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James Coburn 1928-2002

Country : Laurel, NE
Profession : Actor
Date of birth : 1928-08-31
Date of death : 2002-11-18
Cause of Death : Heart Failure

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James Harrison Coburn, Jr. (August 31, 1928 – November 18, 2002) was an American film and television actor who appeared in nearly 70 films and made over 100 television appearances in his 45-year career. Perhaps best remembered for his natural charisma and charm, he played a wide range of roles and won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Affliction (1998).


Early life

Coburn was born in Laurel, Nebraska, the son of Mylet S. (née Johnson) and James Harrison Coburn, Sr., a garage mechanic. His maternal grandparents were immigrants from Sweden. He grew up in Compton, California and acted in college, eventually making his stage debut at the La Jolla Playhouse.


Coburn's film debut came in 1959 as the sidekick to bad guy Pernell Roberts in the Randolph Scott western Ride Lonesome.

He appeared in dozens of television roles, including with Pernell Roberts again in some episodes of Bonanza. He and Ralph Taeger co-starred with Joi Lansing in Klondike on NBC in the 1960–1961 season. When Klondike, set in the Alaskan gold rush town of Skagway, was cancelled, Taeger and Coburn were regrouped as detectives in Mexico in NBC's equally short-lived Acapulco.

He later starred in a variety of films in the 1960s and the 1970s, first primarily with Steve McQueen, his good friend, Robert Vaughn and Charles Bronson in the cinema classics The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. A villainous Texan in the hugely successful Charade (1963), a glib Naval officer in The Americanization of Emily (1964) and a character role as a one-armed Indian tracker in Major Dundee (1965) gained him much notice.

In 1966, he became a bona-fide movie star with the release of Our Man Flint, a James Bond spoof released by 20th Century Fox. After a sequel, he decided to branch off into the independent film world. Due to his interests in martial arts (which he discovered by training with Bruce Lee), Buddhism, and gong-playing, the remainder of the decade (which included less-than-memorable films) proved relatively uneventful in his career.

In 1971, he starred in the western A Fistful of Dynamite, a.k.a. "Duck, You Sucker," 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.

He teamed up with director Sam Peckinpah for the 1973 film Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (they had worked together in 1965 on Major Dundee). An MGM producer tried to sabotage the production, causing the film to be drastically edited when it opened. Peckinpah and Coburn were greatly disappointed and turned next to Cross of Iron, a critically acclaimed war epic which performed poorly in the U.S. but was a huge hit in Europe. The two remained good friends until the legendary director's death in 1984.

Due to severe rheumatoid arthritis, he was featured in very few films during the 1980s. Though Coburn's hands were clearly visibly gnarled in film appearances, in the last years of his career, the sturdy actor continued working nonetheless. He spent much of his time writing songs with British singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul and doing television such as his work on Darkroom. He claimed to have healed himself with pills containing a sulfur-based compound and returned to the screen in the 1990s, appearing in films such as Young Guns II, Sister Act 2, Maverick, The Nutty Professor, Affliction (for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his vivid portrayal of the abusive father of Nick Nolte) and Payback, mostly in minor but memorable roles. Affliction also saw Coburn receive Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.


Coburn died on November 18, 2002, aged 74, suffering a heart attack, while listening to music with his wife at their Beverly Hills home. He was survived by his wife, Paula Coburn (née Murad), who was at his side when he died, as well as a son and a stepdaughter. At the time of his death, he was the voice for the "Like a Rock" Chevrolet television ad campaign. Actor James Garner succeeded Coburn for the remainder of the ad campaign. His ashes are interred in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, marked by a stone bench inscribed with his name.


His widow, Paula Josephine Murad, a native of Jamaica before moving to Ohio as a child, had hosted a TV show in Washington, D.C. before moving to California in the 1980s. Murad (who was 28 years Coburn's junior) married Coburn in 1993, and as an actress made a few film and television appearances, acting under Paula O'Hara. The Coburns were also involved in charities and together founded the James and Paula Coburn Foundation (JPCF), which supports such beneficiaries as the Motion Picture & Television Fund, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, LACMA, the Clairbourn School, KCET public television, and Operation Smile. She continued this work, in addition to attempting to complete her husband's autobiography, until her death from cancer at the age of 48, on July 30, 2004. The JPCF continues its commitment to upholding the Coburns’ legacy, remaining active in the aforementioned charities with an additional designation for cancer research and treatment.



