James Coburn

James Coburn
Los Angeles Times


James Coburn
Film: North side of the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Aug. 31, 1928 in Laurel, NE
Died Nov. 18, 2002 of heart attack in Beverly Hills, Calif.

James Coburn was a big, versatile leading man with a toothy grin who appeared in such films as "Our Man Flint" and "Affliction," for which he won an Academy Award late in his career.

Coburn grew up in Compton and majored in acting at Los Angeles City College. He also attended USC. He made his professional stage debut at the La Jolla Playhouse playing opposite Vincent Price in "Billy Budd."

In the early 1950s, he studied with Stella Adler in New York and worked behind the scenes in television commercials. By decade's end, he was working in Los Angeles in "Wagon Train" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

After playing macho sidekicks and villains in numerous westerns and action films, he caught the public's attention in 1960 as the knife-throwing Britt in "The Magnificent Seven."

In 1965, he played the supporting role of a one-armed scout for Charlton Heston in "Major Dundee."

Coburn hit his stride as a leading man in the late 1960s James Bond spy spoofs "Our Man Flint" and "In Like Flint." He produced the comedy thriller "The President's Analyst" in 1967.

His box-office appeal diminished in the late 1970s. He all but disappeared from the camera's eye in the 1980s with the onset of arthritis, which he claimed to have healed by taking pills with a sulfur base. But he added a distinctive voice to a variety of television commercials and had a lucrative career, particularly in Japan, during that period.

In the late 1980s, he returned to character roles. He played a cattle rancher in "Young Guns II," a mysterious and deadly agent in "The Candy Bars," a scrooge who wanted to shut down St. Francis Academy in "Sister Act II: Back in the Habit" and a philanthropist in the 1996 remake of "The Nutty Professor."

But 1998 was an exceptional year for Coburn, when he won raves for his role as the abusive, alcoholic father of Nick Nolte's character in Paul Schrader's "Affliction."

Winning his first Oscar in a career that spanned four decades, Coburn cradled the golden statuette in his arm backstage at the 71st Academy Awards and crowed, "Whoopee! It's nice!

"You can't describe the feeling," he said. "You can't really describe it because it's not even an emotion. It really hasn't settled in yet. I was moved so much I could hardly talk up there."

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Points of interest

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1998 Best Supporting Actor Affliction Win

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