Coburn as Anthony Wayne in The Californians (1959)
August 31, 1928|
Laurel, Nebraska, U.S.
|Died||November 18, 2002
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Education||Compton Junior College|
|Alma mater||Los Angeles City College|
|Home town||Compton, California|
|Spouse(s)||Beverly Kelly (1959–1979)
Paula Murad (1993–2002, his death)
|Children||James Coburn IV,
|Parents||James Harrison Coburn, Jr.
Mylet Johnson Coburn
James Harrison Coburn III (August 31, 1928 – November 18, 2002) was an American actor. He was featured in over 70 films and made 100 television appearances during his 45-year career, winning an Academy Award for his supporting role as Glen Whitehouse in Affliction.
A capable, rough-hewn leading man, his toothy grin and lanky body made him a perfect tough guy in numerous leading and supporting roles in westerns and action films, such as The Magnificent Seven, Snow Dogs, Hell Is for Heroes, The Great Escape, Major Dundee, Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, Duck, You Sucker!, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Charade and Cross of Iron.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s Coburn cultivated an image synonymous with "cool", and along with such contemporaries as Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson became one of the prominent "tough-guy" actors of his day.
Coburn was born in Laurel, Nebraska, the son of James Coburn, Jr. and Mylet Johnson. The elder Coburn had a garage business that was destroyed by the Great Depression. Coburn himself was raised in Compton, California, where he attended Compton Junior College. In 1950, he enlisted in the United States Army, in which he served as a truck driver and an occasional disc jockey on an Army radio station in Texas. Coburn also narrated Army training films in Mainz, Germany. Coburn attended Los Angeles City College, where he studied acting alongside Jeff Corey and Stella Adler, and later made his stage debut at the La Jolla Playhouse in Herman Melville's Billy Budd. Coburn was selected for a Remington Products razor commercial in which he was able to shave off 11 days of beard growth in less than 60 seconds, while joking that he had more teeth to show on camera than the other 12 candidates for the part.
Coburn's film debut came in 1959 as the sidekick of Pernell Roberts in the Randolph Scott western Ride Lonesome. Coburn also appeared in dozens of television roles including, with Roberts, several episodes of NBC's Bonanza. Coburn appeared twice each on two other NBC westerns Tales of Wells Fargo with Dale Robertson, one episode in the role of Butch Cassidy, and The Restless Gun with John Payne in "The Pawn" and "The Way Back", the latter segment alongside Bonanza's Dan Blocker. During the 1960 to 1961 season, Coburn co-starred with Ralph Taeger and Joi Lansing in the NBC adventure/drama series, Klondike, set in the Alaskan gold rush town of Skagway. When Klondike was cancelled, Taeger and Coburn were regrouped as detectives in Mexico in NBC's equally short-lived Acapulco. Coburn also made two guest appearances on CBS's Perry Mason, both times as the murder victim in "The Case of the Envious Editor" and "The Case of the Angry Astronaut." In 1962, he portrayed the role of Col. Briscoe in the episode "Hostage Child" on CBS's Rawhide.
Coburn became well known in the 1960s and the 1970s for his tough-guy roles in numerous action and western films. He first appeared with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson in the John Sturges film, The Magnificent Seven and with Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson in The Great Escape another Sturges film. Coburn played the part of a villainous Texan in the successful Charade (1963). He was then cast as a glib naval officer in Paddy Chayefsky's The Americanization of Emily. Coburn was signed to a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox. His performance as a one-armed Indian tracker in Major Dundee (1965) gained him much notice.
Our Man Flint
In 1971, Coburn starred in the Zapata Western Duck, You Sucker!, with Rod Steiger and directed by Sergio Leone, as an Irish explosives expert and revolutionary who has fled to Mexico during the time of the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century. Coburn teamed with director Sam Peckinpah for the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, in which he played Pat Garrett. The two had worked together in 1965 on Major Dundee. The producer of the film, Jerry Bresler, took editing responsibilities away from Peckinpah during post-production. Peckinpah accused Bresler of engaging in sabotage of his film, and he threatened the studio with a lawsuit. Columbia Pictures relented, mainly because Charlton Heston, the star of Major Dundee, said that he would no longer work for the studio unless Peckinpah was allowed editing rights to the film. Though some of Peckinpah's demands were met, the finished product was still not satisfactory to him, and Peckinpah disowned it.
