Monday, April 17, 2017

Clifton James Dead at 96

Clifton James died on April 15 in Gladstone, Oregon, due to complications from diabetes, his daughter Lynn James has revealed. He was 96.

"He was the most outgoing person, beloved by everybody," the daughter said. "I don't think the man had an enemy. We were incredibly blessed to have had him in our lives."

James often played a convincing Southerner but loved working on the stage in New York during the prime of his career.

One of his first significant roles playing a Southerner was as a cigar-chomping, prison floor-walker in the 1967 classic Cool Hand Luke.

His long list of roles also includes swaggering, tobacco-spitting Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper in the Bond films. His portrayal of the redneck sheriff in Live and Let Die in 1973 more than held its own with sophisticated English actor Roger Moore's portrayal of Bond. James was such a hit that writers carved a role for him in the next Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun, in 1974. James, this time playing the same sheriff on vacation in Thailand and the epitome of the ugly American abroad, gets pushed into the water by a baby elephant.

His daughter noted that her father sometimes said actors get remembered for one particular role out of hundreds.

"His is the sheriff's, but he said he would have never picked that one," she said.

George Clifton James was born May 29, 1920, in Spokane, Washington, the oldest of five siblings and the only boy. The family lost all its money at the start of the Great Depression and moved to Gladstone, just outside Portland, Oregon, where James' maternal grandparents lived.

In the 1930s, James got work with the Civilian Conservation Corps and then entered World War II in 1942 as a soldier with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific, receiving two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.

After the war, James took classes at the University of Oregon and acted in plays. Inspired, he moved to New York and launched his acting career.

Later in life, he spent the fall and spring of each year in New York. In the winter, he lived in Delray Beach, Florida. During the summer he lived in Oregon.

In daytime soap operas, James played the role of Wes Glenway in CBS' The Secret Storm. In March 1981, he assumed the role of Striker Bellman on the NBC daytime soap opera, Texas.

In 1990, he guest-starred as Duke Carlisle in multiple episodes of CBS primetime serial, Dallas.

James' wife, Laurie, died in 2015. He is survived by two sisters, five children, 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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