Actor James Garner dead at 86 - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Actor James Garner dead at 86

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Actor James Garner has died at the age of 86.

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 long career playing charming, good-natured anti-heroes and received the highest honour of the Screen Actors Guild in 2004.

Garner burst on the scene with this disarming style in the 1950s TV Western "Maverick," which led to a stellar career in TV and films such as "The Rockford Files" and his Oscar-nominated "Murphy's Romance."

The 86-year-old Garner, who was found dead of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Saturday, was adept at drama and action. But he was best known for his low-key, wisecracking style.

His quick-witted avoidance of conflict offered a refreshing new take on the American hero, contrasting with the blunt toughness of John Wayne and the laconic trigger-happiness of Clint Eastwood.

There's no better display of Garner's everyman majesty than the NBC series "The Rockford Files" (1974-80). He played an L.A. private eye and wrongly jailed ex-con who seemed to rarely get paid, or even get thanks, for the cases he took, while helplessly getting drawn into trouble to help someone who was neither a client nor maybe even a friend. He lived in a trailer with an answering machine that, in the show's opening titles, always took a message that had nothing to do with a paying job, but more often was a complaining call from a cranky creditor.

Through it all, Jim Rockford, however down on his luck, persevered hopefully. He wore the veneer of a cynic, but led with his heart. Putting all that on screen was Garner's magic.

Well into his 70s, the handsome Oklahoman remained active in both TV and film. In 2002, he was Sandra Bullock's father in the film "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." The following year, he joined the cast of "8 Simple Rules ... For Dating My Teenage Daughter," playing the grandfather on the sitcom -- and helping ground it with his reassuring presence -- after star John Ritter, who played the father, died during the show's second season.

He even scored in commercials. During the late 1970s, he was paired with actress Mariette Hartley in a popular series of ads for Polaroid cameras. Their on-screen banter felt so authentic that many viewers mistakenly believed they were husband and wife.

When Garner received the Screen Actors Guild's lifetime achievement award in 2005, he quipped, "I'm not at all sure how I got here." But in his 2011 memoir, "The Garner Files," he provided some amusing and enlightening clues, including his penchant for bluntly expressed opinions and a practice for decking people who said something nasty to his face -- including an obnoxious fan and an abusive stepmother.

And when he suspected his studio of cheating him on residual payments -- a not-unheard-of condition in Hollywood -- Garner spoke out loudly and fought back with lawsuits.

They all deserved it, Garner declared in his book.

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