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An actor at home in our living rooms


James Garner always made it look easy. Perhaps that is why he won so few honors for his craft.

Garner was known as a hard worker, a star who stayed after the cameras stopped rolling to go over lines with lower-billed actors. One presumes, too, that mastering the wide range of roles he played during his long career required extraordinary skill.

His medium was television – more specifically, the TV the family gathered around to watch their favorite series in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Bret Maverick and James Rockford were sharply drawn and interesting characters who didn’t demand deep attention to be appreciated. Garner transmitted a size and warmth and folksiness that filled the living room; even his best movies, like “The Notebook,” play better on the small screen.

His father a carpet layer, his mother part Cherokee, Garner was a high school dropout from Oklahoma who started out as a model.

He died Saturday at 86, one of America’s most beloved actors.