Nonetheless in 1973 Coburn was voted the 23rd most popular star in Hollywood.
Peckinpah and Coburn turned next to Cross of Iron, a critically acclaimed war epic that performed poorly in the United States but was a huge hit in Europe. Peckinpah and Coburn remained close friends until Peckinpah's death in 1984. In 1973, Coburn was among the featured celebrities dressed in prison gear on the cover of the album Band on the Run made by Paul McCartney and his band Wings. Coburn returned to television in 1978 to star in a three-part mini-series version of a Dashiell Hammett detective novel, The Dain Curse, tailoring his character to bear a physical resemblance to the author. During that same year as a spokesman for the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, he was paid $500,000 to promote its new product in television advertisements by saying only two words: "Schlitz. Light."
Because of his severe rheumatoid arthritis, Coburn appeared in very few films during the 1980s yet continued working until his death in 2002. He spent much of his life writing songs with British singer-songwriter Lynsey de Paul and doing television series as his work on Darkroom. He claimed to have healed himself with pills containing methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) a dietary supplement. Coburn returned to film in the 1990s and appeared in supporting roles in Young Guns II, Hudson Hawk, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Maverick, Eraser, The Nutty Professor, Affliction, and Payback. Coburn's performance in Affliction eventually earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Coburn's interest in fast cars began with his father's garage business and continued throughout his life, as he exported rare cars to Japan. Coburn was credited with having introduced Steve McQueen to Ferraris, and in the early 1960s owned a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso and a Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California SWB. His Spyder was the thirteenth of just fifty-six built. Coburn imported the pre-owned car in 1964, shortly after completing The Great Escape.  The car was restored and sold for $10,894,400 to English broadcaster Chris Evans, setting a new world record for the highest price ever paid for an automobile at auction.
Cal Spyder #2377 was repainted several times during Coburn's ownership; it has been black, silver and possibly burgundy. He kept the car at his Beverly Hills-area home, where it was often serviced by Max Balchowsky, who also worked on the suspension and frame modifications on those Mustang GTs used in the filming of McQueen’s Bullitt. Coburn sold the Spyder in 1987 after twenty-four years of ownership. Over time he also owned the above-noted Lusso, a Ferrari Daytona, at least one Ferrari 308 and a 1967 Ferrari 412P sports racer.
Death and legacy
Coburn died of a heart attack on November 18, 2002 while listening to music at his Beverly Hills home. He was survived by his second wife, Paula (née Murad), son James IV and a stepdaughter. Coburn was cremated, his ashes were interred in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery and marked by a stone bench inscribed with his name. At the time of his death, Coburn was the voice of the "Like a Rock" Chevrolet television ad campaign. James Garner succeeded him for the remainder of it.
In The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, critic David Thomson states that "Coburn is a modern rarity: an actor who projects lazy, humorous sexuality. It is the lack of neurosis, an impression of an amiable monkey, that makes him seem rather dated: a more perceptive Clark Gable, perhaps, or even a loping Midwest Cary Grant. He has made a variety of flawed, pleasurable films, the merits of which invariably depend on his laconic presence. Increasingly, he was the best thing in his movies, smiling privately, seeming to suggest that he was in contact with some profound source of amusement". Film critic Pauline Kael remarked on Coburn's unusual characteristics, stating that "he looked like the child of the liaison between Lt. Pinkerton and Madame Butterfly". George Hickenlooper, who directed Coburn in The Man from Elysian Fields called him "the masculine male". Andy García called him "the personification of class, the hippest of the hip", and Paul Schrader noted "he was of that 50's generation. He had that part hipster, part cool-cat aura about him. He was one of those kind of men who were formed by the Rat Pack kind of style."
