If you are under the age of 30, you may only know him from his role as the older Noah in The Notebook, but film and television star James Garner was an acting legend. The actor passed away from natural causes in his Brentwood home on Saturday at the age of 86.
The actor’s first big role was as Bret Maverick on the 1950s TV Western Maverick. His handsome good looks combined with the character’s charming, playful, sweet, and mischievous ways established Garner as a new mega-popular leading man. During that time period, networks were crowded with hard-eyed, traditional Western heroes. Bret Maverick provided a fresh take with his quick wit and sardonic tone. He was more ready to talk his way out of a squabble rather than pull out his six-shooter, allowing the con-artist Westerner to scoff at the genre’s typical values. The show was a quick hit.
That role led to a stellar career for Garner in which he starred in the 70s hit television series The Rockford Files and was Oscar-nominated for his role in Murphy’s Romance.
The handsome Oklahoma native remained active in both TV and film well into his seventies. In 2002, he was Sandra Bullock’s father in the film adaptation of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, with The Notebook following in 2004. Garner joined the cast of ABC’s 8 Simple Rules … For Dating My Teenage Daughter in 2003, playing the grandfather on the sitcom after original star John Ritter (who played the father) died during the show’s second season.
Garner received the Screen Actors Guild’s lifetime achievement award in 2005. During his acceptance speech, he quipped, “I’m not at all sure how I got here.”
He gave credit for learning how to act to a non-speaking role as a Navy juror in the 1954 Broadway hit play “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial,” starring Henry Fonda and Lloyd Nolan.
“I had no lines, and I had trouble staying awake,” Garner recalled.
There was no immediate word on a more specific cause of death. Garner had suffered a stroke in May 2008, a few weeks after his 80th birthday.
(Photo by: Fred Sabine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)