Edward D. Collins
(Click on any photo below to view a larger image.)
|These two photo stills shown above
are from the
opening title sequence of The Rockford Files
1970's television series. As
a big fan of The Rockford Files, I, and as it turns out,
other fans, have often wondered who this woman is.
According to the Internet Movie Database, in the trivia section for the episode Tall Woman in Red Wagon, we have an answer.
It's actress Stefanie Powers!
I reject that statement. I don't believe it to be true... for the simple reason that Stefanie Powers didn't appear in Tall Woman in Red Wagon! The actress who appeared in Tall Woman in Red Wagon was Sian Barbara Allen. Powers didn't appear in it at all, so there couldn't possibly be any stills of her from that episode.
Furthermore, let's assume whoever supplied that piece of trivia simply got the episode wrong. Stefanie Powers did appear in a Season 2 Rockford Files episode titled, The Real Easy Red Dog. (Note that both of these episode include the word "red" so maybe that is part of the confusion.
However, I recently re-watched The Real Easy Red Dog and although yes, there are scenes of Powers in Rockford's Firebird, Powers doesn't wear a dress/blouse that shows her shoulder, as Photo #1 clearly shows.
Furthermore, The Rockford Files opening title sequence was put together prior to Season 1. Stefanie's guest appearance in The Real Easy Red Dog wasn't until episode #7 of Season 2, in the fall of '75. The first season of The Rockford Files began in the fall of '74 and we know most all of the photo still used in the title sequence were shot during the summer of '74. It is very unlikely the episode with Powers was shot a full year earlier.
Finally, although it's very hard to tell from Photos #1 and #2, the woman in the car just doesn't look like Powers. Powers had auburn-colored hair during this period, and although it's hard to tell, it appears as if the woman in Photo #1 might be a blonde.
So yes, I believe that piece of trivia from the Internet Movie Database to be incorrect.
So, if the woman in the car is not Stefanie Powers, who is it?
|Another claim, supported by
several members in the public Facebook group, The Rockford Files
Unofficial Fan Appreciation Site, believe it was the late actress
I reject that claim too.
(Note that Gayle Hunnicutt passed away on 8/31/2023, at the age of 80. Also note that at the bottom of this page are 20 or so different photos of Gayle Hunnicutt.)
As it turns out, the reason for people believing the woman is Hunnicutt originates from this website; Jim Suva and The Suva Files:
Like me, it appears Jim Suva must also be a big fan of The Rockford Files TV series. On this page, Suva tells a very entertaining story of how he recently purchased photographs Dan Wolfe took, back in 1974, that were used in The Rockford Files opening title sequence.
The Rockford Files was first shown in late March of '74 as a two-hour TV movie, most like specifically as a possible pilot for a new weekly series. The movie most likely had very favorable ratings since of course we know it was indeed picked up as a series.
Photographer Dan Wolfe was hired that summer to take photos for the upcoming series, to be used in the opening title sequence. It appears he took these photos during July of 1974. (The first episode of The Rockford Files aired September 13, 1974.)
Please visit Suva's blog and read the cool story of how he came to purchase the photos and view some of the these previously unseen photos taken by Dan Wolfe. As a sneak preview, here are just a few of them:
|There are four photographs on
Jim's blog that show a woman in Rockford's Firebird with him.
Throughout this document I refer back to these photos as Photo #3 -
#6. At the bottom of the page I zoom in and show a closeup of
|From Jim's blog: "We now know,
Gayle Hunnicutt is this actress, who appeared with Jim in the
I suspect he first believed it was Hunnicutt from an e-mail or text message he received, from member John Greco. (In February of 2023 Jim Suva announced to the above-mentioned Facebook group that the identity of the woman in the passenger seat is now known. "John Greco recognized her from her role in Marlowe.")
Recognized her? Hmmm.
There are many members of the Facebook group, including myself, that
do not think the woman in Photos #3 - #6 look like Gayle Hunnicutt.
As a small sample, here are a few of their comments:
That is not her.
