James Garner, Iconic Actor and 'Rockford Files' Star, Dead at 86

Longtime leading man from 'The Great Escape' and 'The Notebook' passes away from natural causes

James Garner, Rockford Files, the notebook, death, obituary, dead, passed away, actor, icon
Fred Sabine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty
James Garner as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files on May 1st, 1974.
By |

James Garner, a legendary actor of both the small and silver screens for nearly six decades, passed away Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 86. LAPD confirmed reports that the actor was found dead at his home, and while Garner suffered from various ailments in recent years – including a minor stroke in 2008 – it appears he died from natural causes, the Los Angeles Times reports.

A towering, charismatic presence with a slight Oklahoma accent from his childhood, Garner's long filmography is filled with dozens of unforgettable roles, from long TV stints as cardsharp Bret Maverick on Maverick and private eye Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files (for which Garner won a Best Actor Emmy in 1977) to marquee roles in Hour of the Gun, The Americanization of Emily, and most recently, The Notebook. In total, Garner appeared in nearly 100 TV shows and movies.

What made Garner unique was that he seemed to land a career-defining role nearly every decade: In the Fifties, he starred in the hit TV western Maverick. In the 1960s, he scored roles in classics like The Great Escape and Grand Prix. The Rockford Files  arguably Garner's most enduring role  arrived in the 1970s. The Eighties brought Garner his first Oscar nomination  Best Actor for Murphy's Romance  while the following decade saw Garner grab the attention of new audiences thanks to appearances in My Fellow Americans, Barbarians at the Gate and Mel Gibson's Maverick reboot. However, it was Garner's role in The Notebook that this generation of moviegoers most likely will remember.

In an industry where there's a definite line between actors capable of being box office draws and actors who just score good Nielsen ratings, Garner was among a rare breed whose popularity and acting chops allowed him to carry leading roles on both television and film, sometimes interchangeably. Among his many accomplishments, Garner was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was given the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award. A statue honoring Garner resides in the actor's native Norman, Oklahoma.

x