We note the passing of actor James Garner.
The star of TV's "The Rockford Files" and “Maverick" had a special ability to instantly connect with audiences—women swooned at his good looks, men saw him as a regular guy. But Hollywood insiders had one more reason to respect James Garner: he was perhaps the best stunt driver in California.
Rockford Files creator Stephen J. Cannell didn’t want Garner to do his own car stunts, fearing for the actor’s safety. But when Cannell came to realize that the professional stunt drivers weren’t nearly as good as Garner himself, Cannell agreed to let Garner drive.
In an interview with the producers of PBS "Pioneers of Television,” James Garner was eager to discuss why he liked Rockford’s Pontiac Firebird Espirit: “It had the the right wheel base, the perfect engine power; driving it was the most fun I had as an actor.” Garner was so good at one particular driving maneuver that it was named in his honor. The trick involved driving a car backward at high speed, then spinning it 180°, and continuing forward without changing the direction of travel.
Today, stunt drivers call that move a “Rockford” because no one did better than James Garner. It was just one of many ways he was an American original.