Skip Stabile: I think the nose is all wrong.
Brian Moore: I don’t think it’s her. Doesn’t look anything like her. Intriguing riddle!
Paul Ryan: I don't think it is Gayle, but the actress looks familiar. Trying to place where I have seen her.
David Hall: Different nose for a start.
Patty Persons: They don't look anything alike, that's true.
Marie Chalmers: Definitely not her.
Hal Harmon: I agree with you, Ed.
Scott Dickman: There is a similarity but I don't think it is her!
Richard Welch: Not Gayle. This came up once before. It looked like another actress (I forgot the name).
David Bishop: They don't really look alike to me. Close. But I don't think they are the same.
Roger Byrne: I don't think it's her either. Doesn't really look like her at all. Are people only going on the fact that she has red hair?
Matt Smith: At first I thought yeah that's her. But now after looking again at some side shots that nose is definitely one of a kind perfectly shaped to a point. The girl with Jim does not have the exact nose.
Brad Cammack: The high round cheek bones in the 4 Suva photos don't look like Hunnicutt. I looked at around 100 photos of her online and couldn't find one with the same cheek bones.
|There were a few others who voiced
the same opinion, but you get the idea. I don't want to
embarrass the people who believe it is her by listing them here, but there
were also, most likely, an equal number of people who did
accept the woman in Photos #3 - #6 was Gayle Hunnicutt.
We also now have other reasons to believe it's not her.
|The largest piece of "evidence" we
have that it is Hunnicutt (and yes, there's a reason why I put "evidence" in quotes)
comes from Gayle Hunnicutt herself!
About six months or so before she passed away, Jim Suva contacted her via her Facebook page, most likely soon after receiving John Greco's message. Jim also provided a (partial?) transcript of the short conversation:
Lol yes you are right that was me then thanks so much
That’s great. Fans of The Rockford Files have been wondering for a few years. How did you get the job.
Feb 6, 2023, 7:08 PM
Here is a story that I wrote about that photo shoot. Thought you might like to see it. https://jimsuva.typepad.com/.../the-rockford-files-the...
The Rockford Files: The Lost Films
Lol yes you are right that was me then thanks awesome
Feb 7, 2023, 11:22 AM
Hello how are you doing?
Feb 7, 2023, 1:23 PM
Feb 8, 2023, 3:52 AM
Feb 9, 2023, 2:02 PM
Hello my friend
Feb 9, 2023, 2:24 PM
How are you
|Ouch! That's not exactly a
reliable confirmation, that much is clear. She didn't reply with any information at all
about the event or how she got the job,
despite being asked to do so.
A couple of comments regarding this conversation.
It's possible (although I think rather unlikely) it was not actually Gayle Hunnicutt who responded. Many celebrities have people working for them who monitor and answer social media sites, and these people give responses to the fans as if the celebrity themselves was he one responding. (However, with Hunnicutt, a retired or out-of work 79-year-old actress, with zero credits listed on her IMDb in the past 24 years, who most of the population wouldn't recognize by name or by sight, this is probably not the case. I have no problem accepting the claim that Hunnicutt was indeed the one who responded to Jim's text message.)
However, we don't know her state of mind. Was she confused about the event and (assuming she did take the time to view the photos), was remembering Marlowe, the movie she did with Garner back in '69? Or maybe she did not remember the event at all but assumed Jim Suva was correct and so she simply answered yes, in kind?
To you and I, spending a day driving around Los Angeles with James Garner would probably be an event we'd remember forever. For an actress who worked with many other actors and actresses and posed in front of a camera for a living, thousands of times, it is not out of the question to mis-remember an event that happened in 1969.
Finally, and probably most importantly, even if that is Hunnicutt in Photos #3- #6, and even if she did indeed take the time to view them and recognized herself and did indeed remember the photo shoot, we still don't have confirmation she is the woman in Photo #1 and #2, the actual stills used in the opening title sequence! (Photos #3 - #6 were not used in the title sequence at all.)
