James Garner Biography

(Actor and Producer Best Known for His Role as ‘Bret Maverick’ in the Western ABC Series ‘Maverick’)

Birthday: April 7, 1928 (Aries)

Born In: Norman, Oklahoma, United States

James Garner was an American actor known for his ability to captivate the audience with his acting skills in television and films. He was lauded for his performance in shows, such as ‘Maverick,’ ‘The Rockford Files,’ and ‘8 Simple Rules.’ He worked in more than 50 movies over a period of six decades, delivering several successful films, such as ‘Decoration Day,’ ‘Murphy’s Romance,’ ‘The Great Escape,’ and ‘The Notebook.’ He started his career with a non-speaking role in a Broadway production before he was signed up for commercials, television roles, and movies. Owing to the hardships suffered by his family during the Great Depression, James dreamed of earning big. After leaving school, he took up a number of odd jobs, including pumping gas, modeling for bathing suits, etc. He never graduated from an academy or school but received his diploma from the US Army. He was the winner of various notable awards and is widely known as one of America’s greatest ‘Oscar’ award-nominated actors. He had lasting friendships with Paul Newman and Bill Bixby.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: James Scott Bumgarner

Died At Age: 86


Spouse/Ex-: Lois Clarke (m. 1956)

father: Weldon Warren Bumgarner

mother: Mildred Scott, Mildred Scott Bumgarner

siblings: Charles Bumgarner, Jack Garner

children: Gigi Garner, Kimberly Garner

Born Country: United States

Actors T V & Movie Producers

Height: 6'2" (188 cm), 6'2" Males

political ideology: Democratic

Died on: July 19, 2014

place of death: Los Angeles, California, United States

Diseases & Disabilities: Coronary Artery Disease, Stroke

Ancestry: German American

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

U.S. State: Oklahoma

Notable Alumni: University Of Oklahoma

More Facts

education: University Of Oklahoma

Childhood & Early Life

James Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner on 7 April 1928, in Norman, Oklahoma, USA, to Weldon Bumgarner and Mildred Bumgarner.

He lost his mother when he was five. Shortly after her death, he and his elder brothers, Jack Garner, and Charles Bumgarner, were sent to stay with their kin.

His father remarried and the family reunited in 1934. However, the brothers were ill-treated by their stepmother. His stepmother was forced to leave, which eventually ended the marriage.

When he was 16, he joined the US Merchant Marine, for which he faked his age. A year later, he returned to Los Angeles and applied to ‘Hollywood High School.’ After a couple of years, he left school before graduating and went back to his hometown Norman.

He later enlisted in the ‘Regimental Combat Team’ and fought in the ‘Korean War’ for which he earned two purple hearts, one of which was handed to him 32 years later.

In 1954, his friend Paul Gregory convinced him to take up a non-speaking role in the Broadway classic ‘The Caine Mutiny Court Martial,’ which marked the beginning of his acting career.

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He subsequently began receiving roles in commercials. He was then cast in the 1956 classics ‘The Girl He Left Behind’ and ‘Toward the Unknown.’ It was around this time that he changed his last name from Bumgarner to Garner.

From 1957 to 1960, his portrayal of ‘Bret Maverick’ in the critically acclaimed show ‘Maverick’ earned him widespread fame. He was appreciated for his acting skills and on-screen charisma.

In 1969, he appeared in the neo-noir film ‘Marlowe,’ featuring in a karate scene with Bruce Lee. The same year, he worked in the hit comedy film ‘Support Your Local Sheriff!’

From 1970 to 1973, he appeared in numerous films, such as ‘A Man Called Sledge,’ ‘Support Your Local Gunfighter!,’ ‘Skin Game,’ and ‘One Little Indian.’

The year 1974 marked the beginning of his role as the famous private investigator ‘Jim Rockford’ in ‘The Rockford Files’ television series, for which he received great critical acclaim. Although he became extremely popular after appearing in the series as ‘Jim,’ he ended his run with the show due to health problems.

