Biography and 20 the Best James Coburn Movies

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Born August 31, 1928, in Laurel, NE; died from a heart attack, November 18, 2002, in Beverly Hills, CA. Actor. James Coburn appeared in more than 80 films throughout his career. He was most often recognized for his gritty, masculine roles in films like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and Major Dundee. His popularity waned in the 1970s, and in the 1980s he was sidelined by rheumatoid arthritis. Overcoming the crippling effects of arthritis, Coburn made a comeback in the 1990s, eventually earning an Academy Award for his performance in Affliction.Coburn grew up in Compton, California, where his family had moved after leaving Laurel, Nebraska. His first acting role came early, when he was four years old, playing Herod in a school play. In his teens, he worked in a movie theater performing various roles from janitor to ticket taker. From those inauspicious beginnings, he went on to study acting at Los Angeles City College and the University of Southern California. In the early 1950s, Coburn served in the military. Stationed in Texas, he worked as a public information officer.

In 1955, Coburn finished his military duty and promptly moved to New York where he studied acting with master teacher Stella Adler. His experience there included stage plays and appearances in episodes of the dramatic television series Studio One and General Electric Theatre. After a few years in New York, Coburn returned to Los Angeles where he continued to work in television. He had roles on Wagon Train, The Rifleman, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

In 1959, Coburn made his film debut in Ride Lonesome. This taut, well–written, B–Western has earned a reputation as one of the best examples of the genre. Coburn turned in a memorable performance as Whit, a dim–witted outlaw seeking a pardon by helping to turn in a fugitive. That same year he had another supporting role in the minor Western Face of a Fugitive.

In 1960, Coburn became a star with his role in the classic Western directed by John Sturges, The Magnificent Seven. Appearing onscreen with superstars Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen, Coburn held his own as Britt, a knife–wielding mercenary. Even though he had only a few lines, Coburn exuded a cool menace as one of the seven men hired to protect a village from outlaws. Coburn went on to play roles in several other films directed by Sturges, including the World War II epic The Great Escape.

In 1966, Coburn starred in Our Man Flint, a satirical spoof of James Bond films. As the epitome of the suave super agent, Coburn used his lanky good looks, toothy grin, and baritone voice to play the ultra–cool Derek Flint. The film was wildly successful and was followed by a less successful sequel, In Like Flint. E! Online wrote of the film, “It was Coburn’s greatest hit, made him a full–blown pop–culture icon and proved that he could do funny as well as menace.”

Coburn’s career began to wane during the 1970s, although he continued to appear in films throughout the decade. In 1971, he played explosives expert Sean Mallory in Sergio Leone’s action film set in Mexico, A Fistful of Dynamite. In 1973, he portrayed the outlaw–turned–sheriff Pat Garrett in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. As the decade progressed, Coburn was appearing in smaller roles in less important films so he tried his hand at directing and writing. In 1974, he directed episodes of The Rockford Files, the popular crime drama starring James Garner. He co–wrote the story for Circle of Iron with his friend, martial–arts expert Bruce Lee.

The onset of rheumatoid arthritis in the early 1980s almost sidelined Coburn. He continued to appear in movies and on television, but the crippling effects of the arthritis limited his roles to those in which he moved very little. He supplemented his income with voice work and appearances in commercials. Coburn, who had indulged a lifelong interest in eastern religions, yoga, and meditation, turned to alternative therapies to relieve his arthritis. Although his right hand was crippled, Coburn eventually conquered his arthritis through a combination of sulphur pills, diet, and exercise.

With his arthritis under control, Coburn made his comeback in the 1990s as a character actor. He appeared in Young Guns II, Hudson Hawk, Sister Act 2, and Maverick. He also made appearances on television. Even though he was working regularly, many of the roles were small and did not use Coburn to his fullest potential. The film Affliction, in which Coburn had a supporting role as Nick Nolte’s alcoholic father, gave Coburn a chance to shine. He earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1998 for his portrayal of Glen Whitehouse, a verbally and physically abusive man.

In the 2000s, Coburn continued to work hard. He made notable appearances on television and in film. He appeared in dramas such as Proximity, The Man from Elysian Fields, and his final film, released after his death, The American Gun. He was the voice of Henry J. Waternoose, III, in the successful computer–animated film Monsters, Inc. Continuing to show his less serious side, he also appeared in the 2002 comedy Snow Dogs.

