We Lost James Garner (1928 – 2014)

July 21st, 2014 // 39 Comments
James Garner

While Lindsay Lohan continues to be humanity’s cockroach, legendary film and television actor James Garner died Saturday night at his home at the age of 86, and holy shit, did this guy lead a life: From physically battling an abusive stepmother to protect his brothers, to joining the Merchant Marines, fighting in Korea, and then landing a role in The Great Escape before becoming TV’s Maverick and later Jim Rockford. And I’m already leaving out a ton of classic roles because I’m a goddamn whippersnapper who’s now going to list James Garner’s greatest achievement as not giving a single fuck to Ryan Gosling. From Nick Cassevetes‘ interview for the The Notebook‘s tenth anniversary:

Working with legendary actors like James Garner and Gena Rowlands seems like any up-and-coming performer’s dream. Because they were playing two different versions of the same character, Gosling was eager to discuss choices and character traits with his esteemed costar. “Jimmy is one of those kind of actors who’s a no-bulls–t actor from a time gone by,” Cassavetes said. “But Ryan finds significance in talking about hairstyles and everything.” So how did they agree on how to bring old and young Noah to life? An important meeting Cassavetes still thinks about fondly:
[Ryan] says, “I was thinking about accents. There’s all kinds of South Carolina accents — one’s more rural” and this and that. [Garner] goes, “I don’t do accents, kid. They’re stupid.” And [Ryan] goes, “Okay. What about eye color? I have blue eyes. You have brown eyes.” He says, “Everyone knows Jim Garner’s got brown eyes. Do what you want, kid.” [Ryan] says, “Okay, I guess I’ll wear contacts. What about hair?” And he says, “Do whatever you want, kid. Nice to meet you. See you later.” Ryan looked at me and said, “Shut up, don’t even say a word.”

Fucking legend. Rest in peace, Mr. Garner.

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  1. Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter are two of the best western comedies of all time. RIP, James.

  2. guttboy

    Always had a soft spot for him since my uncle bears a striking resemblance to him. The above story confirms what I thought about him being a no bull kind of a guy:)

  3. Murphy Jones

    Never heard that story before, mainly because I couldn’t give two fucks about The Notebook. Great story about a great all-around guy. RIP Mr. Garner.

  4. PassingTrue

    Nobody ever made a brown Firebird look cooler. RIP 853-OKG

  5. joe blow

    Damn… Couldn’t the Grim Reaper have culled that herd of Kardashians instead?

  6. That story was fucking awesome. R.I.P. Mr. Garner.

  7. rican

    Victor Victoria, when he walks into the bar and asks for a glass of milk.

  8. One of the last of the real Hollywood men. RIP

  9. Great man; great life; great loss. RIP, Mr Garner.

  10. The Americanization of Emily was his favorite role and mine too. But he was good in everything he did. R.I.P. Mr Garner.

  11. cc

    It’s not often I am actually saddened by the death of an actor, but this is an exception. He made some great shows, and great movies. In particular the Rockford Files is, to this day, the best private detective show to grace the small screen. And not by a small margin. If you go back and watch it, it was way ahead of it’s time. They had an episode about a gay mobster back when gay characters were almost unheard of on tv. They had an episode about the neglect of the mentally ill. They had an episode about harassment of the elderly by municipalities and developers. No other shows touched this stuff. And, as has often been pointed out, more often than not his character carried the day by outwitting his opponents. And, to top it all off, Mr Garner played the role to a ‘t’.

    • JC

      Same here–I was a youngin’ when Rockford Files was first airing, but even though some of what was going on went over my head, I still loved it. Anytime he did a J-turn in the Firebird was cause for extra celebration.

    • cc

      There was also a great two-parter about the abuse of the judicial system by prosecutors. An episode about a ship called *something* Maru, I think.

      Then there was the episode where Lt Becker has to deal with a ‘groupie’. At the end, he can’t take being nice any more and kind of lets loose on her. I can’t really capture it here, but it was pretty heavy duty shit for tv and probably the first time I saw something on tv that made go ‘whoa’.

  12. You left out “campaigned for civil rights before it was officially ‘cool’”. He didn’t sacrifice his principles for a career, and was typically no-bullshit scathingly honest about actors (Heston, Reagan and Schwartzenegger,to be precise) being poorly-qualified for political leadership.

