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Rockford Files

By Joe Quattrocchi of Poughkeepsie, NY

Since the early days of film and radio theatre Americans have been drawn to private eyes like Boston Blackie, Phillip Marlowe, Johnny Dollar and The Falcon.

James Garner brought his "Maverick" style to the Super70s by expertly portraying Jim Rockford, a misunderstood ex-con who knew how to work the system for good purposes.

Like Peter Falk who was made for Columbo, Garner is Jim Rockford from his masculine good looks, smooth delivery and an ability to do his own stunts, including many car chases. Such ability allowed the camera to roll and one is treated to very realistic drama that many other television shows could not equal.

Garner worked his character seamlessly and showed tremendous versatility. At times he was a loner, kicking his feet back in a run down Malibu trailer. In a flash he was brash, rambunctious and exploitive to his lovable father, played by Noah Beery, Jr. In a borrowed plot scheme from years gone by, Rockford's best friend was a police Detective (played by Joe Santos) who regularly ran license plates and did other helpful legwork while playing a stooge to his brass.

Santos filled the role adequately but the real diamond in an occasional supporting spot was "Angel" (Stuart Margolin), a delightful energetic con man who never met a scam or temptation he could resist. Margolin was one of the few actors in the series who could stand toe to toe with Garner's eloquence and the result was superlative!!!

Garner however did have enough reservoirs to carry the series himself. He was hardboiled when first meeting a client, vulnerable during a gunfight (how many private eyes hide guns in their cookie jar?), a maverick on the highway and romantic with the ladies. Other contemporaries, like Tom Selleck who guest starred in an episode, pale in comparison.

Selleck, as Magnum PI, always appeared to be reading his script rather than living the role. Garner, conversely, put in the hard work and got through difficult dialogue so that when a client stiffed him for $200/day plus expenses you honestly felt bad for him and worried if he had enough money to buy some groceries. Garner also always looked the role when he was beat up.

Gretchen Corbett, who showed up in supporting roles on many shows during the Super70s, played Beth Davenport as Rockford's love interest for a while during the series. It made for interesting plot to see Rockford, a confirmed bachelor, sticking with a woman for more than one episode, especially since she was blind and an attorney. Corbett did little for the series though and many other guest stars proved more memorable.

The Rockford Files ran for 123 episodes (1974-1980) and was reprised in later years. Producers and writers became more politically correct as the series matured but, always a pro, Garner shined regardless of what scenario or dialogue was given to the Oklahoma native. Seldom spoken about was the series instrumental theme music which hardly personified southern Californian life. It was rather maverick, even for its time. Equally enjoyable too was each episode open when we heard a unique answering machine message.


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As far as I'm concerned, this is not only the greatest detective show of all time, but it's the greatest show of all time, period. Between the acting, characters, and the stories, this show is tops!

--Brian Rockford

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Aired: September 13, 1974 - July 25, 1980

Cast: James Garner, Noah Beery Jr., Robert Donley, Joe Santos, Gretchen Corbet, Tom Selleck

Network: NBC

Genre: Detective Drama

Theme song: The Rockford Files by Mike Post

Image courtesy of NBC

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