A towering, charismatic presence with a slight Oklahoma accent from his childhood, Garner’s long filmography is filled with dozens of unforgettable roles, from long TV stints as cardsharp Bret Maverick on Maverick and private eye Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files (for which Garner won a Best Actor Emmy in 1977) to marquee roles in Hour of the Gun, The Americanization of Emily, and most recently, The Notebook. In total, Garner appeared in nearly 100 TV shows and movies.
What made Garner unique was that he seemed to land a career-defining role nearly every decade: In the Fifties, he starred in the hit TV western Maverick. In the 1960s, he scored roles in classics like The Great Escape and Grand Prix. The Rockford Files — arguably Garner’s most enduring role — arrived in the 1970s. The Eighties brought Garner his first Oscar nomination — Best Actor for Murphy’s Romance — while the following decade saw Garner grab the attention of new audiences thanks to appearances in My Fellow Americans, Barbarians at the Gate and Mel Gibson’s Maverick reboot. However, it was Garner’s role in The Notebook that this generation of moviegoers most likely will remember.
In an industry where there’s a definite line between actors capable of being box office draws and actors who just score good Nielsen ratings, Garner was among a rare breed whose popularity and acting chops allowed him to carry leading roles on both television and film, sometimes interchangeably. Among his many accomplishments, Garner was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was given the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A statue honoring Garner resides in the actor’s native Norman, Oklahoma.