James Garner, Star of Maverick and Rockford Files, Dead at 86

Veteran actor James Garner, who won two Emmy Awards throughout his prolific TV career, died Saturday night. He was 86.

The cause of death is not yet known.

Though Garner amassed quite a list of TV and film credits throughout the years, his breakout role on the small screen was that of gambler Bret Maverick in the 1950s Western Maverick. He also starred in 1970s crime drama The Rockford Files, a role that landed him his first Emmy in 1977. (The other came in 1987, for his work as a producer on CBS’ Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Promise.)

Other highlights from the actor’s extensive TV resume were roles on Nichols, First Monday, Chicago Hope and, in 2003, a memorable run on the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules. He also enjoyed a fun, added level of small-screen celebrity by way of a serialized late-1970s/early ’80s Polaroid ad campaign, in which he co-starred with Mariette Hartley.

On film, Garner was perhaps best known in recent years for his role in the 2004 tearjerker The Notebook, though his film credits — to name a few — included Victor Victoria, My Fellow Americans, Sunset and Marlowe.

In addition to his Emmys, Garner’s many accolades included two Golden Globes (for TV movies Decoration Day and Barbarians at the Gate), an Oscar nomination for the 1985 film Murphy’s Romance and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2005.

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  1. Holly says:

    Very talented actor. He will be missed. Rest in peace.

  2. michael says:

    sorry to hear another great has passed on.

  3. Pat says:

    As a child of the 50’s, I will always remember him on Maverick. As a young adult in the early 70’s, I loved watching the Rockford Files! My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and May He Rest In Peace!

    • Carlos in STL says:

      Rockfish. That was the inside joke nickname he was given in a classic episode of the classic Rockford Files series. And how about the one with Tom Selleck that led to his Magnum PI series…so much fun to watch the guys enjoy their roles.

  4. David4 says:

    He saved Eight Simple Rules, the only reason it ended was because ABC didn’t think the show would be able to be sold into syndication because of how sad, yet touching and funny, the show was. He was wonderful on it. Such a sad day.

    • Ally Oop says:

      Agreed. I never saw his earlier works but he did a very good job on 8 Simple Rules, a show that should have gone on to more seasons. RIP Mr. James Garner.

  5. S M Day says:

    So very talented, he was one of my favorites, I loved to see him act, he made every character he portrayed really come to life! Rest now Jim

  6. I am very sorry to hear about James Garner’s Passing. I watched the Notebook, several times. It was a beautiful movie!! I have seen James Garner in many movies, and he could make you laugh ormake you cry, he was that good of an actor. He is also an EX-Marine, just a little trivia added. He will be missed!!

    • JJ says:

      He was not a Marine he was in the Merchant Marine. There is a BIG difference. And as a side note, you do not call someone an “Ex-Marine” unless they were basically dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps. Once a Marine always a Marine, and they get rather testy about that.

      • Kayla says:

        I bet you’re fun at parties. The above comment may have been incorrect, but it was written to show appreciation and respect to an iconic person. I urge you not to let an honest mistake take away from the intention behind that comment. James Garner was a wonderful actor and a brave person and he will be missed. That’s all that really matters.

      • Don Herion says:

        Your both wrong: Garner was in the army, he got drafted in 1950 and wound up in Korea with the 5th RCT under the lst Cavalry, the 45th Division. Before it was over he got 2 Purple Hearts. He was a very good golfer as well. I met him when he was making a movie called SUNSET with Bruce Willis.

      • cindy says:

        o.k. Now I know, but the Merchant Marine played an important part in WWII and plays an important role in peacetime, if I remember correctly; I can’t copy from WIkipedia and paste here, but I suggest you don’t underrate it. I can’t remember what I just read but I think it was an adjunct to he navy during the War and the article showed its seal. I remember a recent program (or was it a documentary movie on the History Channel that included interviews with Merchant Mariners who served during WWII

    • cindy says:

      I did not know he was an ex-marine; thanks for adding that
      (I seem to remember, too, that he and the actor who played Bart Maverick made a delightful movie ; for those of you haven’t seen him as Maverick you might try to get the film from Netflix or elsewhere and will spend an enjoyable evening watching these con-men gamblers — no violence or sex as I remember, just a fun plot and a lot of charm

  7. So, so sad! R.I.P., Mr. Garner! He was one of my favorites when I was a kid… our whole family sat and watched “Maverick” on those nights when it aired! In my mind, that is still how I see him! Sigh… we lost a gem when he passed. A real gem!

