A Rockford Files Star Has Died

By Michileen Martin | Published

Rockford Files Stuart Margolin

Best remembered as the con man Angel Martin on NBC’s The Rockford Files, Stuart Margolin — actor, director, and songwriter — has died at the age of 82. Margolin’s death was made public online by his stepson Max Martini’s Instagram post (via The Hollywood Reporter). According to THR, Margolin died of natural causes in Staunton, Virginia.

Writing about his Rockford Files star stepfather Stuart Margolin, Martini called him “a great actor/writer/producer/director. But more importantly, a profoundly gifted step-father that was always there with love and support for his family.”

Margolin made his first screen appearance in a 1961 episode of the sitcom The Gertrude Berg Show. He would later join James Garner for the first time when he was cast as sidekick Deputy Mitch Mitchell in the Western series Nichols. In his 2011 memoir The Garner Files, the Rockford Files lead said he picked Stuart Margolin after seeing him playing an imprisoned drunk who struck his head on the bars of his cell.

“We’d made screen tests but couldn’t find what we were looking for until one day I saw a clip from Love, American Style,” Garner wrote of his Rockford Files co-star Stuart Margolin. “It wasn’t a scene that should have gotten a laugh, but the actor was so good, he broke me up. I knew he was the one for the part.”

According to THR, Margolin was offered a spot on the much more popular The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but he chose the Nichols role because he was convinced he’d have “more fun.” Apparently he was right, because he also said he never regretted the decision.

the rockford files stuart margolin
Stuart Margolin in The Rockford Files

Nichols ended in 1972, and 2 years later came The Rockford Files when Stuart Margolin joined Garner for the series as Angel Martin: a conman and the titular private detective’s former cellmate in San Quentin. In spite of being a crook and, in Garner’s words, “rotten to the core,” Angel proved to be a popular character. Margolin won two Emmys for Best Supporting Actor during his time on the series; in 1979 and 1980.

While The Rockford Files concluded its initial run in 1979, Stuart Margolin continued to play the character in subsequent TV specials. In particular there was a glut of Rockford Files specials in the nineties. Margolin’s final on screen appearance as Angel Martin was in 1999’s The Rockford Files: If It Bleeds.. It Leads, which he also directed.

Turning his attention to working behind the camera in his later years, The Rockford Files‘ Stuart Margolin was nevertheless last seen on the big screen in 2020 in the drama What the Night Can Do. The film, directed by Margolin’s stepson Christopher Martini, was initially meant to star Martin Sheen (The West Wing). Margolin replaced Sheen after the latter had to bow out because of an injury.