James Best, whose prolific career included 83 movies and 600 TV shows but is best remembered for his role as Rosco P. Coltrane, the bumbling sheriff on “The Dukes of Hazzard,” died Monday night in Hickory, N.C.

Best was 88. He died in hospice after a brief illness of complications from pneumonia, said Steve Latshaw, a longtime friend and Hollywood colleague.

Best’s career included roles in such movies as “The Caine Mutiny” with Humphrey Bogart and “Shenandoah” with Jimmy Stewart. After television came to the fore in the 1950s, Best found roles on popular shows like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”

But it was in “The Dukes of Hazzard,” a rural comedy that ran on CBS from 1979 to 1985, that Best became a national figure. As Hazzard’s ever-frustrated lawman catching the dickens from a demanding Boss Hogg, he found himself constantly in pursuit – and ever outwitted – by Luke and Bo Duke in their Dodge Charger “General Lee.”

“I acted the part as good as I could,” said Best in a 2009 interview with The Charlotte Observer. “Rosco – let’s face it – was a charmer. It was a fun thing.”

Best and his wife Dorothy moved to the Bethlehem community near Hickory in 2006. He wrote a book about his career as an actor, writer, producer and director, “Best in Hollywood: The Good, The Bad and the Beautiful.”

He never truly retired, taking on the lead role in “On Golden Pond” in 2014 for Hickory Community Theater.

“I learned more about acting in front of a camera from Jimmie Best in an afternoon than from anyone else in a year,” John Schneider, who played Bo Duke, in a statement. “When asked to cry on camera, he would say, ‘Sure thing – which eye?'” The youngest of eight brothers and a sister, Best was born Jewel Franklin Guy in hardscrabble Powderly, Ky., on July 26, 1926, to parents Lena Mae Everly Guy (sister of Ike Everly, father of entertainers Don and Phil Everly) and Larkin Jasper Guy. He spent time in an orphanage following his mother’s death in 1929, then was adopted by Essa and Armen Best and raised in Corydon, Ind.

His first professional stage experience came with the Army after World War II. Best’s last film was “The Sweeter Side of Life,” in 2013.


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