Image of James Best

James Best

​American character actor and teacher. Born Jules Guy in Powderly, Kentucky, on July 26, 1926, he was orphaned at three and adopted by Armen and Essa Best, who re-named him James K. Best and raised him in Corydon, Indiana. Following high school he worked briefly as a metalworker before joining the Army shortly after World War II, in December, 1945. According to Best, he first acted in a European tour of "My Sister Eileen" directed by Arthur Penn. Upon his return to the U.S., he toured in road and stock companies in plays and musicals, and was finally spotted by a scout from Universal Pictures, who put him under contract. A handsome young man, his rural inflections perhaps kept him from frequent leading man roles. During the 1950s and '60s, he was a familiar face in movies and television in a wide range of roles, from Western bad guys to craven cowards and country bumpkins. Physical ailments curtailed his work for a long period late in his career, and he established a well-respected acting workshop in Los Angeles. He also served as artist-in-residence at the University of Mississippi, teaching and directing. He worked in both acting and producing capacities for Burt Reynolds on several of the latter's films in the late 1970s, before taking on his greatest commercial success. Although the The Dukes of Hazzard (1979) TV series was far beneath his talents, his role as Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane was the part that gave him his greatest fame. He continued teaching, both in Hollywood and later in Florida (at the University of Central Florida). Semi-retired, he makes personal appearances and exhibits his paintings.