    I used to see his MAVROCK license plate tooling around on Sunset and PCH – we’ll miss ya, Jimbo. Take good care of those knees.

  13. Rick Fortune

    i have been a fan of the Jim’s since his day’s as Maverick. His characters have been a role model for me for most of my life. His characters were always good guys with a touch of WTF and I enjoy that. He was a great actor and person and will be missed

  14. Jennyfurr

    He also produced a daughter who has an enormous ass and is also married to one.

  15. DrJ Fever

    Full life indeed! Married for 60+ years.

    There is a picture floating around out there of Mr. Garner with actress Dianne Carroll at the 1963 March on Washington. Jim Garner was there for MLK’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.

    Remarkable man and actor.

    • He was in the third fucking row for it, along with Marlon Brando, and was photographed holding Diahann Carroll’s hand when that sort of interracial “contact” would have freaked out most of his home state of Oklahoma, not to mention a shitload of others. He had a huge amount of personal integrity in that he wasn’t going to let any fears of career suicide get in the way of what was important. He wouldn’t have informed on his fellow actors to HUAC to reduce the competition and rack up political favors the way that Reagan did.

  16. Slash

    We should have elected him president when we had the chance.

    Farewell, Jim. You da man.

  17. Class act who didn’t let Hollywood go to his head. A lot of actors can learn from his example.

    RIP Jim.

  18. Sad news. RIP, James. :(

  19. Leila

    For any fan, you should definitely read his autobiography. Besides getting insight into his personal journey [fucked up stepmother, poverty, etc] he wrote like he lived, with frank and candid stories about hollywood actors [Brando sounds awesome, McQueen sounds like an asshole]. RIP James Garner.

    • McQueen was an asshole, hands down. He was incredibly cheap, so if you wanted him in your film, you had to outfit him from briefs on out, and he not only got to dictate what he wore, he got to keep all the clothing after the film wrapped. And I say “clothing”, not costumes, because what he wore in The Great Escape was hip ‘n’ casual 60′s California daywear. He stood out like a ridiculous sweat-shirted sore thumb in a camp full of uniformed POWs, and they had to write a stupid excuse for his somehow being captured in mufti into the screenplay.

      Too bad that among such an amazing group of professionals on that shoot not one iota of that rubbed off on him.

  20. Rasputin's Evil Twin

    An actor who knew how to use pauses and silence. Let a word hang for a moment, pause, continue. He knew acting wasn’t just talking, but knowing how to use timing to get the best effect.

    We’ll miss him.

  21. I’m sure everyone wanted a Jim Rockford answer phone message.

  22. Well…he died. We didn’t “lose” him. Casey Kasem though? That motherfucker is lost.

  23. Robb7

    Do guys like Garner exist in Hollywood today? Can’t think of one!
    RIP and thanks for the memories.

  24. right

    James Garner was always a class act. On or off screen. He once took on a movie studio when they tried to F him out of royalties for “The Rockford Files”. Shows like that just aren’t made anymore. He had an AMAZING screen presence. Just watch the “Great Escape”. One of the last Great Movie and Screen stars that was alive. He lived an amazing full life. I only wish i’d had a chance to run into him at a steak house out sometime. “Rocky don’t start with me”. You’re the man Jimmy.

  25. right

    I just watched the video promotion for the “Rockford Files”. Thanks for posting it. So many good memories from watching these shows. I remember “Jim” was always being greeted by “thugs” when he returned back to his trailer. Usually for something “Angel” was into, or one of his cases. Like the site wrote “Fuckin Legend” is right.

  26. Dr. Callanan

    I enjoy The Rockford Files every morning on MeTV just to recall
    Mr. Garner’s character creation. I would love to have had a taco
    with him with lots of hot sauce.

    Buen hombre, Jaime—–Muy caballero.


  27. tlmck

    My favorite actor was and still is John Wayne. However, when I was growing up in the 70′s, I wanted to be Jim Rockford. Cool car, cool job, and a trailer on the beach. Beth the lawyer wasn’t too shabby either. I could have done without Angel though. RIP Big Jim and thank god for reruns.

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