This is one cool dude. From his earliest days as Maverick, through the halcyon era of The Rockford Files, into mature roles in movies such as Space Cowboys, James Garner is quintessentially cool.
The words used to describe Garner pretty much tell the tale. “Charming.” “Amiable.” “Self-possessed.” “Likable.” He tended to be featured as a rogue on the verge of trouble who had to find his way out by using wit and charm.
While his television roles will probably be what people remember most, Garner also made a number of significant and success films. He co-starred with Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, with Julie Andrews in The Americanization of Emily and Victor/Victoria, and with Walter Brennan in Support Your Local Sheriff!
But my favorite James Garner movie was the sweet Murphy’s Romance. He owned a pharmacy in a small town, and along came Sally Field, trying desperately to make it as a single mother. The development of their relationship is a lovely bit of storytelling, and no one could have made it as real as did James Garner. He was nominated for an Academy Award for the role, and he won an Emmy for Rockford.
Here’s how James Garner described his acting style: “I’m a Spencer Tracy-type actor. His idea was to be on time, know your words, hit your marks and tell the truth. I don’t think acting is that difficult if you can put yourself aside and do what the writer wrote.”
This is my favorite scene from Murphy’s Romance, in which Garner offers a toast at his birthday party: