Saturday, July 19, 2014, legendary actor James Gardner passed away at 86 in his Los Angeles home.
And Hollywood is more than a little rocked. The man who'd been a president, gunslinger, private investigator, astronaut, and grandfather was suddenly gone.
Known for his work in The Rockford Files, the actor didn't follow the current acting school techniques-instead the veteran was a 'go with the flow,' get it done, and leave. No deep immersion needed.
Much to the annoyance, or disappointment, of his costars like Ryan Gosling. Jim Garner was Jim Garner at that point. After so long in the industry, his reputation spoke for itself and that was that.
When Mel Gibson rebooted the Maverick role in a 1994 film adaptation, James Garner played his father, Marshal Zane Cooper. The connection being Garner appeared in the television show for five seasons as the lead, Bret Maverick.
The nice nod and gravelly voice seemed just right in the Old West. Then again, the man was born in Norman, Oklahoma, so he'd probably ridden a horse before arriving in the glitzy world of Hollywood to play Bret.
Of course, it wasn't the first time he'd appeared as Maverick since the show had been resurrected in a 1978 TV film, The New Maverick. And there was a television series titled Bret Maverick that lasted a season in 1981-1982. But the feature film connected Jim with a whole new generation.
A 1994 interview titled "James Garner: You Ought to be in Pictures," Movieline's Lawrence Grobel asked the actor how he saw acting. "You never see Mel acting, really, which is what I strive for. I don't want anybody to catch me acting on the screen."
Which is what the always audience felt.
No matter if the audience was there to see a caring father who holds secrets to protect his wife in the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), or a man deeply in love with his wife, even her memory fades, like The Notebook (2004). Or maybe a former president on the run from assassins with another former president and rival like in My Fellow Americans (1996), which Jack Lemmon costarred in.
And there's a scene in 1964's The Americanization of Emily where Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison tells a woman what happens when you glorify war, the true victims of it all. A strong performance spoken so softly but with such conviction that you forget Julie Andrews is sitting beside him.
The 86-year-old actor simply connected with the audience.
And he'd step in if needed. When John Ritter passed away while filming 8 Simple Rules in 2003, Garner helped to rebuild the cast, along with David Spade. Playing Katey Sagel's father Jim Egan, he filled the role of grumpy, but caring grandfather extremely well.
Kaley Cuoco seemed to think he fit the role, too. During an exclusive interview with ANDPOP's Adam Gonshor in 2004, the actress described him as "just such a loving and amazing grandfather to me." That simple but much needed role turned out to be a blessing since she didn't "have a grandfather and he has no grandkids." Connecting generations again.
Some thing about him seemed to make her feel at ease in a time of pain, too. The deep desire to quit the show in the middle of an emotional whirlwind was partially quelled by his softness. "James Garner is like a peaceful river through our chaos.”
Quite a compliment for a man who made audiences laugh and cry for over 50 years.
Rest in peace, James Garner. You will be missed.