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James Best Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (46) | Personal Quotes (23)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 26 July 1926Powderly, Kentucky, USA
Date of Death 6 April 2015Hickory, North Carolina, USA  (complications from pneumonia)
Birth NameJewel Franklin Guy
Nickname Jimmy
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

American character actor and teacher. Born Jewel Guy in Powderly, Kentucky, on July 26, 1926, he was orphaned at three and adopted by Armen and Essa Best, who re-named him James K. Best and raised him in Corydon, Indiana. Following high school he worked briefly as a metalworker before joining the Army during World War II in July 1944. The majority of his service was as an MP in Wiesbaden, Germany just after the end of the war. While still in Germany, Best was transferred to Special Services and began his acting career. According to Best, he first acted in a European tour of "My Sister Eileen" directed by Arthur Penn. Upon his return to the U.S., he toured in road and stock companies in plays and musicals, and was finally spotted by a scout from Universal Pictures, who put him under contract. A handsome young man, his rural inflections perhaps kept him from frequent leading man roles. During the 1950s and '60s, he was a familiar face in movies and television in a wide range of roles, from Western bad guys to craven cowards and country bumpkins. Physical ailments curtailed his work for a long period late in his career, and he established a well-respected acting workshop in Los Angeles. He also served as artist-in-residence at the University of Mississippi, teaching and directing. He worked in both acting and producing capacities for Burt Reynolds on several of the latter's films in the late 1970s, before taking on his greatest commercial success. Although the The Dukes of Hazzard (1979) TV series was far beneath his talents, his role as Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane was the part that gave him his greatest fame. He continued teaching, both in Hollywood and later in Florida (at the University of Central Florida). Semi-retired, he makes personal appearances and exhibits his paintings. James Best starred in the 2007 feature film, Moondance Alexander (2007), along with Don Johnson, Lori Loughlin, Kay Panabaker, Sasha Cohen and Whitney Sloan.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (3)

Dorothy Best (15 August 1986 - 6 April 2015) (his death)
Jobee Ayers (1959 - 1977) (divorced) (2 children)
? (? - ?) (divorced)

Trade Mark (4)

Southern accent.
Roles in Westerns.
High-pitched, exasperated voice.
The role of Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard (1979).

Trivia (46)

