"James Garner, 86, the wry and handsome leading man who slid seamlessly between television and the movies but was best known as the amiable gambler Bret Maverick in the 1950s Western 'Maverick' and the cranky sleuth Jim Rockford in the 1970s series 'The Rockford Files,' died on Saturday night at his home in Los Angeles," reports Bruce Weber in The New York TImes.
Garner's publicist said he died of natural causes, The Times notes.
The story continues, "He appeared in more than 50 films, many of them dramas — but, as he established in one of his notable early performances, as a battle-shy naval officer in 'The Americanization of Emily' (1964) and had shown before that in 'Maverick' — he was most at home as an iconoclast, a flawed or unlikely hero."
The article also notes the famous series of TV commercials Garner made: "An understated comic actor, he was especially adept at conveying life’s tiny bedevilments. One of his most memorable roles was as a perpetually flummoxed pitchman for Polaroid cameras in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in droll commercials in which he played a vexed husband and Mariette Hartley played his needling wife. They were so persuasive that Ms. Hartley had a shirt printed with the declaration 'I am not Mrs. James Garner.' "
The TImes story also mentions one of Garner's well-known lawsuits: "Nor did he sit still for the dog-eat-dog business side of Hollywood. In the early 1980s he … sued his employer … Universal, which he accused of cheating him out of his share of profits on 'The Rockford Files.' Universal settled the case in 1989, reportedly paying him more than $14 million."
Garner is survived by his wife, Lois, "their daughter, Greta, known as Gigi; and Mrs. Garner’s daughter from a previous marriage, Kimberly," The TImes reports.
To read a tribute to Garner by TVWeek Open Mic blogger Chuck Ross, please click here.