Bio by Lisa Philbrick. With info from the Dukes of Hazzard Unofficial Companion and Feature Players: The Story Behind the Faces Vol. III
July 26, 1926 – April 6, 2015
Born Jules Guy on July 26, 1926 in Powderly Kentucky James was the second to last of 7 kids. His mother died when he was 3 and Jim was taken to an orphanage when his coal mining father who, had long battled alcoholism, could no longer keep the family together. Two years later, James was adopted by Armen and Essa Best of Corydon, Indiana. Raised in Indiana, James graduated from high school and served as a B-17 radio operator during WWII in Europe. When the war ended, James transferred to Military Police and then later to the Special Service where he started acting with Arthur Penn’s company in the play “My Sister Eileen.” Upon returning to the US he was encouraged to go to New York to do stock productions and modeling. This led to his first movie role in the 1950 western “Commanche Territory.” Under contract to Universal for two years, James appeared in films with Rock Hudson, Audie Murphy, Anthony Quinn, Tony Curtis (who was just getting his start as well) and Jimmy Stewart, just to start!
James went on to play in more than 80 films and 600 television shows. His best known role, is that of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane. Despite critics claiming the role was “beneath his talents” it gave him his greatest notoriety. After the Dukes series ended, James appeared in other TV shows and stage productions.
You can visit James’ official site at www.jamesbest.com.