  • Ride Lonesome (1959)
  • Face of a Fugitive (1959)
  • The Magnificent Seven (1960)
  • The Murder Men (1961)
  • Hell Is for Heroes (1962)
  • The Great Escape (1963)
  • Charade (1963)
  • The Man from Galveston (1963)
  • Kings of the Sun (1963) (narrator)
  • Action on the Beach (1964) (short subject)
  • The Americanization of Emily (1964)
  • Major Dundee (1965)
  • A High Wind in Jamaica (1965)
  • The Loved One (1965)
  • Our Man Flint (1966)
  • What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966)
  • Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966)
  • In Like Flint (1967)
  • Waterhole #3 (1967)
  • The President's Analyst (1967)
  • Duffy (1968)
  • Candy (1968)
  • Hard Contract (1969)
  • Last of the Mobile Hot Shots (1970)
  • A Fistful of Dynamite (1971)
  • The Carey Treatment (1972)
  • The Honkers (1972)
  • A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die (1972)
  • The Life and Legend of Bruce Lee (1973) (documentary)
  • Harry in Your Pocket (1973)
  • Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)
  • The Last of Sheila (1973)
  • Massacre at Fort Holman (1974)
  • The Internecine Project (1974)
  • Bite the Bullet (film) (1975)
  • The Land of Spiders (1975)
  • Hard Times (1975)
  • Sky Riders (1976)
  • The Last Hard Men (1976)
  • Midway (1976)
  • White Rock (1977) (documentary; narrator)
  • Bruce Lee, the Legend (1977) (documentary)
  • Cross of Iron (1977)
  • Speed Fever (1978) (documentary)
  • California Suite (1978) (cameo)
  • Killerfair (1979)
  • Firepower (1979)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979) (cameo)
  • Goldengirl (1979)
  • The Baltimore Bullet (1980)
  • Loving Couples (1980)
  • Mr. Patman (1980)
  • High Risk (1981)
  • Looker (1981)
  • Martin's Day (1984)
  • Death of a Soldier (1986)
  • Walking After Midnight (1988) (documentary)
  • Call from Space (1989) (short subject)
  • Crash Landing - The Rescue of Flight #232(1990)
  • Train to Heaven (1990)
  • Young Guns II (1990)
  • Hudson Hawk (1991)
  • Mastergate (1992)
  • The Player (1992) (cameo)
  • Deadfall (1993)
  • Curse of the Dragon (1993) (documentary)
  • Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993)
  • Maverick (1994)
  • The Set-Up (1995)
  • Skeletons (1996)
  • Eraser (1996)
  • The Nutty Professor (1996)
  • Ben Johnson: Third Cowboy on the Right (1996) (documentary)
  • Keys to Tulsa (1997)
  • The Disappearance of Kevin Johnson (1997)
  • Affliction (1997)
  • Payback (1999)
  • Deep Water (1999)
  • The Good Doctor (2000) (short subject)
  • Intrepid (2000)
  • Proximity (2001)
  • Texas Rangers (2001) (narrator)
  • Yellow Bird (2001)
  • The Man from Elysian Fields (2001)
  • Monsters, Inc. (2001) (voice)
  • Kurosawa (2001) (documentary)
  • Snow Dogs (2002)
  • American Gun (2002)


  • State Trooper — as Dobie in "Hard Money, Soft Touch" (1959)
  • The DuPont Show with June Allyson — as Floyd in "The Girl" (1959)
  • Perry Mason — "The Case of the Envious Editor" (1960)
  • The Rifleman — "Young Englishman" (1958); "The High Country" (1961)
  • Tales of Wells Fargo — "Butch Cassidy" (1958); "The Wayfarers" (1962)
  • Trackdown — "Hard Lines" (1959)
  • Tombstone Territory — "The Gunfighter" (1959)
  • Bat Masterson — "The Black Pearls" (1959); "Six Feet of Gold" (1961)
  • Wanted: Dead or Alive — "Reunion For Revenge", "The Kovack Affair" (1959); "The Trial" (1960)
  • Bronco — "Payroll of the Dead" (1959); "Shadow of Jesse James" (1960)
  • Have Gun Will Travel — "One Came Back" (1959); "The Gladiators" (1960)
  • Klondike (1960–1961)
  • Peter Gunn — "The Murder Clause" (1960)
  • Lawman — "The Catcher", "The Showdown" (1960)
  • The Deputy — "The Truly Yours" (1960)
  • Acapulco (1961) (canceled after 8 episodes)
  • The Brothers Brannagan as Dell in "Death is Not Deductible" (1961)
  • The Outlaws — "Culley" (1961)
  • Laramie — "The Mark of the Maneaters" (1961)
  • Cheyenne — "Trouble Street" (1961)
  • Bonanza — "The Fugitive" (1961)
  • Rawhide — "The Hostage Child" (1962)
  • Combat! — "Masquerade" (1963)
  • The Twilight Zone — "The Old Man In the Cave" (1963)
  • The Greatest Show On Earth (1963) — "Uncaged"
  • The Eleventh Hour (1963) — as Steve Kowlowski in "Oh, You Shouldn't Have Done It"
  • Stoney Burke — "The Test" (1963)
  • Route 66 — "Kiss the Monster, Make Him Sleep" (1964)
  • The Defenders — "The Man Who Saved His Country" (1964)
  • Bracken's World — "Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon" (1970)
  • The Dain Curse (1978) (miniseries)
  • The Muppet Show (1980)
  • Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls (1981)
  • Darkroom (1981–1982)
  • Malibu (1983)
  • Draw! (1984)
  • Faerie Tale Theatre — "Pinocchio" (1984) - The Gypsy
  • Sins of the Father (1985)
  • The Edge and Beyond (1988–1990) (narrator)
  • The Infinite Voyage (host from 1990-1991)
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers (voice-over cast member from 1990-1993)
  • Silverfox (1991) (pilot)
  • Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232 (1990)
  • Murder She Wrote — "Day of the Dead" (1992)
  • National Lampoon's True Facts (1992)
  • The Fifth Corner (1992) (canceled after 2
  • Christmas Reunion (1993)
  • The Hit List (1993)
  • Greyhounds (1994) (pilot)
  • The Avenging Angel (1995)
  • Picket Fences — "Upbringings" (1995)
  • Ray Alexander: A Menu for Murder (1995)
  • The Cherokee Kid (1996)
  • The Second Civil War (1997)
  • Profiler — "Shadow of Angels" (1997)
  • Mr. Murder (1998)
  • Noah's Ark (1999)
  • Vengeance Unlimited — "Judgment" (1999)
  • Shake, Rattle & Roll: An American Love Story (1999)
  • Missing Pieces (2000)
  • Walter and Henry (2001)
  • Arli$$ (2002) — "The Immortal"

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