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James Garner
James Garner.jpg
Garner at the 39th Primetime Emmy Awards in September 1987
James Scott Bumgarner

(1928-04-07)April 7, 1928
Died July 19, 2014(2014-07-19) (aged 86)
Other names James Scott Garner
James Bumgarner
James Scott Bumgarner
Occupation Actor, producer, voice artist
Years active 1954–2014
Political party Democratic Party
Lois Josephine Fleischmann Clarke (m. 1956)
Children 2
Military career
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Usmm-seal.png United States Merchant Marine
United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1944–1952
Rank US Army 1951 CPL.png Corporal
  • OklaJFHQssi.png Oklahoma
    National Guard
  • 5INF DUI.png 5th Regimental
    Combat Team
Awards Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart

James Garner (born James Scott Bumgarner; April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014) was an American actor, producer, and voice artist. He starred in several television series over more than five decades, including such popular roles as Bret Maverick in the 1950s western series Maverick and Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files, and played leading roles in more than 50 theatrical films.

Early life

James Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner on April 7, 1928, in Norman, Oklahoma, the youngest of three sons. After the war, Garner joined his father in Los Angeles and enrolled at Hollywood High School, where he was voted the most popular student. He played football and basketball at Norman High School, and competed on the track and golf teams. However, he dropped out in his senior year. In a 1976 Good Housekeeping magazine interview, he admitted, "I was a terrible student and I never actually graduated from high school, but I got my diploma in the Army."

Military service

After working at several jobs he disliked, Garner joined the United States Merchant Marine at age 16 near the end of World War II. He liked the work and his shipmates, but he suffered from chronic seasickness.

Garner enlisted in the California Army National Guard, serving his first 7 months in California. He then went to Korea for 14 months, as a rifleman in the 5th Regimental Combat Team during the Korean War. He was wounded twice, first in the face and hand by shrapnel from a mortar round, and the second time from friendly fire from U.S. fighter jets as he dove headfirst into a foxhole.

Garner received the Purple Heart in Korea for the first wound. He qualified for a second Purple Heart as the result of friendly fire while actively engaging the enemy, but he did not actually receive it until 1983, 32 years after the event.


In 1954 a friend whom Garner had met while attending Hollywood High School, persuaded Garner to take a nonspeaking role in the Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, where he was able to study Henry Fonda night after night. Fonda's gentle, sincere persona rubbed off on Garner, greatly to Garner's benefit.

James Garner Maverick
James Garner Maverick

Garner subsequently moved to television commercials and eventually to television roles. In 1957, he had a supporting role in the TV anthology series episode on Conflict entitled "Man from 1997. The series' producer Roy Huggins cast Garner as the lead in Maverick due to his comedic facial expressions while playing scenes in Man from 1997 that were not originally written to be comical. He changed his last name from Bumgarner to Garner after the studio had credited him as "James Garner" without permission.

When Charlton Heston turned down the lead role in Darby's Rangers, Garner was selected and performed well in the role. As a result of Garner's performance in Darby's Rangers, coupled with his Maverick popularity, Warners subsequently gave him lead roles in other films.

In the 1970s, Roy Huggins had an idea to remake Maverick, but this time as a modern-day private detective. Garner was selected to attempt to rekindle the success of Maverick, eventually recycling many of the plots from the original series. Starting with the 1974 season, Garner appeared as private investigator Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. He appeared for six seasons, for which he received an Emmy Award for Best Actor in 1977.

After six seasons, The Rockford Files was cancelled in 1980. Although low ratings were primarily to blame, the physical toll on Garner was also an issue. Appearing in nearly every scene of the series, doing many of his own stunts—including one that injured his back was wearing him out. A knee injury from his National Guard days worsened in the wake of the continuous jumping and rolling.

Awards and nominations

James Garner Rockford Files 1974
James Garner Rockford Files 1974

Nominated for 15 Emmy Awards during his television career, Garner received the award in 1977 as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (The Rockford Files) and in 1987 as executive producer of Promise.

For his contribution to the film and television industry, Garner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1990, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was also inducted into the Television Hall of Fame that same year. In February 2005, he received the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010, the Television Critics Association gave Garner its annual Career Achievement Award.

On April 21, 2006, a 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) bronze statue of Garner as Bret Maverick was unveiled in Garner's hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, with Garner present at the ceremony.

Personal life

James Garner and family 1961
The Garners in 1961

Garner was married to Lois Josephine Fleischman Clarke. When Garner and Clarke married, her daughter Kim from a previous marriage was seven years old. Garner had one daughter with Lois, Greta "Gigi" Garner.

