FILES: CAST MEMBERS
ROCKFORD FILES premiered in Universal's MYSTERY MOVIE series
on NBC in April 1974, a joint production between Roy Huggins'
Public Arts Company and Garner's own Cherokee Productions.
Huggins had worked successfully with the actor on his cult
fifties western series MAVERICK, whilst the executive producer
representing Cherokee was James Garner's erstwhile agent Meta
Rosenberg, so the ROCKFORD team was very much like a family
concern. Also on the strength from the beginning were Joe
Santos as the long-suffering Detective Dennis Becker, and
Stuart Margolin as the volatile Angel Martin, a thoroughly
unreliable character who had been Rockford's cellmate in prison.
The pilot movie climaxed with a typically spectacular action
showdown in the desert between an automobile and a light plane,
but it was the humorous observation in the various relationships,
and James Garner's authentic star presence, that encouraged
"Variety" magazine to confidently anticipate a return
of the format later in the year.
proper series opened in September there was one major change.
Jim Rockford's old man, 'Rocky', had originally been played by
Robert Donley, he was now replaced by veteran supporting actor
Noah Beery of the famous acting dynasty (Noah Senior had been
a top villain in silent films, and Uncle Wallace a ripe character
player of the sound era, impersonating legendary figures such
as Pancho Villa and Long John Silver). Nobody seemed to notice
that Beery was only twelve years older than his 'son' Garner,
certainly not the public, and he eased convincingly into the role
for the duration. The one regular female in the series would be
petite, ash blonde Gretchen Corbett, as Jim's attorney Beth Davenport.
As might be expected, Beth spent most of her time bailing Jim
out of trouble with the law, collecting on the debt whenever she
could persuade the detective to waive his $200 fee in the service
of her more impoverished clients. Despite his flip, wise-cracking
manner Rockford is a soft touch, heroically on the side of the
underdog, even to the point of going along with Angel Martin's
crazy schemes; these usually leaving Rockford in hospital and
out of pocket, but he never seems to learn. The occupational hazards
of being Jim Rockford also include getting paid with dud cheques,
menaced by slave-ring guard dogs, kicked in the ribs, shot at
with malice aforethought, drugged, slugged, mugged, and generally
abused. Rockford endures these various indignities with a bruised,
weary resignation that is so convincing you suspect Garner the
actor must have personal experience of hard times. And so he does,
from a grim and rigorous childhood in Oklahoma.