Ac­tor who played ‘Dukes of Haz­zard’ sher­iff Rosco P. Coltrane dies, age 88


The pro­lific char­ac­ter ac­tor best known for his role as Sher­iff Rosco P. Coltrane on “The Dukes of Haz­zard” has died. James Best was 88.

His wife of 29 years, Dorothy Best, said Tues­day that Best died Mon­day night in hospice care from com­pli­ca­tions of pneu­mo­nia.

Best starred on the tele­vi­sion se­ries that ran from 1979 to 1985. He was the law­man fu­tilely chas­ing the Duke boys, of­ten in the com­pany of his droopy-faced bas­set hound Flash. Best em­ployed a bat­tery of catch phrases in the role, as well as a mem­o­rable laugh that was com­i­cally vil­lain­ous.

Dur­ing a wide- rang­ing ca­reer dat­ing sev­eral decades, he also acted in movies in­clud­ing “The Cain Mutiny” and “Rolling Thun­der,” and he ap­peared on tele­vi­sion shows in­clud­ing “Gun­smoke and “The Andy Grif­fith Show.”

“I was for­tu­nate enough to call him my friend since the day he walked on the set of ‘ Gun­smoke’ back in the early ‘60s,” ac­tor Burt Reynolds said 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 was an act­ing teacher who helped sev­eral fu­ture Hol­ly­wood stars learn how to ap­pear more nat­u­ral on cam­era.

“I learned more about act­ing in front of a cam­era from Jim­mie Best in an af­ter­noon than from any­one else in a year,” said Dukes of Haz­zard co-star John Sch­nei­der, who played Bo Duke. “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.”

Best was the youngest of eight sib­lings born in the west­ern Ken­tucky com­mu­nity of Pow­derly. Af­ter his mother died when he was a tod­dler, Best was adopted and raised in In­di­ana. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II and be­gan as an ac­tor in a mil­i­tary theater com­pany, ac­cord­ing to his web­site.


In this June 4, 2005 file photo, “Dukes of Haz­zard” cast mem­ber James Best sings dur­ing the DukesFest 2005 at the Bris­tol Mo­tor Speed­way in Bris­tol, Ten­nessee.

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