Classic TV Revisited: The Rockford Files


Starring James Garner, Noah Beery, Stuart Margolin, Gretchen Corbett, Isaac Hayes

Ex-Files: Garner and Beery James Garner played Chandleresque private eye Jim Rockford, who was beaten to a pulp in every episode.

Why is it golden?
It was unusual and memorable. Most over-35s will recall the answerphone message which began every File: “This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I’ll get back to you.”

How did it work?
Ex-con Jim Rockford lived in a beachfront trailer and took on cases in his gold Pontiac Firebird for the princely sum of $200 a day.

Was he successful?
Eventually. He was averse to violence although he kept a gun in a biscuit barrel.He also didn’t like the Los Angeles police as he’d been wrongly jailed. The usual scenario was that Jim got into terrible trouble and was either beaten up or incarcerated. A lot.

Is it true Rockford star James Garner was a hero in real life?
Yes, he won two Purple Hearts – the US medal awarded to those wounded in combat – in the Korean War.

What else is he famous for?
Dozens of films in a 44-year career, including The Great Escape, and the TV cowboy series Maverick from 1957 to 1971.

When did he become Rockford?
In 1975. The show ran for seven years and there were a number of TV movies.

Why was it so appealing?
Rockford was a loser who always got the thin end of the stick. Invariably battered and bruised, he was often cheated out of his fee by crooked clients.

He didn’t have a lot going for him then?
Not really, but millions tuned in hoping his fortunes would change.

Did they?
No, but James Garner did win an Emmy for the role in 1977.

Who else was in it?
Part of its appeal was Jim Rockford’s assortment of acquaintances such as his dad Rocky (Noah Beery) who was always badgering him to take up a safer job. His ex-cellmate Angel (Stuart Margolin) got him into trouble, his attorney girlfriend Beth (Gretchen Corbett) never had much time for romance and Isaac Hayes – the voice of Chef on South Park – was his tough guy pal Gandy Fitch.

Is it true that it helped Tom Selleck’s career?
Unfortunately yes. Selleck was the irritatingly perfect sleuth Lance White in the final series. As a result he landed the part of Magnum PI six months later.

Didn’t he wear hideous Hawaian shirts?
Yes, and a moustache like a dead rat.

Did it feature any other celebs?
Larry Hagman, Lauren Bacall, Sharon Gless, Lindsey Wagner and Paul Michael Glaser all made guest appearances.

Will it ever return?
Ripe for a reboot!