(File Photo) James Garner on left with Jack Kelly in 1959 as brothers Bret and Bart Maverick
I secretly always wanted to marry James Garner, and was foiled only by the fact that, as humorist Jean Kerr once wrote of her designs on George S. Kaufman, he was already married and I never met him.
I cannot imagine I was alone in this desire — in her introduction to Garner's 2011 memoir, Julie Andrews revealed a similar devotion and for pretty much the same reasons I had: Garner, who died at home Saturday at age 86, effortlessly combined strength and humility, humor and capability, frankness and empathy to create an ideal Alpha-male, of the sort that hadn't existed before, at least not in drama. He constructed a new kind of hero, one who would much rather be playing cards or going fishing. But all right, if no one else was going to save the girl, or solve the case, or prevent the crime, well, then — here, hold this for a second — he'd do it.
When he brought this persona to life in "Maverick" and then again in "The Rockford Files," he all but rebuilt an archetype. Before Garner, heroes were heroes, which meant, nine times out of 10, they were boring. After Garner, they could be funny, irritating, lazy, fearful and complicated. Without James Garner there would be no Indiana Jones, no Starsky and Hutch, no Gregory House, no Patrick Jane, certainly no Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. Without James Garner, adventure heroes would be no fun at all.
Written by Mary McNamara
Los Angeles Times