The woman in Photos #3 - #6 is clearly wearing a blue blouse/shirt. This blouse/shirt covers her shoulders. James Garner is clearly seen in these photos wearing a checkered sport coat.
And yet the woman in Photos #1 - #2, the photos from the actual opening series title sequence, is wearing a blouse or dress that does not cover her shoulders. James Garner is clearly wearing a solid colored (possibly tan or beige-colored) jacket.
This is no small thing. The different outfits is a huge, huge clue. It indicates these two sets of photos were taken at a different date and/or time from each other.
Ed, it could be a simple costume change? Sure, that's possible of course.... but that's conjecture and in this case, somewhat unlikely. For this type of a photo shoot there's no reason to change outfits.
We don't even know for sure if Dan Wolfe took these two photos. We do know for a fact he took many/most of the photos used in the opening title sequence, but it is not out of the question that during production of the title sequence, one or two others he did not take were used, for any number of possible reasons. Photos #1 and #2 could very easily be be with a different actress or model, again, because the outfits from Garner and the women are different!
If Jim Suva is able to post other photos that resemble #1 and #2, showing the inside of the Firebird (close enough to just about see Garner's lap), the food tray hanging on the driver's side door, etc. will we be able to know for sure that Wolfe also took Photo #1 and #2.
But who took the photos is mostly irrelevant anyway.
The woman in Photos #1 and #2 is simply not identifiable enough to say, with any degree of certainty, it's the same woman in Photo #3 - #6.
|Bill Geerhart makes an valid observation:|
|OK, now I am
beginning to wonder if Gayle Hunnicutt really is the woman in the
car with James Garner.
This August 14, 1974 UK Guardian article says she had been living and working in London for six years. The article references a London play she was about to open in which she presumably had been in rehearsals for. We know that the Dan Wolfe photo shoot for the title sequence took place on or around July 15, 1974 because that is when POINT BLANK played very briefly at the Optic Theatre in downtown Los Angeles (POINT BLANK is on the marquee seen in the opening).
Could Hunnicutt have been visiting Los Angeles during this time period and could she have posed for the photographs?
Maybe. Let's just say I have my doubts now.
|Not only had Hunnicutt been living in
England for the past six years, she was very active working in the
U.K. in 1974. The Internet Movie Database lists no less than
four different movies / TV shows she starred in, all of which were
shot and produced in the U.K during that year alone.
The July 19, 1974 edition of the Evening Star periodical mentions Hunnicutt was currently filming a Henry James story (in the U.K.) for TV. That's almost exactly when Wolfe took his photos! It is no small thing (a ten hour flight) to hop on a plane and fly from England to Los Angeles. One is not going to do it specifically for a photo shoot. The cost would be prohibitive... it wouldn't be worth it. Furthermore, Hunnicutt didn't do photo shoots. She was and wanted to be an actress and not just another pretty face. That's why she left Hollywood in the first place.
What do we know for sure?
So, what do we know for sure?
What evidence do we actually have? Do we have any evidence at
We don't know if it was Hunnicutt herself who answered Jim Suva's text message
but we can safely assume it was. However, we don't know if she fully understood what
specific photo shoot he was referring to. Her answer was about
and short as possible... and certainly not at all informative.
It's not out of the question for a 79-year-old woman (who would pass
away just six months later... so maybe her health was already an
issue), to misremember
events that happened 50+ years ago.
|One Chance in Thousand
I'm reminded of a scene in the wonderful movie Jaws.
In that movie, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) is absolutely overjoyed when a bunch of local fisherman, in response to the reward the city put up to capture the shark that's been terrorizing their community, are indeed successful in capturing a large shark. Martin Brody couldn't contain his excitement and had a big smile on his face. He believed his problems were finally over. He just knew this was the fish that caused the death of several people.
However, oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfus) wasn't convinced at all.
Matt Hooper: Martin, there's all kinds of sharks in the water, you know? Hammerheads, whitetips, blues, makos, and the possibility that these bozos caught the exact shark that -
Chief Brody: Oh, there's no other shark like this in these waters!