His billing for Three on a Couch (1966) read: "Introducing James Best", despite the fact that he had been in movies for 16 years and had appeared in over 30 films.
Cousin of singers Don Everly and Phil Everly.
Father of Janeen Damian.
Director Quentin Tarantino has said that the work of Best "taught me how to act". Ironically, when Tarantino appeared in a 1990s Broadway revival of the play "Wait Until Dark", he received some of his worst acting reviews ever.
Father-in-law of Michael Damian.
Brother-in-law of John Collier.
Has a black belt in karate.
Served in the US Army as a Military Policeman in Germany after World War II.
The son of a coal miner.
He was the sixth of seven children. His mother died when he was three and he was taken to an orphanage when his Kentucky-born coal-mining father, an alcoholic, could no longer keep the family together. He was adopted at age 5 by Armen and Essa Best of Indiana.
In the mid 1970s he decided to take a semi-retirement, and became an artist-in-residence at the University of Mississippi. During his two years there, he taught Motion Picture technique and Drama; directed four plays, established the Mississippi Film Commission and was elected to the University's Hall of Fame.
He and wife Dorothy Best, along with Kevin Lang, formed their own production company, Best Friend Films. The company specializes in high-definition production, featuring the Panasonic Varicam, with a Pro 35 lens adapter, which enables them to use Panavision 35mm film lenses on a digital camera. They also feature an HD online edit suite, making them a "one-stop shop in HD production" for the independent producer.
Moved to Florida in 1987 and taught on campus at the University of Central Florida. He was also appointed to the Advisory Council for the Motion Picture, Television, and Recording Industry of Florida. In 1992 he was the recipient of Florida's "Crystal Reel Award" for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series, for an episode of In the Heat of the Night (1988) with Carroll O'Connor.
He formed the first school to teach actors motion picture technique in the 1970s. He taught in Hollywood for 25 years and worked with such stars as Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Gary Busey, Teri Garr, Lindsay Wagner, Farrah Fawcett and Quentin Tarantino.
Before she took up acting, Lindsay Wagner babysat for Best's children. It was Best who encouraged Wagner to take acting lessons and, in effect, kick-started her career.
In The Dukes of Hazzard: The Dukes in Hollywood (1984), Roscoe (Best) and Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke) are discussing who should play them in a fictional movie about Hazzard County. Roscoe picks Burt Reynolds. Reynolds was a former acting student of Best, and the two had been friends for many years. Reynolds later played "Boss Hogg" in the The Dukes of Hazzard (2005).
Best known by the public for his starring role as Sheriff P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard (1979).
Acting mentor and friends of Tom Wopat, John Schneider and Catherine Bach.
His adoptive mother, Essa Knowland Best, died on March 30, 1988. She lived to be age 92.
Met Denver Pyle when both worked in The Left Handed Gun (1958). Some 21 years later he would co-star opposite Pyle on The Dukes of Hazzard (1979), in which Pyle played the patriarch of the Duke family.
Close friend of Sorrell Booke.
Best friends with Denver Pyle from 1958, until his passing on Christmas Day, 1997.
His adoptive father, Armen Neely Best, died on June 1, 1984. He lived to be age 87.
Was a lifelong friend with Andy Griffith until Griffith's death on July 3, 2012. Best first met him on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show (1960), and would later attend Mayberry Days with him.
Met James Drury on an episode of The Virginian (1962), where they became best friends.
When he guest-starred on one of the three episodes of Laramie (1959), the writers jokingly created the name of Johnny Best, whose character was named after him.
One of the jobs he had prior to becoming an actor was as a bagger at a Kroger's supermarket.
Began his career as a contract player for Universal in 1949.
Is a fan of the following shows: Sanford and Son (1972), The Golden Girls (1985), Two and a Half Men (2003), Boston Legal (2004), Diagnosis Murder (1993), Matlock (1986) (which featured his best friend Andy Griffith), Barnaby Jones (1973), Quincy M.E. (1976), The Untouchables (1959), Murder, She Wrote (1984), Kojak (1973) and The Rockford Files (1974).
Is also a fan of Ron Howard's movies.
Graduated from Corydon Central High School in Corydon, Indiana, in 1944.
He had 9 hobbies: sailing, painting, fishing, writing plays, poetry, riding horses, traveling, karate and playing guitars.
It was Best's idea to bring his real-life dog on The Dukes of Hazzard (1979), with him. He named her 'Flash'.
As of April 2010, his Facebok page said that he had moved from Charlotte to Hickory, NC.
The James Best Theatre Center was located in Toluca Lake, CA, on Riverside Drive (at the southwest corner of Mariota) in the upstairs rear portion of the Honey Baked Ham building. The primary purpose of the center was to teach actors how to act for motion pictures and television and to provide an understanding of what the camera "sees".
Ex-boyfriend of Jeanne Cooper - his son-in-law Michael Damian's acting mentor.
Met Robert Fuller on the sixth episode of Laramie (1959). The two developed a 55+ year friendship until Best's death in 2015.
Lifelong friend of Robert Fuller, who has a birthday 3 days after him, and is 7 years Best's junior.
Was a liberal conservative.
His former The Dukes of Hazzard (1979) co-star, John Schneider, had worked with him on two different shows: CMT Cribs (2009), in 2010, and Return of the Killer Shrews (2012) in 2012, where Best reprised his role, a half-century ago.
James Best passed away on April 6, 2015, at age 88, six days after Cynthia Lennon, and within four months of seven television legends, also born in 1926, either aged 88 or 89: Robert H. Schuller, Roger Mayer, Stan Freberg, Verne Gagne, Betsy Palmer, Bud Yorkin and Elisabeth Elliot Gren.
Just before his death, he along with his longtime friend Robert Fuller attended the 100th Birthday Party of their dear friend, Norman Lloyd, in Los Angeles, California.
Had appeared in every episode of The Dukes of Hazzard (1979), except for 5 episodes, temporarily during season two, over a dispute regarding the dressing rooms.
He was cremated. His ashes were given to his family.
Up until his death, his ex-The Dukes of Hazzard (1979) co-star, John Schneider referred to him as: Jimmie.