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Jul 26, 1926 In Powderly, Kentucky, USA
Movie/TV Credits:
First Appeared:
In the series Pony Express
Latest Project:
Movie The Sweeter Side of Life 2013-07-11
Known For
Poster of In the Heat of the Night
Poster of Michael Shayne
Poster of Wanted: Dead or Alive
Poster of Forbidden Planet
Series Pony Express Unknown 2020
Movie The Sweeter Side of Life Paddy Kerrigan 2013-07-11
Movie Return of the Killer Shrews Thorne Sherman 2012-01-01
Movie Moondance Alexander McClancy 2007-04-22
Movie Hot Tamale Hank Larson 2007-01-01
Series Inside Fame Unknown 2005-05-13
Movie The Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood Rosco P. Coltrane 2000-06-05
Movie Death Mask Wilbur Johnson 1998-01-01
Movie The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion! Boss / Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane 1997-04-25
Series E! True Hollywood Story Unknown 1996-03-29
Movie French Kiss Rosco P. Coltrane 1995-05-05
Series B.L. Stryker Unknown 1989-02-13
Series In the Heat of the Night Unknown 1988-03-06
Movie The Principal Sheriff Rosco Coltrane 1987-09-18
Series The Dukes Unknown 1983-02-05
Series Enos Unknown 1980-11-12
Series The Dukes of Hazzard Sheriff Rosco Coltrane 1979-01-26
Movie Hooper Cully 1978-07-28
Series Centennial Unknown 1978-10-01
Movie Rolling Thunder Texan 1977-10-14
Movie The Brain Machine Rev. Emory Neill 1977-01-01
Series How the West Was Won Unknown 1976-01-19
Movie Nickelodeon Jim 1976-12-21
Movie Ode to Billy Joe Dewey Barksdale 1976-06-04
Movie The Runaway Barge Bingo Washington 1975-03-24
Series The Manhunter Unknown 1974-09-11
Movie Savages Sheriff Bert Hamilton 1974-09-11
Series Hawkins Unknown 1973-03-13
Movie Sounder Sheriff Charlie Young 1972-09-24
Movie Run, Simon, Run Henry Burroughs 1970-12-01
Movie Firecreek Drew 1968-01-24
Series The Mod Squad Unknown 1968-09-24
Series Lancer Unknown 1968-09-24
Movie First to Fight Sergeant Carnavan 1967-01-25
Series The Guns of Will Sonnett Unknown 1967-09-08
Movie Three on a Couch Dr. Ben Mizer 1966-03-01
Series Felony Squad Unknown 1966-09-12
Series The Green Hornet Unknown 1966-09-09
Series Hawk Unknown 1966-09-08
Movie Black Spurs Ralph Elkins 1965-05-28
Movie Shenandoah Carter, Rebel Soldier 1965-06-03
Series Honey West Unknown 1965-09-17
Movie The Quick Gun Scotty Wade (listed as "Scotty Grant" in end credits but named "Scotty Wade" in the film) 1964-04-01
Series Daniel Boone Unknown 1964-09-24
Series Flipper Unknown 1964-09-19
Movie Shock Corridor Stuart 1963-09-11
Series Burke's Law Unknown 1963-09-20
Series The Fugitive Unknown 1963-09-17
Series Redigo Unknown 1963-09-24
Series The Virginian Unknown 1962-09-19
Movie Black Gold Jericho Larkin 1962-07-21
Series General Electric True Unknown 1962-09-30
Series The Gallant Men Unknown 1962-10-05
Series Combat! Unknown 1962-10-02
Series Ben Casey Unknown 1961-10-02
Series Whispering Smith Unknown 1961-05-08
Series Overland Trail Unknown 1960-02-07
Series Stagecoach West Unknown 1960-10-04
Movie The Mountain Road Niergaard 1960-06-15
Series Surfside 6 Unknown 1960-10-06
Series The Barbara Stanwyck Show Unknown 1960-09-19
Series The Andy Griffith Show Unknown 1960-10-03
Series Michael Shayne Unknown 1960-09-30
Movie The Killer Shrews Thorne Sherman 1959-06-25
Series The Man and the Challenge Unknown 1959-09-12
Series The David Niven Show Unknown 1959-04-07
Series Black Saddle Unknown 1959-01-10
Series Rawhide Unknown 1959-01-09
Movie Ride Lonesome Billy John 1959-02-15
Movie Verboten! Sgt. David Brent 1959-03-25
Movie Cast a Long Shadow Sam Mullen 1959-08-24
Series Startime Unknown 1959-10-06
Series Hawaiian Eye Unknown 1959-10-07
Series Laramie Unknown 1959-09-15
Series The Twilight Zone Unknown 1959-10-02
Series The Rebel Unknown 1959-10-04
Series Lock-Up Unknown 1959-09-28
Series The DuPont Show with June Allyson Unknown 1959-09-21
Series Men into Space Unknown 1959-09-30
Movie The Naked and the Dead Rhidges 1958-08-06
Movie The Left Handed Gun Tom Folliard 1958-05-07
Movie Cole Younger, Gunfighter Kit Caswell 1958-03-30
Series Wanted: Dead or Alive Unknown 1958-09-06
Series The Rifleman Unknown 1958-09-30
Series Bat Masterson Unknown 1958-10-08
Series 77 Sunset Strip Unknown 1958-10-10
Series Bronco Unknown 1958-09-23
Series Behind Closed Doors Unknown 1958-10-02
Series The Texan Unknown 1958-09-29
Movie Last of the Badmen Ted Hamilton 1957-02-17
Movie Hot Summer Night Kermit 1957-02-01
Series Richard Diamond, Private Detective Unknown 1957-07-01
Movie Man on the Prowl Doug Gerhardt 1957-12-01
Series Tombstone Territory Unknown 1957-10-16
Series Have Gun – Will Travel Unknown 1957-09-14
Series Trackdown Unknown 1957-10-04
Series Perry Mason Unknown 1957-09-21
Movie Forbidden Planet Crewman (uncredited) 1956-03-15
Movie Come Next Spring Bill Jackson 1956-03-09
Movie Gaby Jim 1956-05-09
Movie Calling Homicide Det. Arnie Arnhoff 1956-09-30
Movie The Rack Millard Chilson Cassidy 1956-11-02
Series West Point Unknown 1956-10-05
Movie Top Of The World Serviceman receptionist for Major French 1955-05-01
Series The Millionaire Unknown 1955-01-19
Series Buffalo Bill, Jr. Unknown 1955-03-01
Movie Seven Angry Men Jason Brown 1955-03-27
Series Alfred Hitchcock Presents Unknown 1955-10-02
Series Frontier Unknown 1955-09-25
Series Gunsmoke Unknown 1955-09-10
Series Cheyenne Unknown 1955-09-20
Movie The Yellow Tomahawk Private Bliss 1954-05-01
Movie Riders to the Stars Dr. Sidney K. Fuller 1954-01-14
Movie The Caine Mutiny Lt. JG Jorgensen (uncredited) 1954-06-23
Series Stories of the Century Unknown 1954-01-23
Movie Return from the Sea Barr 1954-07-28
Series The Lineup Unknown 1954-10-01
Movie The Raid Lt. Robinson 1954-08-04
Series Climax! Unknown 1954-10-07
Series General Electric Theater Unknown 1953-02-01
Movie Seminole Corporal Gerad 1953-03-01
Movie Column South Primrose 1953-05-20
Movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms Charlie - Radar Man 1953-06-13
Movie City of Bad Men Deputy Gig 1953-09-11
Movie The Cimarron Kid Bitter Creek Dalton 1952-01-13
Movie Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair Marvin Johnson 1952-01-01
Movie The Battle at Apache Pass Cpl. Hassett 1952-04-01
Movie Francis Goes to West Point Cpl. Ransom 1952-07-01
Movie Steel Town Joe Rakich 1952-05-09
Series Cavalcade of America Unknown 1952-10-01
Series Hopalong Cassidy Unknown 1952-09-19
Movie Target Unknown Sgt. Ralph Phelps 1951-02-08
Movie Apache Drums Bert Keon 1951-04-01
Series Hallmark Hall of Fame Unknown 1951-12-24
Series Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Unknown 1951-10-05
Series The Adventures of Kit Carson Unknown 1951-08-11
Movie Comanche Territory Sam 1950-05-01
Movie One Way Street Driver (uncredited) 1950-04-01
Movie I Was a Shoplifter Police Broadcaster in Surveillance Plane (uncredited) 1950-05-13
Series Lux Video Theatre Unknown 1950-10-02
Movie Kansas Raiders Cole Younger 1950-08-19
Series The Gene Autry Show Unknown 1950-07-23
Movie Winchester '73 Crater 1950-07-12
Movie Peggy Frank Addison 1950-07-01