Hooper: Martin, Martin, it's a hundred to one. A hundred to one.
That's how I feel about the lovely Gayle Hunnicutt.
The chances that Hunnicutt...
...a woman known to be living overseas at that time, a woman who disliked Hollywood enough to move to another country to fulfill her dream of becoming an actress, a woman who was very busy working in the U.K. that summer (as an actress, not as a model), a woman not known to do photo shoots in Los Angeles, a woman that many don't even think looks like her...
...is the woman in Photo #1 and #2, has got to be a hundred to one against.
Martin, Martin, it's a hundred to one.
A hundred to one.
|Why not Lynette Mettey?
It is just as likely, if not more so, the woman in Photo #1 and #2 is, for example, actress Lynette Mettey!
During the '70s Mettey appeared in such television shows as
All in the Family, Banacek, Cannon, Columbo, Dan August, Harry O, Hawaii Five-O, Hogan's Heroes, Ironside, Kojak, Love Story, M*A*S*H, Marcus Welby, M.D., Movin' On, Police Story, The F.B.I., The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Streets of San Francisco
just to name a few. She also appeared, of course, in a first season episode of The Rockford Files. (In Pursuit of Carol Thorne)
Her IMDb page also mentions she appeared in dozens of television commercials in the '70s and '80s.
One can argue it's more likely Mettey is the woman in Photo #1 and #2, especially if you believe the woman in those photos is indeed a blonde.
Obviously, Mettey was actively working in Hollywood during the summer of 1974 and thus is more likely to be available for a three-hour photo shoot during that time.
We can't say the same about Hunnicutt. (We don't even know if Hunnicutt was in the country during the summer of 1974, let alone working in southern California.)
Of course, there's no evidence at all to suggest it was Mettey... and thus there's no reason to believe it was her. Absolutely none. The time to believe in something, anything at all, is after there is evidence and a valid justification to warrant that belief. Not before.
Alas, there's also no evidence at all to suggest it was Hunnicutt either. (Hunnicutt's confirmation is not evidence. It's not.)
There has to be hundreds if not thousands of other actresses or models that are more likely the woman in Photo #1 and #2. I'm serious.
The only reason Hunnicutt is even a part of this debate seems to originate with John Greco who "recognized" the woman in Photos #3 - #6 from the movie Marlowe! As already mentioned, there are many others who don't think those photos look like Hunnicutt at all, and again, for the final time, we don't know for sure if the woman in #1 and #2 is the same woman in #3 - #6! We don't know that for sure, especially when you consider their outfits are different!!
Seriously gang, it's unlikely Hunnicutt was in Los Angeles at that time at all, let alone doing a photo shoot during that time. Her busy life was in the U.K.
It's possible we may never uncover any evidence to determine "Rockford's date."
Of course, it's also
possible something might turn up tomorrow! Something might
turn up that either a) determines
who it is or b) rules out Hunnicutt completely.
|Here are a couple of dozen or so photos of Hunnicutt.
Again, click on any of them for a larger image.
A YouTube video of still images of Hunnicutt, which was as it turns out was uploaded just a couple of weeks prior to her death, can be found here.
|Here are a couple of zoomed
closeups of the auburn-haired woman in Jim's Firebird:
|Try this experiment. Very carefully examine
all of these photos of Gayle Hunnicutt, and any others you find, one at a time.
Spend several minutes doing so. Get the image of her
face firmly planted in your mind. Try not to look at the
hair, but concentrate on her eyes, her nose, her face...
And then, after doing this, now look at these four closeup photos photographer Dan Wolfe took of this auburn-colored hair actress seen in the car with Garner.
If you do this, I contend you won't see the same person at all. Her face is completely different.
Tell a friend all of these faces belong to the same actress, with the exception of one, which may or may not belong to that same actress. See if they can correctly identify which face may or may not be the same actress.
(Note that it's really not a fair experiment, since the one good photo we have of the auburn-haired woman is a partial profile and is not as clear as the others. Still, some people might be able to ignore that and just concentrate on the face.)