  8. Stan Gary says:

    He was simply “the best”! The Great Escape”, “The Americanization of Emily”, “Support Your Local Sheriff (and also “Gunfighter”)”, “Space Cowboys”, “36 Hours”, “The Thrill of it All”, etc. So many wonderful movies…and TV shows! So natural that you never saw him acting. RIP Jim!

  9. Gregory Greene says:

    Very talented actor, would watch him as Maverick on Sunday nights, James Garner may you R.I.P. …………………

  10. pjnga says:

    So sad to hear this. Love James Garner. One of my favorite movies, Move Over Darling, with Doris Day!

  11. TV Gord says:

    Almost as famous as his TV and movie starring roles, a whole generation remembers him and Mariette Hartley in a wildly successful campaign of Polaroid camera commercials that went on for years! They had such chemistry, many people thought they were actually a couple (but they never were!) The Rockford Files was rerun on weekends where I live just last year, and I never missed one (and still remembered most of them after 40 years)! What a cool guy!

  12. Bill says:

    Another icon from the days of my youth and young adulthood gone. A terrific actor who now brings his Maverick swagger and card playing to Heaven. Requiescat in Pace.

  13. Joyce says:

    So sad to hear. He was a great actor. I loved The Rockford Files.

  14. Ken Berry says:

    Used to watch him as a kid. Maverick. Guess I’de better hang up my guns now.
    Wish I’de met him.

  15. Brenna says:

    How deeply sad. I just watched the Notebook too yesterday. RIP to a great actor

  16. Kevin in CT says:

    A VERY sad day, RIP Jim. I remember reading an article years back comparing Jim to the Sara Lee line of products, the tag line was “Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee” and I believe that is true of James Garner. Great job on the Rockford Files theme video, very well done!.

  17. arianeb says:

    From Cheyenne in 1955 to 8 Simple Rules in 2005, James Garner had a 5 decade long TV career as an actor. I believe that only William Shatner, Betty White, and Cloris Leachman have been on TV longer.

  18. Pam says:

    One of my all time favorite actors! Rest in peace!

  19. lori says:

    He is one of my favorites, so sorry to hear about his death. He was just good in anything he did, serious to humorous. One of the good guys. Rest in peace.

  20. Grace says:

    One of my favorite actors. Very underrated, in my opinion.


  21. retsim says:

    I used to watch him on Maverick and the Rockford Files when i was growing up .Sorry to hear of his passing, but with many thanks for the happy hours of enjoyment .Sympathy to his Family and friends.

  22. DJ Doena says:

    RIP Mr. Garner.

    He was 86. That is a good age. I don’t need any deeper specifics.

  23. Barbara says:

    He was a wonderful actor. Loved him in The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, and Murphy’s Romance. He will be missed. Rest In Peace.

  24. Nero theTVFiddler says:

    That smile. One of my (and everyone’s) all-time favorites. He was the guy every guy wanted to be – and every woman wanted to be with. Sally Field once said Garner was about the sexiest man she ever met – he possessed all the attributes a woman would look for in a man, and yet, he had no idea he had all those traits – the perfect, modest combination that made his attraction to women lethal, and oh so charming.

    As one get’s older, you brace yourself for these types of days, for this type of sad news, but you are never quite ready for it nonetheless. Everything he did, he made better. Everything. His favorite movie that he’d made was ‘The Americanization Emily’ – I saw the movie recently, incredible movie. The main character was hero-coward, brave-afraid, cool-panic, smiling-sad, intense-distant. The perfect role for Garner to explore and tap into.

    I have a collection of a great many of his movies, and I treasure them – my favorite growing up as a child – ‘The Thrill of it All’ with Doris Day… the modern suburban marriage gone haywire. Maverick, Grand Prix (he loved that movie as well), Support Sheriff/Gunfighter, Rockford Files, Victor Victoria, Murphy’s Romance, The Promise, Barbarians, 8 Simple Rules, The Notebook,. Space Cowboys, on and on. Iconic actor.

    He recently wrote his memoir ‘The Garner Files’ – I highly recommend fans get that book – it is remarkable, and ‘so Jim.’ He is at his most modest, spending pages talking about his golf game and love of racing, equal to the page count of his amazing acting career.

    He is featured in an episode of the recent PBS series ‘The Pioneers of Television’ – ‘the Westerns.’ Get that DVD and watch Garner’s work and his recent interview regarding his career. He is at his most modest, and when asked how he wanted to be remembered, his simple answer: “With a smile.”

