Yes, another birthday! July 26 marks the 85th birthday of James Best, known to Dukes of Hazzard fans the world over as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane. In addition to delighting us as Rosco since 1979, Jimmie is also a reknown actor, director, screenwriter, painter, fisherman, animal lover, poet, military veteran, teacher, mentor, online gamer, and all-around cuss.
If you had told Jimmie in 1979, that in 2011, he’d still be dressing up as Rosco and going “khee khee khee” to amuse people, or be autographing yet another General Lee, or greeting fans by the thousands at Dukes of Hazzard events…he’d probably have said you were crazy. Out of your mind.
After all, James Best has nearly 300 film credits to his name through his roles in movies and television. He has co-starred with Hollywood legends like Paul Newman, Jimmy Stewart, Burt Reynolds, and Jerry Lewis. He has taught motion picture technique to scores of successful actors. He remains active in film making, starring in the sequel to the cult classic Killer Shrews.
Why then, would the role of Rosco P. Coltrane remain so prominent?
Because The Dukes of Hazzard itself would remain an international sensation, with a fan base that continues to grow with every syndicated re-run of the series. From airing on CBS, to TNN, to CMT, to home release on DVD’s, to references in pop culture, The Dukes of Hazzard is as popular today as it was over 30 years ago.
Rosco P. Coltrane, the inept, gleefully corrupt, yet dedicated Sheriff of Hazzard County would prove to be one of the most iconic characters of the show. This speaks to the talent and creativity of James Best, who breathed life into the role with trademark inflections, utterances and expressions that gave Rosco an unforgettable persona.
Rosco’s goofball style reminds us of the kid in all of us. Rosco never completely grew up, with every “hot pursuit” as exciting as the first. He made being Sheriff look like a helluva good time. And despite his human failings of greed and dishonesty, he remained loyal to his dog, his sister, and his brother-in-law. Underneath that badge of graft and cowardice, there was a heart.
Fans have a special affection for Rosco P. Coltrane, and they always will. That affection translates into an honest reverence and affection for James Best. We love ya, Jimmie. Happy Birthday, and God Bless.