Jim Rockford (television character)

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James Scott Rockford
James Garner as "Jim Rockford".jpg
First appearance"Backlash of the Hunter"
Last appearanceIf It Bleeds... It Leads (TV movie)
Created byStephen J. Cannell
Portrayed byJames Garner
AliasMany, including "Jim Taggart" and "Jimmy Joe Meeker" (two used most often).
OccupationPrivate Investigator
FamilyJoseph "Rocky" Rockford (father)
Unnamed mother

James Scott Rockford is a fictional character on the television series The Rockford Files. The character, played by James Garner, is a struggling private investigator operating in the greater Los Angeles area. Rockford is the principal character of the series, and Garner was the only actor to appear in every episode of the series.

Character background[edit]

Unlike many other fictional "private eyes", he is an ex-convict, albeit one who was falsely imprisoned (at San Quentin Prison) and later fully pardoned. One episode tells that because of the carelessness of his parole officer, Rockford had to hire an attorney to be free of parole violations.[1]

Rockford operates a small private investigation service out of his cluttered beachside mobile home in Malibu, California. The trailer was parked in the lot for Paradise Cove next to a restaurant. He specializes in cold cases, missing person cases and small-time insurance scams to avoid confrontations with police; he charges a flat rate of $200 a day plus expenses for each case, which, in a running gag, he seldom actually receives. He is consistently shown to be short on money; he typically wears sport coats and low-priced off-the-rack suits and his lone indulgences are an answering machine (the source of another running gag at the beginning of each episode) and the latest gold colored Pontiac Firebird Esprit automobile, traded in each year of the series for the newest model. (Garner did not like the look and handling of the 1979 model, so the 1978 was reused for the 1979–80 season; this was an apparent use of product placement in the series.)

Rockford shared many personality traits with the lead characters of two of Garner's previous series, Maverick's Bret Maverick and Nichols's Frank Nichols. Rockford was usually unarmed (he occasionally carried an unlicensed pistol but hardly ever used it) and, despite trying to avoid trouble and use reason and negotiation to solve problems, would sometimes be pressed into a fistfight as a last resort.

Military service[edit]

During the series, it is also revealed that Rockford was wounded in action and awarded a Silver Star while serving in the Korean War[2] with the 24th Infantry Division. After being busted to Private he was promoted to Sergeant after conning the North Koreans to exchange a tank for 400 cases of K rations so his encircled unit could escape; however he was soon busted back to PFC when it was discovered he was running a string of pool halls in Busan and stealing a Major General's car.[2] He also forgot to return his service pistol and gets a call from the army about it after 23 years.[3] A running gag is that, whenever Rockford gets involved with cases connected to members of his old Division, Jim is usually in trouble.[4][5] (The reference to the 24th Division is an inside reference to James Garner's real-life service; Garner actually served in the 5th Infantry Regiment (United States) of the 24th Infantry Division, a.k.a. "Taro Division" during the Korean War.)

Personal life[edit]

Jim Rockford maintains a close relationship with his father Joseph "Rocky" Rockford, and his closest friend is LAPD Sgt. (later Lt.) Dennis Becker (who also serves as his LAPD contact). He remains in contact with a number of ex-cons whom he met in San Quentin, most prominently Angel Martin (Stuart Margolin), who provides comic relief in many episodes; a running gag is that Angel's hare-brained con jobs usually get Jim in some kind of trouble.

Jim enjoys fishing, and would rather spend time doing that than working. He is frequently seen eating tacos and sometimes has them for breakfast. He often describes himself as "chicken," though often his actions speak otherwise. Jim lives in a mobile home on the beach at Paradise Cove, Malibu; though its exterior is somewhat ramshackle, inside it is very well appointed and homey.

Jim dated many women during the course of The Rockford Files (with most relationships not lasting longer than a single episode), most notably his lawyer, Beth Davenport, whom he was said to have dated seriously before the series began.

At some time between the end of the series proper (1980) and the first of the Rockford Files television-movies, "The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A." (1994), Jim married Halley "Kit" Kittredge (Joanna Cassidy), who appears in an early scene. It is unknown when they were married, for how long, or the reason for their divorce. They had no children.


In 1999, TV Guide ranked him # 25 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list.[6] AOL TV named him one of TV's Smartest Detectives.[7]

References in other media[edit]

The detective story writer Stuart M. Kaminsky has written two books with Jim Rockford as the main character, entitled The Green Bottle and The Devil on My Doorstep.

In "Ruskie Business", an episode of the television series Veronica Mars, Logan Echolls calls the titular character "Rockford", referencing Jim Rockford.[8]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ [The Rockford Files 2/21 "Foul on the First Play"]
  2. ^ a b "The Rockford Files - Season 2, Episode 10: 2 Into 5.56 Won't Go - TV.com". TV.com. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  3. ^ The Rockford Files 3/13 Phone call
  4. ^ The Rockford Files 3/9 "Return to the Thirty-Eighth Parallel"
  5. ^ The Rockford Files 4/3 "The Battle of Canoga Park
  6. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 190. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
  7. ^ "TV's Smartest Detectives". AOL TV. November 18, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  8. ^ "Ruskie Business Cultural References". Mars Investigations: The (In)Complete Guide to Veronica Mars. Retrieved January 12, 2015.