WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - American actor James Best, famous for his role as the bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on "The Dukes of Hazzard" television show, died Monday night after a brief illness, according to his website. He was 88.
Best, who appeared in hundreds of TV episodes and films during a Hollywood career that spanned six decades, died in Hickory, North Carolina, following complications of pneumonia, said Steve Latshaw, a friend and collaborator.
Best served as a military police officer in Germany during World War Two before becoming a character actor, working alongside leading men Jimmy Stewart, Paul Newman and Humphrey Bogart in the 1950s and 1960s.
He later founded an acting workshop in Los Angeles, where his students included celebrities Quentin Tarantino, Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood, and taught acting at universities in Mississippi and Florida.
His greatest commercial success came from his part on "The Dukes of Hazzard" series, which ran on CBS from 1979 to 1985 and remained popular in reruns, keeping Best busy in his later years with appearances at festivals and fan gatherings.
"I learned more about acting in front of a camera from Jimmie Best in an afternoon than from anyone else in a year," said John Schneider, who starred as Bo Duke on the show. "When asked to cry on camera, he would say, ‘Sure thing…which eye?’"
Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Lisa Lambert