Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western “Maverick” led to a stellar career in TV and films such as “The Rockford Files” and his Oscar-nominated “Murphy’s Romance,” has died, … He was 86.
The first two WWII movies I remember seeing were Up Periscope (1959) with James Garner as a US Navy frogman, and when I later saw the earlier Destination Tokyo (1943) and compared the two films I was more impressed with Garner’s film. It was (to my adolescent eye) more realistic, “Destination Tokyo” seemed fake (I hadn’t encountered the phrase “shot on the Studio Backlot” yet). I couldn’t see myself a hero like Cary Grant, (too reserved), but James Garner I could try. That summer on Cape Cod when I was snorkeling and skin diving underwater, I was really trying to surprise the Nips! I suppose little boys are discouraged to emulate men like Garner today; too straight, too big and tall, and of course too straight.
I liked every movie I saw with James Garner in it and I never missed Maverick. My late wife loved him, Rockford Files was her favorite show, she never missed it. James Garner was one of the men that she threw at me from time to time; “My next husband will be a Welshman like Richard Burton“, or “My next husband will be able to grow a decent mustache like Tom Selleck” and (of course) “My next husband will be hunky like James Garner!“.
When Garner was doing Nichols he gave an interview where he said that he definitely wasn’t a comedian, he didn’t do comedy. He did humor, he didn’t want big laughs, he preferred to invoke a lengthy grin along with a chuckle.
I can’t think of any actors today that can fill his shoes. Or any US studios interested in making shows like the Rockford Files. That’s all, I’m heading over to the video library and see if I still have a copy of Up Periscope. Lieutenant Braden, you may leave the boat. RIP, Jimmy. Say Hi to Rocky for me.
Update: Item of interest, James Garner’s obit for the AP was written by Bob Thomas, apparently a prolific writer of obituaries for many years. At Big Hollywood they added the detail that Thomas predeceased Garner by four months, I wish they had asked Garner to write a obit on Thomas, nice symmetry.