September 22, 2004

Actor James Garner to Receive Lifetime Honor

LOS ANGELES - Veteran actor James Garner, whose career spans six decades and signature TV roles from "Maverick" to "The Rockford Files," was chosen on Wednesday to receive the Screen Actors Guild's highest honor.

Garner, 76, who built a career playing ruggedly charming, good-natured anti-heroes, will be presented with SAG's annual lifetime achievement award at its gala awards show on Feb. 5.

The show is carried live on the cable channel TNT. Garner, an Oklahoma native, entered show business in the 1950s after serving in the Korean War and gained fame on the TV western "Maverick." He played the wise-cracking Bret Maverick, a gambler and ladies man, who got by on his cunning rather than a six-gun and would just as soon duck a fight as face a showdown.

He left the show in 1960 in a contract dispute with producers, but brought his "Maverick"-like alter ego to a series of films, including "Thrill of It All," "Move Over, Darling," "The Great Escape" and "Support Your Local Sheriff!"

Garner said his screen persona as a guy smart enough to steer clear of a fight ran only so deep. "At times it's like me, but I used to have this temper. I used to get in a fight in a heartbeat. But that was many years ago," he told Reuters.

Garner had another prime-time hit as ex-con turned private detective Jim Rockford in "The Rockford Files," which ran from 1974 until he abruptly quit the show in 1980. He reprised Rockford for several TV movies in the late 1990s.

The role earned him an Emmy Award in 1977, his only victory in dozen TV acting nominations. He also received an Oscar nomination for his work opposite Sally Field in the 1985 feature comedy "Murphy's Romance."

Garner said his favorite role was as the cowardly American soldier who falls for Julie Andrews before being sent on a dangerous wartime mission in "The Americanization of Emily." He teamed up again with Andrews in the 1982 film "Victor/Victoria."

He returned to the big screen in 2000 in Clint Eastwood's astronaut adventure "Space Cowboys" and two years later in "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."

Last year, Garner joined the cast of the ABC sitcom "8 Simple Rules," playing a grandfather after the untimely death of series star John Ritter.

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