6 things about actor James Garner

Cinema still from Murphy's Romance, starring James Garner and Sally Field. -- PHOTO: SCV
Cinema still from Murphy's Romance, starring James Garner and Sally Field. -- PHOTO: SCV
Cinema still from The Notebook, starring James Garner and Gena Rowlands. -- PHOTO: WARNER BROS
Cinema still from The Notebook, starring James Garner and Gena Rowlands. -- PHOTO: WARNER BROS
Actor James Garner poses at the Writers Guild Awards in Hollywood, California, in this Feb 4, 2006, file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Actor James Garner poses at the Writers Guild Awards in Hollywood, California, in this Feb 4, 2006, file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A file photo taken on Sept 2, 2000, shows actor James Garner waving to the press during the 26th Deauville Festival of American Cinema before the screening of Space Cowboys. -- PHOTO: AFP
A file photo taken on Sept 2, 2000, shows actor James Garner waving to the press during the 26th Deauville Festival of American Cinema before the screening of Space Cowboys. -- PHOTO: AFP
Actor James Garner smiles as he arrives for the premiere of the film Maverick in Los Angeles on May 12, 1994. -- PHOTO: AFP
Actor James Garner smiles as he arrives for the premiere of the film Maverick in Los Angeles on May 12, 1994. -- PHOTO: AFP
Actor James Garner holds out his arms at the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on February 5, 2005. Garner, 86, died in his Los Angeles home on July 19 of natural causes. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Actor James Garner holds out his arms at the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on February 5, 2005. Garner, 86, died in his Los Angeles home on July 19 of natural causes. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Actor James Garner, 86, who died in his Los Angeles home on July 19 of natural causes, is fondly remembered for his star-making roles in two hit television series - the 1950s Western Maverick and the private eye show, The Rockford Files (1974 - 1980).

Born in Oklahoma to a carpet layer Weldon Warren Bumgarner and his wife, Garner was the youngest of three brothers. His mother died when he was five, and he left home at 14 because he did not get along with his abusive stepmother.

His father later divorced his stepmother and moved to Los Angeles. Garner job-hopped and had a short stint in the United States Merchant Marine (he quit because of chronic seasickness) before rejoining his father in California.

He found acting by way of a non-speaking role on Broadway, and subsequently spent more than 50 years in the film and television world.

1. Before he fell into acting, Garner was a swimsuit model. The good-looking athlete hated the job however and returned to high school. He never graduated however and only obtained his diploma when he was in the army. 

2. The dashing actor was a Korean War veteran who won two Purple Hearts during his 14-month combat stint. The first time he was wounded was from shrapnel fire in 1951. He was also wounded in April 1951 by friendly fire (he was shot in the butt), but only received his second medal in 1983. 

3. He was a spokesman for Polaroid cameras in the late 1970s and was paired with actress Mariette Hartley in the popular advertisements.

Fans thought they were a married couple. But in real life, Garner was married to Lois Fleishman Clarke. They met in 1956 at a political rally and wed after a whirlwind 14-day courtship. They were married for 58 years. Garner is survived by his wife and their daughter, Greeta Scott, and stepdaughter Kimberly, Clarke's daughter from her previous marriage.

4. As the star of The Rockford Files, he would often do his own stunts. As a result, he was often injured on set. The actor recalled once in an interview: "I would get beat up at least twice per show."

He suffered from broken bones, strained muscles and underwent more than five knee operations.

5. The straight-shooting actor was gutsy enough to sue Universal Studios for US$16.5 million over residual rights for The Rockford Files. The case was later settled out of court for an undisclosed multimillion dollar sum.

6. The actor, like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, was a hotrod fan, thanks to the 1966 film Grand Prix which he starred in. He owned the American International Racers, an auto racing team, from 1967 to 1969. He also drove the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 race on three occasions.