James Garner, 1928-2014

TIME

There are actors who become stars because they strike awe–because they’re imposing, powerful, monumental. And then there was James Garner.

Garner, who died Saturday night of natural causes at age 86, was no toothpick of a man–he was a former high school football and basketball player who kept his rugged, weathered good looks long into life. 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.

Born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman, Okla., in 1928, Garner had experience rebounding…

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