Entertainment & Arts

Dukes of Hazzard star James Best dies at 88

James Best Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption James Best starred in Dukes of Hazzard for seven series

US actor James Best, who was best known for his role as bumbling sheriff Rosco P Coltrane on TV show Dukes of Hazzard, has died aged 88.

He died in a hospice in Hickory, North Carolina, after a brief illness due to complications from pneumonia, his wife Dorothy said.

Co-star John Schneider, who played Bo Duke, paid tribute to the actor calling him "a fine man".

Dukes of Hazzard ran on CBS in the US from 1979 to 1985.

"I learned more about acting in front of a camera from Jimmie Best in an afternoon than from anyone else in a year," Schneider told the Charlotte Observer.

"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."

Rick Hurst, who played Cletus Hogg on the show said: "I will always love Jimmie for his kindness to me, remembering him for his sparkling, piercing wit, and envying him for his full head of hair."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Dukes of Hazzard cast members James Best, John Schneider and Ben Jones reunited for fan event DukesFest in 2005

Best was a prolific actor and starred in dozens of films and TV shows alongside the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Stewart.

But it was his portrayal of Sheriff Coltrane - who was forever outwitted by Luke and Bo Duke - which made him a national figure.

Beginning his on screen career in 1950, he secured a contract at Universal Studios and played a string of villains in westerns before moving to television.

Off screen, he taught drama at the University of Mississippi and University of Central Florida.

He also taught an acting class in Hollywood, working with celebrities including Gary Busey, Clint Eastwood, Farrah Fawcett and Quentin Tarantino.

In 2011 the actor sued Time Warner for using his image on Dukes of Hazzard merchandise, saying he did not receive all the royalties he was entitled.

The case was settled out of court in 2013, the day before it was due to go to trial.

Best was last seen on screen in 2013 TV movie The Sweeter Side of Life and had been due to start work on a film called Old Soldiers, about World War Two veterans.

He is survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.

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