Famed character actor James Best, who played bumbling and confused Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, died Monday night at age 88.
According to a family friend, Best passed away while in a hospice facility following a brief illness and complications from pneumonia.
Best served as an MP during World War II and began his acting career with a military theatrical company while stationed in Germany. After the war, he moved to New York City with the hopes of becoming a Broadway star, but eventually made more of a mark in TV and movie roles. Among his many credits, he appeared in classics like Gunsmoke, Mod Squad, I Spy, Bonanza and Perry Mason, before finally landing the role of Rosco P. Coltrane in 1979. The series was on for seven seasons, and featured two reunion movies.
According to TMZ, he formed an acting school in the 1970s where he taught the likes of Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Lindsay Wagner, Farrah Fawcett and Quentin Tarantino.
Tom Wopat, who starred as Luke Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard offered this remembrance on JamesBest.com, the actor’s website, which now features the actor’s obituary:
The work he did with Sorrell Booke (Boss Hogg) probably defined our show as much as the car chases. He was a fine actor, director and mentor, and an even better friend. He will be greatly missed.
John Schneider, who played Bo Duke, offered this:
Jimmie Best—of course, I laughed. But I learned more about acting in front of a camera from Jimmie Best in an afternoon than from anyone else in a year. When asked to cry on camera, he would say, ‘Sure thing…which eye?’ I’m forever thankful to have cut my teeth in the company of such a fine man.
Ben Jones, who played Cooter Davenport, said this:
Jimmie Best was the most constantly creative person I have ever known. Every minute of his long life was spent acting, writing, producing, painting, teaching, fishing, or involved in another of his life’s many passions. As an actor, he could play it tough or gentle or hilariously and outrageously funny. He wrote plays and screenplays and poems. His oils and watercolors were wistful and they perfectly captured the rural life in which he had grown up and which he loved. As a teacher, he influenced a generation of actors. He was a world-class fisherman, an extraordinary raconteur, and a devoted friend, husband and father. That creative energy and zest for life were there until the end. He will be greatly missed, but his work will last for generations to come. He was one of a kind, and it was one of the blessings of my life to have worked with him for all these years. Alma and I are thinking of Dorothy and the family right now. Rest in peace, old friend.
More information and acknowledgments can be found on Best’s website.