Through many films and two influential television series, Maverick and The Rockford Files, James Garner, who has died aged 86, developed a persona with a subtly different appeal. It began as original and accrued familiarity over the course of four decades: a coward who was the soul of honour, a hero likely to ride away, stick his finger up the barrel of his opponent's gun or get winded in a fight and complain of damage to his dentistry.
And my favorite from James Poniewozik in TIME:
But the characters he became famous for, especially TV’s Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford, won you over with their minds. They got through trouble with cleverness, charm and subtle wit. James Garner wasn’t the kind of star who won love because he seemed so elevated above you: he made you love him by showing you that he was on your level–had in fact spent some time down in the dirt, brushed off the dust, and moved on with a rascally smile.
Garner created him as a sunny, fundamentally decent example of how to get through frustrations and disappointments not with rage, but a wry comeback.
In the end, charm and humor wear more comfortably than rage and drama. Audiences love that kind of character. Fate loves that kind of character. If you need a quick thumbnail philosophy for living, it would not be a terrible one to simply remember to ask yourself, whenever you face adversity, “What would Jim Rockford do?” For posing that question, and giving it such an entertaining answer, thank you James Garner, and RIP.
Indeed, you could do a lot worse than go through life asking yourself "What would Jim Rockford do?"