|Face of a Fugitive||Purdy|
|1960||The Magnificent Seven||Britt|
|1962||Hell Is for Heroes||Cpl. Frank Henshaw|
|1963||The Great Escape||Louis Sedgwick|
|The Man from Galveston||Boyd Palmer|
|Kings of the Sun||Narrator||Uncredited|
|1964||The Americanization of Emily||Lt. Cmdr. Paul "Bus" Cummings|
|A High Wind in Jamaica||Zac|
|The Loved One||Immigration Officer|
|1966||Our Man Flint||Derek Flint|
|What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?||Lieutenant Christian|
|Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round||Eli Kotch|
|1967||In Like Flint||Derek Flint|
|Waterhole No. 3||Lewton Cole|
|The President's Analyst||Dr. Sidney Schaefer||Also producer|
|Candy||Dr. A.B. Krankheit|
|1969||Hard Contract||John Cunningham|
|1970||Last of the Mobile Hot Shots||Jeb|
|1971||Duck, You Sucker!||John H. Mallory||Renamed A Fistful of Dynamite for U.S. release|
|1972||The Carey Treatment||Dr. Peter Carey|
|The Honkers||Lew Lathrop||Steve Ihnat|
|A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die||Colonel Pembroke|
|1973||Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid||Pat Garrett|
|The Last of Sheila||Clinton|
|Harry in Your Pocket||Harry|
|1974||The Internecine Project||Robert Elliot|
|1975||Bite the Bullet||Luke Matthews|
|1976||Sky Riders||Jim McCabe|
|The Last Hard Men||Zach Provo|
|Midway||Capt. Vinton Maddox|
|1977||Cross of Iron||Sergeant Rolf Steiner|
|1978||California Suite||Pilot in Diana Barrie's Film on Airplane||Uncredited|
|The Muppet Movie||El Sleezo Cafe Owner||Cameo|
|1980||The Baltimore Bullet||Nick Casey|
|1985||Martin's Day||Lt. Lardner|
|1986||Death of a Soldier||Maj. Patrick Dannenberg|
|1989||Train to Heaven||Gregorius|
|Call from Space||Short|
|1990||Young Guns II||John Chisum|
|1991||Hudson Hawk||George Kaplan|
|1993||The Hit List||Peter Manley|
|Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit||Mr. Crisp|
|1995||The Set-Up||Jeremiah Cole|
|1996||Eraser||WitSec Chief Arthur Beller|
|The Nutty Professor||Harlan Hartley|
|1997||Keys to Tulsa||Harmon Shaw|
|Affliction||Glen Whitehouse||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
|2000||The Good Doctor||Dr. Samuel Roberts||Short|
|Intrepid||Captain Hal Josephson|
|The Yellow Bird||Rev. Increase Tutwiler||Short|
|The Man from Elysian Fields||Alcott|
|Monsters, Inc.||Henry J. Waternoose III||Voice only|
|2002||Snow Dogs||James "Thunder Jack" Johnson|
|American Gun||Martin Tillman|
|1957||Studio One in Hollywood||Sam||Episode: "The Night America Trembled"|
|1958||Suspicion||Carson||Episode: "The Voice in the Night"|
|General Electric Theater||Claude Firman||Episode: "Ah There, Beau Brummel"|
|Wagon Train||Ike Daggett||Episode: "The Millie Davis Story"|
|1958; 1959||The Restless Gun||Vestry / Tom Quinn||2 episodes|
|Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color||Jack - Outlaw Leader / Mexican Police Captain||Uncredited
|Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Union Sergeant / Andrews||2 episodes|
|1958; 1961||The Rifleman||Ambrose / Cy Parker||2 episodes|
|1958; 1962||Tales of Wells Fargo||Ben Crider / Idaho||2 episodes|
|1959||Trackdown||Joker Wells||Episode: "Hard Lines"|
|State Trooper||Dobie||Episode: "Hard Money, Soft Touch"|
|Black Saddle||Niles||Episode: "Client: Steele"|
|M Squad||Harry Blacker||Episode: "The Fire Makers"|
|The Rough Riders||Judson||Episode: "Deadfall"|
|The Californians||Deputy Anthony Wayne||2 episodes|
|Johnny Ringo||Moss Taylor||Episode: "The Arrival"|
