James Garner dies aged 86

By Updated at 2014-07-20 21:18:03 +0000

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The actor James Garner has died at the age of 86, Los Angeles police have confirmed.

Garner was best known for his primetime television roles as a wisecracking frontier gambler on Maverick and as an ex-con turned private eye on The Rockford Files.

He built a six-decade career playing ruggedly charming, good-natured anti-heroes and received the highest honour of the Screen Actors Guild in 2004.

The actor was found dead from natural causes on Saturday night at his Los Angeles home, according to police. No further details were immediately available about the circumstances of his death. The celebrity news website TMZ had reported earlier that an ambulance crew had been sent to Garner's home at about 8pm local time and had found him dead.

Garner, an Oklahoma native, entered showbusiness in the 1950s after serving in the Korean war and first rose to fame on the TV western Maverick, a sardonic alternative to the more serious frontier shows then popular on American primetime.

He was Bret Maverick, a cardsharp and ladies' man who got by on his wits and would just as soon duck a fight as face a showdown. His co-star Jack Kelly played his more straitlaced brother, Bart.

Garner left the ABC show in 1960 in a contract dispute with producers but brought his Maverick-like alter ego to a series of films, including The Thrill of It All, Move Over Darling, The Great Escape and Support Your Local Sheriff!

His next big hit was on the small screen in the 1970s, when he starred as the canny private detective Jim Rockford, a wrongly accused ex-convict starting life over in a beachfront trailer home in The Rockford Files.

The show ran on NBC from 1974 until Garner abruptly quit the series in 1980. He reprised Rockford for several TV movies in the late 1990s.

The role earned Garner an Emmy award in 1977. He also received an Oscar nomination for his work opposite Sally Field in the 1985 feature comedy Murphy's Romance.