Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Jackie Cooper, who was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor in 1932 and later won two Emmys for directing episodes of M*A*S*H and THE WHITE SHADOW, worked on THE ROCKFORD FILES as both a performer and a director. Oddly, this 1975 episode, "Claire," aired between "Counter Gambit" and "Say Goodbye to Jennifer," two of the three ROCKFORDs Cooper directed during the series' first season. His lively performance in "Claire" is quite entertaining as still one more angry police captain aching to toss Jim Rockford (James Garner) in the clink.

Rockford is approached by an old flame, Claire Prescott (Linda Evans), who abruptly broke off their affair with no explanation three years earlier. She asks him to find a man named Charlie Manning for her, but fails to reveal that she's being pursued by two gunmen (played by THE A-TEAM's nemesis Lance LeGault and a long-haired Lane Smith). Meanwhile, as Claire is keeping secrets for Jim, so are his police lieutenant pal Becker (Joe Santos) and his superior Captain Highland (Cooper), who also want Manning, but for a different reason.

It's likely that writer Edward J. Lakso devised the intriguing plot and handed it over to producer Stephen J. Cannell for polishing, as the dialogue contains several obvious Cannell touches. However, it's what Garner doesn't say that provides the drama in his first scene with Evans, as he remains tight-lipped, suspicious, yet politely so, as he gets across to the audience that he's still hurting a bit from their bust-up. It's a strong moment for Garner in an episode that contains several chases and punch-outs, and even places Rocky (Noah Beery Jr.), Jim's father, in danger.

Through a strange coincidence, "Claire" features guest stars Cooper and Smith, both of whom went on to play Daily Planet editor Perry White (Cooper in SUPERMAN and its three sequels, Smith in LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN). Evans (THE BIG VALLEY) returns to ROCKFORD the following season as a different character in "The Farnsworth Strategem."

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