Garner's knees became a chronic problem during the filming of The Rockford Files in the 1970s, with six or seven knee operations during that time. In 2000, he underwent knee replacement surgery for both of them. In April 22, 1988, Garner had heart surgery. Though he recovered rapidly, he was advised to stop smoking. Garner quit smoking 17 years later.


James Garner, 1966, Royat, tournage du film Grand Prix
James Garner during the shooting of the film Grand Prix, in 1966

Garner was an owner of the "American International Racers" (AIR) auto racing team from 1967 through 1969. Motorsports writer William Edgar and Hollywood director Andy Sidaris teamed with Garner for the racing documentary The Racing Scene, filmed in 1969 and released in 1970. The team fielded cars at Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring endurance races, but is best known for Garner's celebrity status raising publicity in early off-road motor-sports events. In 1978, he was one of the inductees in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.

He was an avid golfer for many years. Along with his brother, Jack, he played golf in high school. Garner took it up again in the late 1950s to see if he could beat Jack. He was a regular for years at Pebble Beach Pro-Am. In February 1990 at the AT&T Golf Tournament, he won the Most Valuable Amateur Trophy. Garner appeared on Sam Snead's Celebrity Golf TV series which aired from 1960 – 1963. These matches were 9-hole charity events pitting Snead against Hollywood celebrities.

Garner was noted as an enthusiastic fan of the Raiders in the NFL, particularly when they played in Los Angeles between 1982 and 1994, when he regularly attended games and mixed with the players.


A private and introverted man, according to family and friends, on Saturday evening, July 19, 2014, police and rescue personnel were summoned to Garner's Los Angeles-area home, where they found the actor dead at the age of 86. He had been in poor health since a severe stroke in 2008. He died less than a month before his 58th wedding anniversary.


Year Title Role Notes
1956 Toward the Unknown Major Joe Craven
1956 The Girl He Left Behind Preston
1957 Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend Sgt. John Maitland
1957 Sayonara Capt. Mike Bailey, USMC
1958 Darby's Rangers Col. William Orlando Darby
1959 Up Periscope Lt. j.g. Kenneth M. Braden
1959 Alias Jesse James Bret Maverick Scenes deleted from some later reissue prints
1960 Cash McCall Cash McCall
1961 The Children's Hour Dr. Joe Cardin
1962 Boys' Night Out Fred Williams
1963 The Great Escape Flt. Lt. Robert Hendley "The Scrounger"
1963 The Thrill of It All Dr. Gerald Boyer
1963 The Wheeler Dealers Henry Tyroon
1963 Move Over, Darling Nick Arden
1964 Action on the Beach Himself Short documentary
1964 The Americanization of Emily Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison
1965 36 Hours Major Jefferson F. Pike
1965 The Art of Love Casey Barnett
1966 Grand Prix: Challenge of the Champions Himself (uncredited) Short documentary
1966 A Man Could Get Killed William Beddoes Also executive producer
1966 Duel at Diablo Jess Remsberg
1966 Mister Buddwing Mr. Buddwing
1966 Grand Prix Pete Aron Also executive producer
1967 Hour of the Gun Wyatt Earp
1968 Once Upon a Wheel Himself Documentary
1968 The Man Who Makes the Difference Himself (uncredited) Short documentary
1968 How Sweet It Is! Grif
1968 The Pink Jungle Ben Morris
1969 The Racing Scene Narrator Also producer; documentary
1969 Support Your Local Sheriff! Jason McCullough
1969 Marlowe Philip Marlowe
1970 A Man Called Sledge Luther Sledge
1971 Support Your Local Gunfighter! Latigo Smith Also executive producer
1971 Skin Game Quincy Also executive producer
1972 They Only Kill Their Masters Abel Marsh
1973 One Little Indian Keyes
1974 The Castaway Cowboy Lincoln Costain
1980 HealtH Harry Wolff
1981 The Fan Jake Berman
1982 Victor Victoria King Marchand
1984 Heartsounds Harold Lear TV film
1984 Tank Sgt Maj Zack Carey
1985 Murphy's Romance Murphy Jones
1985 Promise Bob Beuhler TV film; also executive producer
1988 Sunset Wyatt Earp
1989 My Name is Bill W. Dr. Robert 'Dr. Bob' Holbrook Smith TV film; also executive producer
1990 Decoration Day Albert Sidney Finch
1990 Take Me to your Leaders Narrator Documentary
1992 The Distinguished Gentleman Jeff Johnson
1993 Fire in the Sky Frank Watters
1993 Barbarians at the Gate F. Ross Johnson TV film
1994 Breathing Lessons- Ira Moran TV film
1994 Maverick Marshal Zane Cooper
1995 Larry McMurtry's Streets of Laredo Texas Ranger Woodrow F. Call Miniseries
1996 Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick Himself Documentary
1996 My Fellow Americans President Matt Douglas
1997 The Hidden Dimension Narrator Documentary
1997 Dead Silence John Potter TV film
1998 Twilight Raymond Hope
1998 Legalese Norman Keane TV film
1999 One Special Night Robert Woodward TV film
2000 The Last Debate Mike Howley TV film
2000 Space Cowboys Tank Sullivan
2001 Atlantis: The Lost Empire Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke (voice)
2002 Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Shepard James Walker "Shep"
2003 The Land Before Time X Pat (voice) Direct-to-DVD
2004 The Notebook Old Noah Calhoun "Duke"
2004 Al Roach: Private Investigator Al Roach Short
2007 The Ultimate Gift Red Stevens
2007 Battle for Terra Doron (voice)
2010 Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam Shazam (voice) Short film


