‘Dukes of Hazzard’ Actor James Best Dead at 88
Actor James Best, who was best known for his role on TV's The Dukes of Hazzard, has passed away.
According to his website, Best died Monday evening (April 6) in hospice care in Hickory, N.C., from complications of pneumonia after a brief illness. He was 88 years old.
Best was born Jewel Franklin Guy on July 26, 1926, in Powderly, Ky., the youngest of eight boys and one girl. Best's maternal uncle was Ike Everly, the father of the Everly Brothers, Don and Phil. The actor and his brothers and sisters were orphaned when he was three, and he was adopted by Armen and Essa Best, who re-named him James.
Best joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served as an MP in Germany during Word War II, where he joined the military theatrical company and performed in Arthur Penn’s production of My Sister Eileen. After the war he moved to New York City, then to Hollywood, where he landed a studio contract and appeared in a number of films with actors including James Stewart and Paul Newman. He followed that up with a long list of supporting TV roles, and he also founded a well-regarded school teaching actors motion picture techniques, whose students included Quentin Tarantino.
Best shot to surprise stardom when The Dukes of Hazzard debuted in 1979. The show ran until 1985, and Best's portrayal of the bumbling Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane became iconic. The show lives on in re-runs, and has also spawned an animated series, TV movies, video games and even a theatrical film.
Actor Burt Reynolds first met Best when they worked together on Gunsmoke, and they later worked together on several films, including Hooper and The End. “I was fortunate enough to call him my friend since the day he walked on the set of Gunsmoke back in the early ’60s,” Reynolds says in a statement. “Onset or off, behind the scenes, in front of a class or just as a friend, his name was so fitting because he was truly the ‘best’ at whatever he did. My heart is heavy, and I miss him deeply.”
Best is survived by his wife of 29 years, actress Dorothy Collier; son Gary Allen Best and his wife Angela; daughter JoJami Best Tyler and her husband Eric; daughter Janeen Damian and her husband, actor/singer Michael Damian; and three grandchildren, Lauren Best, Cameron Tyler and Tessa Tyler.
Funeral arrangements are private. The family is asking for donations to a local humane society in lieu of flowers.
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