little brother". December 3, 2011. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
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  57. "James Garner and Lois Clarke The Most Romantic Love Story". Daily E News. June 20, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2014.
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  59. Ancestry.com. California, Marriage Index, 1949–1959 James S Bumgarner, Lois J Fleischman, 17 Aug 1956, Los Angeles, California, US
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  61. Garner, James, with Charlie Rose. – "An Hour with Actor James Garner." Charlie Rose (March 26, 2002)
  62. "Beck, Marilyn. Garner: 'I like people who care'". The Bangor Daily News (January 2, 1982). Retrieved December 19, 2014.
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  64. "Garner OK after Heart Bypass Operation." Chicago Sun-Times (April 24, 1988)
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  66. 1 2 Gorman, Steve. "James Garner undergoes surgery after stroke" Archived January 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.. Reuters (May 14, 2008). Retrieved on May 14, 2008
  67. 1 2 3 4 "Garner – 1978 inductee, Off-Road Hall Of Fame". Ormhof.com. April 7, 1928. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
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  72. 1 2 Montgomery, Ed. "Maverick coming home". The Norman Transcript (c/o The Weatherford Democrat; April 6, 2006)>
  73. "James Garner, who died at 86, was a huge Raiders fan" Archived March 9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. – CBS Sports – July 20, 2014
  74. 1 2 "Favorite son returns for '89er Days" – The Norman Transcript — March 30, 2006
  75. "Garner will choose movie for Norman celebration", The Norman Transcript (March 12, 2006)
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  80. McGreevy, Patrick. "Garner Asked to Run for Governor — But Actor Declines to Follow in Reagan's Path". Daily News of Los Angeles (July 25, 1989)
  81. Leopold, Todd (2014-07-21). "Famed actor James Garner dies at 86". CNN.com. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  82. "Leading Man, Dies at 86 James Garner, Witty, Handsome". New York Times. July 20, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
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  84. "James Garner died of a massive heart attack". The Arizona Republic. July 29, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  85. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Richard Natale. "James Garner of 'Maverick,' 'Rockford Files,' Dies at 86". Variety. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  86. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Dennis McLellan. "James Garner dies at 86; TV antihero of 'Maverick,' 'Rockford Files'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  87. 1 2 "James Garner, Rockford Files star, dies aged 86". BBC News. July 20, 2014. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  88. "Roughing It (2002)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2016-07-24.


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