Personal Quotes (23)

[on Norman Lloyd turning 100 in 2014] I had the honor to have been directed by Norman in [The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: The Jar (1964)]. Having worked with hundreds of directors in my career, I found very few that had Norman's qualities. He was most kind, gracious and patient with his actors. He is in all respects a complete gentleman in his personal life and I found it a genuine pleasure just to be in the presence of such a talented man. I am also doubly honored to consider him my friend. We are so blessed to have such a man among us for so long.
[on his favorite The Dukes of Hazzard (1979) episode] What I really enjoyed was the episode where Rosco thinks he inherits a million dollars and makes Boss Hogg his deputy. That was a fun, fun show. And then the other show that I enjoyed, I got to play a dual role, where I play a guy who actually has his face built like Rosco and he's trying to imitate Rosco. So I actually play Rosco two different ways. That one was fun. But I'll be very honest with you. Almost every show that I worked, it was a blessing. I worked, of course, mostly with Boss Hogg. Sorrell Booke [Boss Hogg] spoke five languages. He was a brilliant actor, and he let me ad lib all over the place, and he would go along with it.
When I was putting the "Best of Hollywood" book together, I sat down and added up just the list of Westerns I've done, and it came to well over 200.
[on his early career] Well, I was very lucky, because I was under contract with Universal Studios for two years, and after I got out of there, I got up with Gene Autry and his series. So I was working constantly.
[in 2009, about his role as Rosco Coltrane in The Dukes of Hazzard (1979)] I acted the part, as good as I could. Rosco, let's face it, was a charmer. It was a fun thing.
[in 2010, about his painting] I do mostly Southern landscapes. I do beautiful old barns that are falling down, and beautiful trees reflecting in the water. My lovely wife Dorothy and I travel quite a bit, so I take pictures of different things that inspire me to come home, when I come home here in North Carolina, into my art studio and paint these things. I put them on my web page and I'm proud to say that I'm selling paintings all over the world now. Some of them are commissioned. But I try to price my paintings in such a way that the average person can afford them. They make good Christmas gifts. It's a wonderful pastime for me, and it's been very profitable.
[in 2012, about playing the guitar for his guest-starring role on The Andy Griffith Show (1960)] I'm not in the habit of lying, and yes, it's really important and they called me and say, "Can you play the guitar?". I said, "Are you kidding? I have two guitars" and I got over on the set and this is the music and I said, "I can't play that". They said, "You lied, you could play the guitar". I said, "No, I didn't lie. I said, 'I have two guitars'."
[on Sorrell Booke] Scenes with Boss Hogg were 90% ad-libbed. He was such a professional.
[in 2013] I did meet The Everly Brothers once and we talked for awhile. Then we figured out we were first cousins! My late mother was the sister of [Don Everly and Phil Everly]'s father, Ike Everly.
[on getting into trouble while under contract with Universal Pictures] Well, actually I didn't make a habit of doing that, because I heard, if . . . well, you're not supposed to take the girls that are "under contract". I made a mistake, she was beautiful, she's been on Look Magazine and I was honored to go out with her, but she was a blabbermouth and she came back to the studio, and everybody said, "You were out with this and you heard? Well, how did you find out?". I said, "She was taking everybody, we had six-month options and I've been there for two years. I had three first features unreleased and all of a sudden, they called me . . . my option came up and I said, 'Well, I want a raise', and he said, 'No, you stay on the same salary or we're going to dump you.' I said, 'You're kidding, of course!' I got three features unreleased and they said, 'We're serious!'
[on his feelings towards aging and death] The only thing that makes me sad about having so little time left is leaving the people I love and those who love me. There are also films and other projects that I want to get done, and there are always fish that need catching.
I started painting when I was in high school.
I just kept painting. I paint every day now and have sold some to Europe, and I do commission paintings. I paint Southern landscapes and some still-lives. What I love to paint mostly is old barns and ponds and creeks that I might conjure up in my mind.
Kentucky holds a special place in my heart.
