James Coburn was an American film and television actor who appeared in nearly 70 films and made over 100 television appearances in his 45-year career. He was known for his deeply calm yet authoritative voice. He was a lanky, charismatic and versatile actor with an amazing grin.
James Coburn was born August 31, 1928 in Laurel, Nebraska to Mylet S. Johnson and James Harrison Coburn Sr, a garage mechanic. His maternal grandparents were immigrants from Sweden.
In 1950, he enlisted in the US Army serving as a disc jockey on an Army radio station in Texas and narrated Army training films in Germany.
James Coburn studied acting with Jeff Corey and Stella Adler and made his stage debut at the La Jolla Playhouse in Billy Budd.
In 1959, Coburn made his film debut as the sidekick to bad guy Pernell Roberts in the Randolph Scott western Ride Lonesome.
After appearing in bit parts in both movies and television shows, James Coburn's big break came in 1960 when he played knife-throwing, quick-shooting Britt in the John Sturges film The Magnificent Seven.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Coburn starred in many movies including Hell is for Heroes (1962), The Great Escape (1963), Charade (1963), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Major Dundee (1965), Our Man Flint (1966), Dead Heat on a Merry Go Round (1966), In Like Flint (1967), The President's Analyst (1967), A Fistful of Dynamite (1971), Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), and Midway (1976).
Due to severe rheumatoid arhritis, he was featured in very few films during the 1980s.
He returned to the silver screen in the 1990s, appearing in such films as Young Guns II (1990), Sister Act 2 (1993), Maverick (1994), Erarser (1996) and The Nutty Professor (1996).
In 1997, James Coburn appeared in the role of a lifetime in Affliction for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his vivid portrayal of the abusive father of Nick Nolte's character.
James Coburn continued to work through 2002, his last film appearance being in American Gun. At the time of his death, he was the voice of the "Like a Rock" Chevrolet television ad campaign.
James Coburn died on November 18, 2002 at the age of 74. He suffered a heart attack while listening to music and playing his flute at his Beverly Hills home.