|Whirlybirds||Steve Alexander||Episode: "Mr. Jinx"|
|Tombstone Territory||Chuck Ashley||Episode: "The Gunfighter"|
|The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp||Buckskin Frank Leslie||Episode: "The Noble Outlaws"|
|The DuPont Show with June Allyson||Episode: "The Girl"|
|The Millionaire||Lew Bennett||Episode: "Millionaire Timothy Mackail"|
|1959-1960||Bronco||Jesse James / Adam Coverly||2 episodes|
|Wichita Town||Wally / Fletcher||2 episodes|
|Bat Masterson||Leo Talley / Poke Otis||2 episodes|
|Have Gun – Will Travel||Bill Sledge / Jack||2 episodes|
|Wanted: Dead or Alive||Howard Catlett / Jesse Holloway / Henry Turner||3 episodes|
|Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre||Doyle / Jess Newton||2 episodes|
|1959; 1961||Laramie||Gil Spanner / Finch||2 episodes|
|1959; 1961-1962||Bonanza||Elmer Trace / Ross Marquette / Pete Jessup||3 episodes|
|1960||The Texan||Cal Gruder||Episode: "Friend of the Family"|
|Sugarfoot||Rome Morgan||Episode: "Blackwater Swamp"|
|Men into Space||Dr. Narry||Episode: "Contraband"|
|Bourbon Street Beat||Buzz Griffin||Episode: "Target of Hate"|
|Peter Gunn||Bud Bailey||Episode: "The Murder Clause"|
|The Deputy||Coffer||Episode: "The Truly Yours"|
|Tate||Jory||Episode: "Home Town"|
|Richard Diamond, Private Detective||Episode: "Coat of Arms"|
|Death Valley Days||"Pamela's Oxen"|
|Lawman||Lank Bailey / Blake Carr||2 episodes|
|1960-1961||Klondike||Jeff Durain / Jefferson Durain||10 episodes|
|1961||The Murder Men||Arthur Troy||TV film|
|The Untouchables||Dennis Garrity||Episode: "The Jamaica Ginger Story"|
|The Tall Man||John Miller||Episode: "The Best Policy"|
|Stagecoach West||Sam Murdock||Episode: "Come Home Again"|
|The Detectives||Duke Hawkins||Episode: "The Frightened Ones"|
|The Aquanauts||Joe Casey||Episode: "River Gold"|
|1961-1962||Perry Mason||General Addison Brand / Donald Fletcher||2 episodes|
|1962||Naked City||Harry Brind||Episode: "Goodbye Mama, Hello Auntie Maud"|
|The Dick Powell Show||Charlie Allnut||Episode:" The Safari"|
|Checkmate||Gresch||Episode: "A Chant of Silence"|
|Rawhide||Colonel Briscoe||Episode: "Hostage Child"|
|Cain's Hundred||Arthur Troy||Episode: "Blues for a Junkman: Arthur Troy"|
|1963||Stoney Burke||Jamison||Episode: "The Test"|
|Combat!||Corporal Arnold Kanger||Episode: "Masquerade"|
|The Greatest Show on Earth||Kelly||Episode: "Uncaged"|
|The Eleventh Hour||Steve Kowlowski||Episode: "Oh, You Shouldn't Have Done It"|
|The Twilight Zone||Major French||Episode: "The Old Man in the Cave"|
|1964||Route 66||Hamar Neilsen||Episode: "Kiss the Monster - Make Him Sleep"|
|The Defenders||Earl Chafee||Episode: "The Man Who Saved His Country"|
|1978||The Dain Curse||Hamilton Nash||Miniseries|
|1981||Valley of the Dolls||Henry Bellamy||Miniseries|
|1983||Malibu||Tom Wharton||TV film|
|Digital Dreams||TV film|
|1984||Faerie Tale Theatre||The Gyspy||Episode: "Pinocchio"|
|Draw!||Sam Starret||TV film|
|1985||Sins of the Father||Frank Murchison||TV film|
|1986||The Wildest West Show of the Stars||Grand Marshall||TV film|
|1990-1992||Captain Planet and the Planeteers||Looten Plunder (voice)||15 episodes|
|1991||Silverfox||Robert Fox||TV film|
|1992||True Facts||TV film|
|Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232||Jim Hathaway||TV film|
|The Fifth Corner||Dr. Grandwell||2 episodes|
|Murder, She Wrote||Cyrus Ramsey||Episode: "Day of the Dead"|
|Mastergate||Major Manley Battle||TV film|
