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James Garner, one of Hollywood’s last leading men from an era when good-looking stars dominated the screen, has died. The actor, who gave career-making performances both on television and the big screen, was 86 years old.
Garner’s death was first reported by TMZ. Police sources told the site that they arrived at his Los Angeles home around 8 p.m. Saturday. He dies in his home of natural causes.
Garner’s career began in the 1950s and continued until his 70s, even introducing himself to a new generation as the older version of Ryan Gosling’s character in The Notebook. But most audiences will remember him for his two popular television hits - the Western Maverick and The Rockford Files, in which he played a private investigator.
As Variety pointed out, Garner didn’t enter show business the way that many actors do. He was friends with theater producer Paul Gregory, who was about to mount the acclaimed Broadway production The Caine Mutiny Court Martial in 1954. While Garner didn’t have a speaking part, he did get to meet the star of the show, Henry Fonda, and learn from the actor.
His breakout role on TV came in 1955’s Cheyenne and he began getting supporting parts in films as well. He starred alongside Marlon Brando in Sayonara.
But stardom didn’t really come until Maverick in 1957 and he played the role through 1960. Between Maverick and Rockford, he took lead roles in Hollywood productions like William Wyler’s The Children’s Hour with Audrey Hepburn, The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, Duel at Diablo and Move Over, Darling with Doris Day. Other films he made include Grand Prix, Victor/Victoria and Support Your Local Sheriff!.
While his only Oscar nomination came for 1985’s Murphy’s Romance, he was more popular at other awards shows. He won two golden Globes - Best Newcomer in 1956 and for Best Actor in a TV Movie/Mini-series for 1994’s Barbarians at the Gate. Rockford earned him an Emmy in 1977 and he also won an Emmy for 1986’s Promise.
In 2005, he received the Screen Actors Guild’s lifetime achievement award.
According to THR, he is survived by his wife Lois, a daughter and a stepdaughter.
Image courtesy of Jean Catuffe/INFGoff.com