American actor James Garner, circa 1957. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
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Tomorrow’s Stars Yesterday: James Garner, 1958

James Garner has been gone for six years.

Marlon Brando’sSayonara. In a career that spanned half a century, he became a household name when he portrayed two iconic television heroes: Maverick and Rockford. After segueing to movies, he received no less than eleven Golden Globe nominations with two wins. On the big screen, he was always an essential presence, understated and subtle, impossibly handsome and best remembered for his two classic movies TheGreat EscapeandVictor Victoria. And even in his later movies, he was memorable as one of Clint Eastwood’sSpace Cowboys.

Henry Fonda. Hardly a day went by as senior citizens that they didn’t talk to each other. It was likely Fonda who got him his first job at Warner Bros. where he signed a seven-year contract at $200 a week.

William Wyler who cast him opposite Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in his remake of The Children’s Hour. But that was just the start of an illustrious career as a Hollywood leading actor. His early days at Warner Bros. involved playing bit parts, but eventually, director David Butler saw something in him when he played Tab Hunter’s buddy in The Girl He Left Behind. Butler recommended him to the studio’s television arm who were looking for a new face to play CheyenneAlthough Clint Walker got the job, Garner ended up playing minor roles in the series.

Joshua Logan’s decision to cast him in Brando’s SayonaraDarby’s Rangers, Up Periscope, and particularly in Cash McCallNatalie Wood. Recognizing star quality, Wyler borrowed him for his remake of The Children’s Hour opposite Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. Did this mean his days as a TV actor were over? Unfortunately, no, because Warners had other ideas. And bound by his studio contract, he was forced to play Maverick,

Boys’ Night OutKim Novak. The next year he had his biggest hit with Steve McQueen in the rousing The Great Escapewhich undoubtedly is his most popular film. Doris Day loved working with him in The Thrill of It All and they did it again in Move Over, Darling. It was again Wyler who then chose him for his favorite role in The Americanization of Emily,

George Seaton’s great thriller 36 Hours, starred opposite Elke Sommer and Angie Dickinson in Norman Jewison’s delightful The Art of Love, led an all-star cast in A Man Could Get Killed, challenged Sidney Poitier in Duel at Diablo, had a rare misfire with Mister Budding,John Frankenheimer’sGrand PrixHe was an effective Wyatt EarpHow Sweet It Is and The Pink Jungle, at which point he must have asked himself, Was this the end of his run? But then, with Support Your Local SheriffMarlowe, A Man Called Sledge, and Skin Game

TheRockford Files

Robert Altman’sHealtH,Blake Edwards’Victor Victoria, and finally Martin Ritt’sMurphy’s Romance,Murphy’s Romance

PromiseSunset and costarred in the Golden Globe-nominated TV movie My Name is Bill W.. He played a cantankerous widower in Decoration DayBarbarians at the Gatefinally earning his first and second Golden Globes as Best Actor in a TV film.

Clint Eastwood urged him to play Tank Sullivan in Space CowboysRyan Gosling in The Notebook, essentially his swan song. He died four years later at the age of 86.

John Saxon, who passed away earlier in the year and whose obituary documenting his career can be found on our website.