|1994||Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice||Jeffrey Winslow||TV film|
|1995||The Avenging Angel||Porter Rockwell||TV film|
|Ray Alexander: A Menu for Murder||Jeffery Winslow||TV film|
|Picket Fences||Walter Brock||Episode: "Upbringings"|
|Christmas Reunion||Santa||TV film|
|1996||Football America||Narrator||TV film|
|Okavango: Africa's Savage Oasis||Narrator||TV film|
|The Cherokee Kid||Cyrus B. Bloomington||TV film|
|1997||Profiler||Charles Vanderhorn||2 episodes|
|Skeletons||Frank Jove||TV film|
|The Second Civil War||Jack Buchan||TV film|
|1998||Mr. Murder||Drew Oslett, Sr.||TV film|
|Stories from My Childhood||The Archbishop (voice)||Episode: "The Wild Swans"|
|1999||Vengeance Unlimited||Boone Paladin (voice)||Uncredited
|Noah's Ark||The Peddler||TV film|
|Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story||Morris Gunn||TV film|
|2000||Missing Pieces||Atticus Cody||TV film|
|Scene by Scene||Himself|
|2001||Walter and Henry||Charlie||TV film|
|2002||Arliss||Slaughterhouse Sid Perelli||Episode: "The Immortal"|
- New England Historic Genealogical Society[dead link]
- Biography for James Coburn at the Internet Movie Database
- Allmovie Biography
- James Coburn at the Internet Movie Database
- Awards for James Coburn at the Internet Movie Database
- Rhys, Timothy. "Quintessential Cool". Moviemaker 1999/04/09
- Published: 12:03AM GMT 20 Nov 2002 (2002-11-20). "Obituary in ''The Telegraph''". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-03-14.
- Horwell, Veronica (2002-11-20). "James Coburn". The Guardian (London).
- "James Coburn Biography - Yahoo! Movies". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
- "The Hollywood Interview blogsite". Thehollywoodinterview.blogspot.com. 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
- "Allbusiness.com". Allbusiness.com. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
- Miller, Ron (1995-01-22). "Coburn's Comfort Zone at Home in Western with Heston and Berenger Supporting". San Jose Mercury News. p. 6. "JAMES COBURN began his movie career in a saddle 36 years ago, playing the gangly and not-too-bright sidekick to bad guy Pernell Roberts in the 1959 Randolph Scott western "Ride Lonesome.""
- The Restless Gun, DVD, Timeless Media Group
- Entertainment: Coburn Wins Pact, Role in 'High Wind' He'll Star With Anthony Quinn; Mrs. Ames Pens Kidnaping Tale Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 June 1964: A10.
- 'Star Glitter Is Catching' By Richard L. Coe. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 07 Jan 1968: H1.
- EASTWOOD SELECTED BOX-OFFICE CHAMPION Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 Jan 1974: d17.
- Tarshis, Barry. What It Costs. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1977.
- 'Coburn beats back tough disease' By Ann Oldenburg. USA Today [McLean, Virginia] 29 Dec 1998: 02.D Life.
- Valdes-Dapena, Peter (2008-05-19). "$11 million: Ferrari nets record price". CNN.
- January, 2009, Motor Trend
- Thomson, David. "The New Biographical Dictionary Of Film". Knopf 2004
- Rule, Vera. "James Coburn". The Guardian, Friday 3/6/99
- "Tough Guise". People Magazine. December 2, 2002
- Breznican, Anthony. "Actor James Coburn dead of heart attack at age 74". Today's News-Herald. Nov, 20, 2002
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to James Coburn.|
- James Coburn at the Internet Movie Database
- James Coburn at AllMovie
- James Coburn at the TCM Movie Database