Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rest in peace, James Garner, gone at age 86

You wouldn't think that "The Rockford Files" would appeal to a little girl of the 1970s, but indeed it did, with this author, as she watched from the 13" black-and-white television atop her bedroom dresser, the TV she had just gotten for Christmas or a birthday and the TV which had significantly broadened the horizon of childhood. All of a sudden, I didn't have to watch what anybody else in the house was watching. I had control, autonomy. I could explore any new world that the Big Three networks (and perhaps one or two independents) would afford me from my post in rural mid-Michigan. And one world I happily explored was that of James Rockford.

He was strong and assured, smart but ordinary, that James Garner. The role wasn't his first but definitely one of his most noteworthy. Did he remind me of my dad? Yea, probably. And my dad liked him and watched the show, too. But James Rockford was just so interesting in his own right. A solid, manly build. Strong features. Not pretty-boy handsome, but more ordinary-guy handsome, and it's the latter that this girl prefers. Hot without trying to be. It was his very indifference that seemed to have such an appeal. The wit, the sarcasm, the tolerant disgust with the workings of the world around him. Piecing together an existence here and there, with his private-detective business, basically down on his luck but getting by. The underdog, I guess. And the rough-hewn background of James Rockford mirrored, in a sense, that of James Garner. It all added up to such a nice package. He wore it well.

I loved James Garner and followed his career through the years, after those days of viewing in the 1970s. I felt a certain kinship with him, as we had an important date in common, though regrettably I never got to meet him. And seriously, did he really sustain a decades-long marriage -- since 1956, the year my mom graduated from high school? Garner deserves a gold medal for that. Nobody in Hollywood does that. "Marriage is like the Army," Wikipedia quotes him as saying, "everyone complains, but you'd be surprised at the large number of people who re-enlist."

BRBTV offers condolences to Garner's wife and family. The actor was found dead at his home of apparent natural causes last night. Read more about Garner's career at Wikipedia, Fox News and CNN.

Photos from Wikimedia Commons, public domain, and Alan Light, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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