James Garner was comfortable in any medium. He was a talented actor who was as successful in movies as he was television. On the pantheon of great actors, his name should be very high up there. He made acting look effortless and, honestly, when did you ever need to be in the mood to watch a James Garner movie or The Rockford Files or Maverick?
Garner, unlike contemporaries Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando, found continued success in both mediums for longer durations than both. Garner g0t his big break in the TV western Maverick starring as Bret Maverick from 1957-1960. The show was created by Roy Huggins, who would go on to create other TV masterpieces as The Fugitive and The Rockford Files. Only Huggins and Garner believed in Maverick enough that they felt it could take on the two juggernauts it was placed up against, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Steve Allen Show. And compete it did. James Garner quickly became a household name. Previous roles in movies had yet to showcase the talent of Garner and Maverick caught the birth of a star. Garner quit after three seasons because of a contract dispute and began what would become the high point of his film career, the 1960s. In this period, he would star in such films as The Children’s Hour (1962) with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine; Boys’ Night Out (1962) with Kim Novak and Tony Randall; The Thrill of It All, Move Over, Darling (both 1963) both starring Doris Day; The Great Escape (1963) with Steve McQueen; The Americanization of Emily (1964) with Julie Andrews; The Art of Love (1965) with Dick Van Dyke; Duel at Diablo (1966) with Sidney Poitier.
While filming the cult racing film Grand Prix, directed by John Frankenheimer, Garner became fascinated with racing. The movie flopped but Garner found a lifelong hobby. In 1969, Garner found success twice more playing Philip Marlowe in Marlowe, and the comedy Western Support Your Local Sheriff!. He would film a sequel of sorts in 1971 Support Your Local Gunfighter.
In the 1970, Roy Huggins wanted to remake Maverick and, in conjunction with Stephen J. Cannell, came up with The Rockford Files. The show would run from 1974 until 1980 when the physical toll it took on Garner just became too much. Appearing in almost every scene and doing a lot of his own stunts, Garner put in long hours on the show and eventually his health caught up with him and he had to end the series, despite high ratings. Garner was so loved among his fellow actors that when he chose to do The Rockford Files TV movies, twenty two crew members came out of retirement to work on the films.