Maverick (the original TV show, not the movie). Move Over, Darling. The Great Escape. Murphy’s Romance. Victor/Victoria. What do these things have in common? The wonderful and talented James Garner. (They’re also some of my favorite performances by him.) Garner’s screen presence was such that you liked him the moment you laid eyes on him. You trusted him. You knew that even if he was pretending to be a bad guy, he’d do the right thing in the end, even if it meant he would lose. The real James Garner, of course, didn’t lose; he had a long and successful career, and a happy personal life. But his charisma, personality, and presence made him perfect for the role that will always define him in my eyes.
Jim Rockford never did seem to catch a lucky break, but he never let it get him down. Not for long anyway.
James Garner died yesterday at 86. It’s a celebrity death that hits me pretty hard. Not just because I liked Garner, but because enjoying his work was something I had in common with my father. It was a link between us. I hope in whatever afterlife there is, Garner will have a drink and a laugh with my dad. I know the real man was just as personable as he was on-screen, so I think they would like each other.
While the rest of us have lost a great talent and nice guy, I know his family and friends have lost so much more. My heart goes out to all those who loved the man.