Isaac Hayes and James Garner in The Rockford Files

The Rockford Files: Isaac Hayes “Gandy and Rockfish” Trilogy

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One of the most beloved television series of the 1970s, The Rockford Files provided the perfect neo-noir showcase for the City of Los Angeles and the wily, megawatt charm of star James Garner. Tailor-suited for Garner’s many gifts as an actor (and expert driver), the character of private detective Jim Rockford represented a timeless non-hero that matched the weariness of the era: a perpetually broke, wrongfully imprisoned ex-con who was both a quick-witted con man and decent to a fault. Produced in association with Garner’s Cherokee Productions, the cliche-busting, Emmy Award-winning series was unique for primetime TV of the ’70s in how it reflected its star’s progressive sensibilities. Throughout its six seasons, The Rockford Files employed diverse talent behind the scenes, with women and people of color integral to the producing, writing and directing of the show (including Meta Rosenberg, Juanita Bartlett, Chas. Floyd Johnson and Ivan Dixon). In front of the camera, Academy Award winners Louis Gossett Jr., Rita Moreno and Isaac Hayes were memorably featured in recurring guest-starring roles.

Following his debut lead in the “Blaxploitation” film Truck Turner (1974), Grammy and Academy Award-winning music superstar Isaac Hayes landed the part of Rockford’s prickly, short-tempered former cellmate, Gandolph “Gandy” Fitch. The antagonistic, often hilarious interplay between Garner and Hayes set the framework for three Rockford episodes, including a proposed spin-off co-starring Louis Gossett Jr. and a coda guest-starring top-selling pop and soul legend Dionne Warwick. The Isaac Hayes trilogy exemplifies the best of the series, combining Garner’s indelible portrayal of Rockford and dynamite chemistry with guest stars against a backdrop of the smoggy, sun-drenched streets of 1970s Los Angeles. 

Turn on your telephone answering machine and whip a J-turn in your gold Pontiac Firebird to join us in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the premiere of The Rockford Files with a tribute to the neo-noir duo of “Gandy and Rockfish.”

Program notes by Mark Quigley, John H. Mitchell Television Curator.

The Rockford Files: “The Hammer of C Block” (1/9/1976)

Music superstar Isaac Hayes made his first appearance as Jim Rockford’s former cellmate “Gandy” in this noir tale that pays homage to Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. After serving time in prison for the murder of his girlfriend, Gandy pays Rockford a visit and demands help to find the actual killer. While comedic sparks fly between star James Garner and Hayes, the episode's dramatic underpinning is among the grimmest of the series. 

DCP, color, 50 min. NBC. Production: Roy Huggins-Public Arts Productions; Cherokee Productions. Executive Producer: Meta Rosenberg. Producer: Stephen J. Cannell. Director: Jerry London. Writer: Gordon Dawson. With: James Garner, Isaac Hayes, Annazette Chase.

The Rockford Files: “Just Another Polish Wedding” (2/18/1977)

In this spin-off episode, Louis Gossett Jr. made his second appearance on The Rockford Files as Marcus Aurelius “Gandy” Hayes, Rockford’s slippery former parole officer-turned-private eye. When Rockford connects Gandy (Isaac Hayes) with Gabby, the newly formed investigative duo quickly set out to out-hustle their mutual friend on a lucrative recovery gig. Along the way, an errant clue leads Gabby and Gandy to their first compatibility test as a team — in a neo-Nazi bar. 

DCP, color, 50 min. NBC. Production: Roy Huggins-Public Arts Productions; Cherokee Productions. Executive Producer: Meta Rosenberg.  Producers: David Chase, Chas. Floyd Johnson. Director: William Wiard. Writer: Stephen J. Cannell. With: James Garner, Isaac Hayes, Louis Gossett Jr.

The Rockford Files: “Second Chance” (10/14/1977)

Helmed by prolific Iranian-born American director Reza Badiyi, this final entry in the Isaac Hayes “Gandy” trilogy pairs the Grammy-winning superstar with fellow music icon Dionne Warwick. Set against a backdrop of the music industry, Warwick plays Gabby’s love interest, a talented lounge singer with a past that threatens her life. Guest-starring scene-stealing Emmy-winner Stuart Margolin as Rockford’s perennial frenemy, spineless con-man Angel Martin.

DCP, color, 50 min. NBC. Production: Cherokee Productions. Executive Producer: Meta Rosenberg. Producers: David Chase, Chas. Floyd Johnson. Director: Reza Badiyi. Writer: Gordon Dawson. With: James Garner, Isaac Hayes, Dionne Warwick.


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