By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
For decades, the tall, dark, and handsome James Garner played charming mischief-makers in television shows and movies such as The Great Escape (1963), Victor Victoria (1982), Space Cowboys (2000), and The Notebook (2004). He starred as the main character in mega TV hits like the 1950s series Maverick, about the daring poker player Bret Maverick in the American Old West, and The Rockford Files in the 1970s as the private investigator Jim Rockford. This weekend, the 86-year-old actor passed away in Los Angeles, and will forever be fondly remembered as a Hollywood legend.
Garner was known for being a very tough-minded actor while working on Maverick and Rockford, suing the studios when they tried treating him unfairly… and winning both times. “The industry is like it always has been,” he said. “It’s a bunch of greedy people.” Yikes! However, his talent and hard work made him invaluable, and he earned a Life Achievement Award in 2004 from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). The president of SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Ken Howard, said, “James Garner was the definition of the smooth, dashing leading man, but his talents were so much more than skin deep.”
As if being a superstar in television and films wasn’t enough of an accomplishment, Garner did commercials in the 70s and 80s for Polaroid cameras. He was also nominated for tons of awards like the Golden Globes, the Emmys, and even an Oscar. Based on his acting in Rockford, he won an Emmy. Still, Garner kept it humble, once explaining, “I got into the business to put a roof over my head. I wasn’t looking for star status. I just wanted to keep working.”
Part of the reason he was so down to Earth is that Garner had a tough life growing up, but once he started making megabucks as a swimsuit model in his teens, he decided to pursue a life in the entertainment industry. “I made 25 bucks an hour!” he once said to People magazine, describing his early modeling career. “…I was making more money than the teachers.” Garner was also an American hero, because after he joined the Merchant Marine and the National Guard, he ended up winning a Purple Heart for being wounded in action during the Korean War. Soon thereafter, he broke into theater in 1954, catching the eye of Warner Bros. studios… and the rest is history.
Featured image courtesy of Warner Bros. and ABC. Image of Garner at the Emmys courtesy of Alan Light on Flickr.