[In 2011]: They put the camera practically in my mouth and said we want to introduce you to your brother and it was... it was one of my brothers I'd never met.
[on reprising his role in the movie Return of the Killer Shrews (2012)]: Well, it was funny, because I did the original The Killer Shrews as a favor. I made a movie with Sammy Ford, who was friends with a special effects man, Ray Kellogg, who wanted to direct his own picture. And we looked at the original's script, and he didn't have hardly any money whatsoever, but I did him a favor by acting in it. Ken Curtis, of course, was producing it from the start. I like Ken, and he wanted me to do it, so I went down there to Texas where we shot this thing. I didn't realize it was so cheap. I mean, it was really cheap. For me it was a blast, but it was so bad! I think it was voted the worst picture of the year at the time. And then it caught on as a drive-in cult film, and believe it or not, after so many years I noticed that it was playing all over the place. Somebody colorized it and The Killer Shrews became a little cult film. Steve Latshaw directed and produced a lot of little horror films that turned out to be very successful. And he said to me "why don't we do a sequel to The Killer Shrews!" and laughed. I said "Are you kidding? That was the worst movie that I've ever made!" And we kept talking about it through the years and, you know, 50 years later we decided that we were willing do it! So we got together and we wrote a script and I called John Schneider, who of course everybody knows John from the Dukes of Hazzard, where he played Bo Duke, and we got Bruce Davidson who starred in Willard, and also we got Rick Hurst who was in Dukes of Hazzard as Cletus, and so we had a fun cast. So we decided to shoot our little movie in North Carolina, and we did, and we got a beautiful production out of it. We showed it several times in different drive-in movie places, and the public really liked it. Then we put it on the web at KillerShrewsMovie.com and we've had really good reactions to the picture, and so we're very excited about it. Return of the Killer Shrews is a tiny sequel. I mean, we didn't do a real slasher type of horror film. It was more of a "come and see it and we'll scare you and make you laugh" kind of movie, and we're so proud of it.
[About writing his own book : "Best in Hollywood"]: I decided to write this book to share my own personal journey living the American Dream. I hope it can inspire, as well as provide an honest, historical depiction of how Hollywood once was . . . and perhaps could be again some day.
[In 2006]: Actually the southern landscapes. I'm an old country boy I was born in Kentucky. I found out the Everly Brothers were my first cousins. I was adopted. I don't know why I can't sing. Thank God I can paint.
[In 2014]: I've done 87 feature pictures and I've done over 600 television shows. I worked with Jimmy Stewart. I worked with Henry Fonda. I worked, you know, Humphrey Bogart, you know? You name them, I've worked with them. And it's really marvelous to have done this during my span, and I haven't finished! Lately, I've made 4 or 5 movies with my daughter and her husband at Hallmark. My daughter writes the scripts, so she is a terrific producer-writer, and her husband is a very good director, so they keep this old man busy. We live in North Carolina now, and we are going to be performing in On Golden Pond here in about 2-2 and a half weeks, and we're very excited about that. It's funny--my wife is playing my daughter!
[In 1998]: I created a character that millions of people still love. I brought something to this show that no one else likely could have. I didn't get a cut of the merchandising on a show that inspired thousands of products, and even though you can still watch me play Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane every day on television, the checks from that job stopped coming a long time ago.
[About auditioning for one of the starring roles on The Dukes of Hazzard (1979)]: Well, I said, 'Well, I'll do what I used to do with my little girls,' when they were little, I'd go, 'Kew-kew-kew-kew,' I'm going to get to you. Well, they fell off the couch, laughing, and I was the first one they signed.
I went to Rome, Paris and these places, and see people come up and go 'Kew-kew-kew-kew,' Rosco.
[Who said in 2006 about his painting, while starring in The Dukes of Hazzard (1979)]: Oh yeah, I had a captive audience. Even before the show, I used to make pictures with Burt Reynolds and Jimmy Stewart and all those people, and I'd go in my dressing room for lunch and paint. Burt Reynolds would buy a new one of my paintings every time he got a new girlfriend. So I'd say Burt, aren't you tired of that girl yet?

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