By Christopher Rosa
Screen legend James Garner died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday. He was 86 years old. Garner’s most recent work was voicing Shazam in the 2010 short animated film Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam; however, his extensive résumé dates back to 1956.
Garner’s most notable film roles include The Great Escape (1963), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), the music-packed Victor Victoria (1982), and Murphy’s Romance (1985), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He is perhaps best known for the television series Maverick and The Rockford Files, the latter of which won him an Emmy for his performance in 1977. Garner also played wise-cracking grandpa Jim Elgan on ABC’s 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter from 2002 to 2005.
New fans of Garner may recognize him for his work in The Notebook (2004), where he played the elder Noah “Duke” Calhoun, a role he shared with Ryan Gosling. The poignant performance — Noah attempts to revive his wife Allie’s (Gena Rowlands) memory by retelling the passionate story of how they met — earned him a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role. Garner was an intricate part to why The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes signed up for the project. “You cannot understand the amount of respect and how much of a fan I am of Jimmy Garner,” he told VH1 earlier this month. “I can’t say it enough. I didn’t know anything about Ryan [Gosling] at the time. I wanted to work with Jimmy Garner, which is really the reason I initially took this on.” Although Cassavetes didn’t know Garner prior to shooting The Notebook, he told us his experience with the icon was everything he imagined and more. “[Garner's] a gentleman. I could tell you Jimmy Garner stories from now until the end of time. He’s the biggest… what a movie star should be and what a man should be. [I] just love the guy. And [The Notebook] wouldn’t have been half as good without him. So, he gets all the props from me.”
Garner married his wife Lois Fleishman Clarke in 1956. They have two daughters, Greta and Kim, the latter from Clarke’s previous marriage. Fans and friends remembered the actor on Twitter this weekend:
James Garner we all were very lucky that you found what you found inside of yourself and shared it with all of us. Thank you. RIP my friend.
— Aaron Paul (@aaronpaul_8) July 20, 2014
Comedy, drama. Movies and TV movies. Did series when it wasn’t cool and made them iconic. Never stooped to “acting! ” James Garner: my hero.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) July 20, 2014
James garner was a stud. So nice and always a gentleman. Class act all the way. Grew up watching rockford. I was lucky to work with him
— David Spade (@DavidSpade) July 20, 2014
I say this with a heavy broken heart.was an honor working beside u receiving ur bear hugs every day. ❤️ u Grampa Jim pic.twitter.com/twYRUG6w0B
— Kaley Cuoco Sweeting (@KaleyCuoco) July 20, 2014
Jim Rockford was THE coolest. Farewell, James Garner.
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) July 20, 2014
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]