    And so we shall remember him in that way – thank you Jim, and rest in peace.

    • PatM says:

      I have the book and it is an interesting and enjoyable one. You summed up exactly how I feel about this great actor. I grew up watching and enjoying everything he did, in his book he describes each of his roles–the ones I enjoyed the most–he didn’t–and he gave his reasons as well. He was the ultimate classy man, something that is becoming rarer and rarer in today’s world. R.I.P. to one very unique man.

    • Faye says:

      Very well said and just as I remember him. Thank you.

    • Linda Guyse says:

      Thanks for your comments. Mr. Garner was a great actor because he made it look so effortless……like he was playing himself whatever the role. I agree with Sally Field–he was sexy! So glad we were blessed by his talent!!

  25. tejas says:

    Gonna miss him. My condolences to his family and his friends.

  26. Sherry Sternthal. says:

    Thanks for sharing the highlight reel of James Gardner. It brought back early memories of the Rockford Files.

  27. Drew says:

    Another TV legend. RIP.
    As a side note, Skye McCole Bartusiak has also died. She was a young actress who played Mel Gibson’s youngest daughter in The Patriot. TV credits include Love Comes Softly, 24, House and Lost.
    Two people on the opposite sides of their lives and careers. Still a damn shame about both.

  28. Jenna says:

    So sad. He was one of my all time favs, beginning with Maverick. So many iconic roles in tv and films. A true legend. Loved him. May you rest in peace, Mr. Garner.
    My condolences to his family and friends.

  29. Babybop says:

    I always loved him in 8 Simple Rules… praying for his friends and family.

  30. A Fan says:

    I grew up watching him on TV in Maverick and Rockford Files. Loved the characters he played in his movies also. His passing saddens me. Condolences to his family and friends.

  31. Lynn says:

    Deepest condolences to his two girls and wife Lois. Only heard good things about him, a great friend, wonderful family man and fine actor. RIP.

  32. jeanne K says:

    I had a big crush on him growing up. Loved him in the notebook and murphy’s romance. Will be missed

  33. Steven says:

    Rockford files was one of my favorite shows as a young boy!

  34. Meade54 says:

    We will miss him. He Appeared to have been a wonderful person. RIP.

  35. Renee says:

    He created such likeable characters. RIP

  36. Virginia says:

    I enjoyed James Garner for decades. May he RIP. TV Line is the only thing I have read regarding James Garner’s death that mentioned Victor/Victoria and the Polaroid ads, both very enjoyable.

  37. Linda Marks Rogers says:

    Rest in peace Mr. Garner. You will be missed.

  38. Susan dexter says:

    We will miss you Rocky,you have been a big part of our lives.we love you.Xxxxx.

  39. N says:

    I loved him!

  40. Debra says:

    After hearing this news, memories of watching The Rockford Files with my mother as a little girl went through me. He was an amazing actor and he will be missed.

  41. Jean Harley says:

    So So Sad. I have loved him since I was very young and he was on Maverick. One of the very best. So sad for his family.

  42. Kris Becker says:

    May he rest in peace! One of the best actors ever! Loved every movie & show he was ever in. He will truly be missed!

  43. purediesel says:

    200 a day, plus expenses…goodnight Jimbo and thank you

  44. mary says:

    Loved his work, will sorely miss him!

  45. Sorry to hear this I loved him in all he did/

  46. cindy says:

    I’m sad …that we won’t be seeing him in anything more, though there will be repeats; he had, obviously, a very long and successful career-wise life; I hope his personal life was a happy one;did he have a family? I suppose there will be more info on tonight’s news

  47. R,I.P, Mr. Garner, your activism in the civil rights movement will never be forgotten.

  48. Linda Guyse says:

    RIP Mr. Garner. I’m 63 and grew up with Maverick in the 50’s-60’s and The Rockford Files in the 70’s. Love, love, loved me some Jim Garner! Always was and will always be a fan. Condolences to family, friends and my fellow fans. So much talent. He made so easy to like whatever character he portrayed…even the Polaroid commercials. When you can make someone stop and view an ad just to see what happens next….then you’ve really done something special and he did just that. I should have written him a fan letter a long time ago and just never got around to it. I’ll make a point of purchasing his book just as soon as possible. I must share this……..there is an African-American woman named Viola (my mom) who along with St. Peter his welcoming him into that great big ranch in the sky. So don’t fret, he’s in good hands. God bless all!