Quieter, but no less effective, was “Breathing Lessons” opposite Joanne Woodward.His bigscreen career continued in the 2000s with the Clint Eastwood-helmed veteran astronaut comedy “Space Cowboys,” chick pic “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and 2004 hit tearjerker “The Notebook,” in which Garner and Gena Rowlands played the older versions of a couple portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Rachel Mc Adams.
For a time he seemed ready to inherit the aging Cary Grant’s romantic comedy leading man mantle with such films as “The Thrill of It All” (1963), “The Wheeler Dealers” and “Move Over Darling.” Arthur Hiller gave him a meatier assignment, in the satire “The Americanization of Emily,” opposite the then-red-hot Julie Andrews.He then nabbed the thriller “36 Hours” and a couple of indifferent comedies, “The Art of Love” and “A Man Could Get Killed.” The films were now A-budget, but “Duel at Diablo,” “Mr.He was first really noticeable in a role as Marlon Brando’s pal in “Sayonara,” after which he was assigned a supporting role in “Darby’s Rangers.” When “Darby’s” lead Charlton Heston walked off the film, Garner inherited his first starring role, but reviews were mixed.The real boost to his career came in a role now indelibly associated with him, that of Bret Maverick in the comedic Western that ABC debuted in 1957; the role and the series fit his wry personality like a glove.He again essayed “Bret Maverick” for one season in 1981.
But a bad back, lawsuits with MCA TV over “Rockford” syndication payments (he eventually settled, reportedly for several million dollars) and, eventually, heart surgery curtailed his ability to endure the rigors of a TV series.
Originally the story was to alternate between the Maverick brothers played by Garner and Jack Kelly, but “Maverick” quickly became all about Garner’s character, who used his wits to get out of trouble.
Other actors revolved in and out including Clint Eastwood as a vicious gunfighter.
In 1994 he took a small role in the bigscreen version of “Maverick,” with Mel Gibson in the lead, giving the star a run for his money in the likability department.
In 1996 he starred as an ex-president opposite Jack Lemmon in “My Fellow Americans.” The best of his later work, however, came in television in such TV movie dramas as “Heartsounds” with Mary Tyler Moore in 1984, directed by Glen Jordan, who also guided him through “Promise” in 1986.
Margolin said at the time that Garner worked long shifts, did his own stunts and stayed to do off-camera lines for the other cast members.