In 1985, he appeared in ‘Murphy’s Romance’ opposite Sally Field and Brian Kerwin. He was lauded by critics for his stellar performance in the movie, for which he was nominated for several awards.

During the ‘80s, he also appeared in projects like ‘Promise’ and ‘My Name Is Bill W.’

Garner was cast in ‘Man of the People’ in 1991, which was unfortunately canceled after ten episodes despite good reviews.

In 1993, his critically acclaimed performance in the TV film ‘Barbarians at the Gate’ increased his popularity. He then went on to reprise his role as ‘Jim Rockford’ in ‘The Rockford Files’ TV films.

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In 1994, he was cast in the movie adaption of ‘Maverick’ where he played ‘Marshal Zane Cooper.’ The following year, he appeared in ‘Streets of Laredo.’

He played an ex-president in the 1996 comedy ‘My Fellow Americans.’ He was then cast in ‘Chicago Hope,’ ‘God, The Devil and Bob,’ and ‘First Monday.’

In 2001, he voiced ‘Commander Rourke’ in Disney’s ‘Atlantis: The Lost Empire.’ Two years later, he was cast in ‘8 Simple Rules’ as ‘Jim Egan.’

In 2004, he played ‘Noah Calhoun’ in the popular romantic movie ‘The Notebook’ for which he was nominated for ‘The Screen Actors Guild Award.’

In 2010, he voiced a wizard named ‘Shazam’ in the animated film ‘Superman/ Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam.’

His autobiography, titled ‘The Garner Files: A Memoir,’ was published in 2011 by ‘Simon & Schuster.’ It was co-written with Jon Winokur.

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Major Works

His portrayal of ‘Jim Rockford’ in ‘The Rockford Files’ in 1974 earned Garner an ‘Emmy Award.’ The show was ranked 39th in the list of ‘50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time’ by ‘TV Guide.’

In 1985, he appeared in ‘Murphy’s Romance,’ which earned him an ‘Academy Award’ nomination for ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role.’ The film collected $30,762,621 at the box office.

Awards & Achievements

He was awarded a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ for his contribution to the film and television industry.

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He was inducted into the ‘Western Performers Hall of Fame’ in 1990.

In 2005, he received the ‘Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.’

In 2010, he was honored with the ‘Career Achievement Award’ by ‘Television Critics Association.’

Personal Life & Legacy

He married Lois Clarke on August 17, 1956, two weeks after they first met at a rally. He had a stepdaughter named Kim from his wife’s previous marriage. Garner and Lois were blessed with a daughter whom they named Greta Garner.

James Garner died at his home in Los Angeles on July 19, 2014. He was 86.

He was close friends with actors Marlon Brando, Doris Day, Julie Andrews, and Henry Fonda.

He loved playing golf, watching sports, racing, and spending time with family.

His hometown has a street named ‘James Garner Ave’ in his honor.


A ten feet tall bronze statue of ‘Bret Maverick,’ a character which he played, was erected in his hometown.

James Garner Movies

1. The Great Escape (1963)

  (History, Thriller, War, Drama, Adventure)

2. Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)

  (Western, Romance, Comedy)

3. The Notebook (2004)

  (Drama, Romance)

4. Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971)

  (Comedy, Western, Romance)

5. Maverick (1994)

  (Adventure, Action, Thriller, Western, Comedy)

6. The Thrill of It All (1963)

  (Romance, Comedy)

7. 36 Hours (1964)

  (War, Thriller)

8. The Americanization of Emily (1964)

  (War, Comedy, Drama)

9. Victor Victoria (1982)

  (Romance, Comedy, Musical, Music)

10. The Children's Hour (1961)

  (Drama, Romance)


Golden Globe Awards
1994 Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Barbarians at the Gate (1993)
1991 Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Decoration Day (1990)
1958 Most Promising Newcomer - Male Sayonara (1957)
Primetime Emmy Awards
1987 Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special Promise (1986)
1977 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series The Rockford Files (1974)
People's Choice Awards
1982 Favorite Male Performer in a New TV Program Winner
1978 Favorite Male TV Performer Winner

See the events in life of James Garner in Chronological Order

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