When you consider that James Garner has been a working actor for over 50 years, it’s obvious that his work has stood the test of time. But with a major hit under his belt as recently as 2004, there’s no doubt his appeal is timeless. Garner has effectively bridged the gap between the “giants” of classic hollywood to today’s more accessible Hollywood-types. Garner came to Hollywood as a contract bit player and got his big break as Bret Maverick in 1957. Since then, it’s his work in westerns that have stabilized him as the cool, witty, good-natured hero we’ve come to know and love. Here’s a look back at some of his most memorable western films:
After a dispute over money, Garner left Maverick after 3 seasons to pursue other projects. Roles in The Great Escape, and The Americanization of Emily gave him some leverage as an actor. His portrayal of Wyatt Earp in Hour of the Gun called for a more satirical role as Jason McCullough in Support Your Local Sheriff.
A similar role followed 2 years later in Support Your Local Gunfighter. This film has been called a sequel by some, but since Garner’s character is not the same as the one in Support Your Local Sheriff, the term “retelling” is probably more appropriate.
Two Disney films, One Little Indian and Castaway Cowboy led to another run as Maverick, before landing his signature role as Jim Rockford. With an Emmy winning performance in The Rockford Files, an Oscar nod was inevitable in Murphy’s Romance.
Garner portrayed the iconic Wyatt Earp once again in Sunset opposite Bruce Willis before playing Marshall Zane Cooper in the big screen remake of Maverick.
And finally, while not technically a western, Space Cowboys is a teaming of former western heroes for what is, ultimately, a wagon train to the stars. Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood) recruits his team of would-be astronauts (Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner) to accompany him into space. Their mischievous deeds and “old-school” mentality undeniably make this a western at heart!