Year Title Role Notes
1955 Cheyenne Lt. Brad Forsythe Еpisode: "Mountain Fortress"
1956 Zane Grey Theater Lt. Jim Collins Episode: "Star Over Texas"
1956 Cheyenne Lt. Lee Rogers Еpisode: "Decision"
1956 Cheyenne Bret Еpisode: "The Last Train West"
1956–1957 Conflict Red / Jim Curtis 3 episodes: The People Against McQuade, Man from 1997, and Girl on the Subway
1957–1962 Maverick Bret Maverick / Beau 'Pappy' Maverick 60 episodes
1957 Sugarfoot Bret Maverick Episode: "Misfire"
1957 Cheyenne Willis Peake Еpisode: "War Party"
1958 Wide Wide World Himself Episode: "The Western"
1958 This Is Your Life Himself Episode: "James Garner"
1959 77 Sunset Strip Himself Episode: "Downbeat"
1960–1964 The Bob Hope Show Himself Episodes: 4-20-1960, and 12-18-1964
1961–1962 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Himself Episodes: 2-26-61, 4-16-61 and 11-11-62
1971–1972 Nichols Sheriff Frank Nichols 24 episodes
1974 Backlash of the Hunter Jim Rockford TV movie, Pilot for "The Rockford Files"
1974–1980 The Rockford Files Jim Rockford 122 episodes; director of episode: "The Girl in the Bay City Boys Club"
1978 The New Maverick Bret Maverick TV movie
1979 Young Maverick Bret Maverick Episode: "Clancy"
1981–1982 Bret Maverick Bret Maverick 18 episodes
1991–1992 Man of the People Councilman Jim Doyle 10 episodes
1993 Return to 'The Great Escape' Himself/Hendley "The Scrounger" Video Documentary Short
1994 The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A. Jim Rockford TV movie (also executive producer – uncredited)
1994 HBO First Look Himself/Bret Maverick TV series Documentary Episode: "Maverick"
1994 100 Years of the Hollywood Western Himself Documentary TV movie
1995 The Rockford Files: A Blessing in Disguise Jim Rockford TV movie (also executive producer)
1995 Streets of Laredo Woodrow F. Call Mini-series
1996 The Rockford Files: If the Frame Fits... Jim Rockford TV movie
1996 The Rockford Files: Godfather Knows Best Jim Rockford TV movie
1996 The Rockford Files: Friends and Foul Play Jim Rockford TV movie (also executive producer)
1996 The Rockford Files: Punishment and Crime Jim Rockford TV movie (also executive producer)
1996 The Rockford Files: Shoot-Out at the Golden Pagoda Jim Rockford TV movie
1999 Century of Country Host Mini-series (13 episodes)
1999 The Rockford Files: If It Bleeds... It Leads Jim Rockford TV movie (also producer)
2000 Chicago Hope Hubert "Hue" Miller 4 episodes
2000 Biography Himself Episode: "James Garner: Hollywood Maverick"
2000–2011 God, the Devil and Bob God 13 episodes
2002 "Roughing It" Mark Twain TV Movie
2002 First Monday Chief Justice Thomas Brankin 13 episodes
2002 The Making of 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire' Himself/Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke Video/Documentary
2003–2005 8 Simple Rules Jim Egan 45 episodes
2005 James Garner On-Camera Interview: Rockford Files Season 1 DVD Himself/Jim Rockford Video Documentary Short
2006 The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy Himself Video
2011 Pioneers of Television Himself/Jim Rockford TV series Documentary episode: Crime Dramas
2011 Pioneers of Television Himself/Bret Maverick TV series Documentary episode: Westerns
2013 The Ultimate Life Howard "Red" Stevens sequel to The Ultimate Gift

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