Coburn married Beverly Kelly in 1959; they divorced in 1979. He married Paula Murad in 1993. Coburn died on November 18, 2002, of a heart attack while listening to music at home; he was 74. He is survived by his wife; his son, James; step-daughter, Lisa; and two grandchildren. His long career in acting took him from dramatic Westerns to comedic spoofs, and throughout it all he made it look easy. His manager Hillard Elkins told CNN.com , “He was a guy who looked like he was casual, but he studied and he worked and he understood character.”

1.The Magnificent Seven

Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson

Released: 1960

Directed by: John Sturges

The Magnificent Seven is an American western film directed by John Sturges and starring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach and Steve McQueen. The picture is an Old West-style remake of Akira Kurosawa’s…

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The Great Escape

2.The Great Escape

Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough

Released: 1963

Directed by: John Sturges

The Great Escape is a 1963 American WWII epic film based on an escape by British and Commonwealth POW from a German POW camp during WWII, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard…

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The Last of Sheila

3.The Last of Sheila

Raquel Welch, James Coburn

Released: 1973

Directed by: Herbert Ross

The Last of Sheila is a 1973 mystery film that was directed by Herbert Ross and written directly for the screen by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, It starred Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon,.

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Monsters, Inc.

4.Monsters, Inc.

Billy Crystal, John Goodman

Released: 2001

Directed by: David Silverman, Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich

Monsters, Inc. is a 2001 American computer-animated comedy film directed by Pete Docter, produced by Pixar Animation Studios, and released by Walt Disney Pictures. John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton…

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Cross of Iron

5.Cross of Iron

James Coburn, David Warner

Released: 1977

Directed by: Sam Peckinpah

Cross of Iron is a British-German 1977 film directed by Sam Peckinpah, featuring James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, James Mason and David Warner. The film is set on the Eastern Front in World War II..

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Eraser

6.Eraser

Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Caan

Released: 1996

Directed by: Chuck Russell

Eraser is a 1996 American action film directed by Chuck Russell, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Caan and Vanessa L. Williams. The film was released in the United States on June 21, 1996. The..

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Our Man Flint

7.Our Man Flint

James Coburn, James Brolin

Released: 1966

Directed by: Daniel Mann

Our Man Flint is a 1966 American action film that parodies the James Bond genre. The film was directed by Daniel Mann, written by Hal Fimberg and Ben Starr, and starring James Coburn as master spy..

 

Ride Lonesome

8.Ride Lonesome

James Coburn, Lee Van Cleef

Released: 1959

Directed by: Budd Boetticher

Ride Lonesome is a 1959 Western film directed by Budd Boetticher and starring Randolph Scott, Karen Steele, Pernell Roberts, Lee Van Cleef, and James Coburn in his film debut. This Eastmancolor film..

9.The Nutty Professor

Eddie Murphy, Jada Pinkett Smith

Released: 1996

Directed by: Tom Shadyac

The Nutty Professor is a 1996 American slapstick science-fiction comedy film directed by Tom Shadyac, and a remake of the 1963 film, which starred Jerry Lewis. Grossly overweight yet good-hearted..

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Payback

10.Payback

Mel Gibson, Lucy Liu

Released: 1999

Directed by: Brian Helgeland

Payback is a 1999 American action film directed by Brian Helgeland and starring Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello and David Paymer. It was based on the novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake using..

 

Bite the Bullet

11.Bite the Bullet

Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen

Released: 1975

Directed by: Richard Brooks

Bite the Bullet is a 1975 American Western film written and directed by Richard Brooks and starring Gene Hackman, James Coburn, Candice Bergen, Ben Johnson, Ian Bannen, Jan-Michael Vincent and Dabney.

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Looker

12.Looker

James Coburn, Susan Dey

Released: 1981

Directed by: Michael Crichton

Looker is a 1981 science fiction film written and directed by Michael Crichton. It starred Albert Finney, Susan Dey, and James Coburn. Former NFL linebacker Tim Rossovich was featured as the..

 

Snow Dogs

13.Snow Dogs

Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn

Released: 2002

Directed by: Brian Levant

Snow Dogs is a 2002 American comedy film directed by Brian Levant, and starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn. The film was released in the United States on January 18, 2002 by Walt Disney…

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A High Wind in Jamaica

14.A High Wind in Jamaica

James Coburn, Anthony Quinn

Released: 1965

Directed by: Alexander Mackendrick

A High Wind in Jamaica is a 1965 DeLuxe Color film, based on the novel of the same name, and directed by Alexander Mackendrick for the 20th Century-Fox studio. It starred Anthony Quinn and James…

 

Duck, You Sucker!

15.Duck, You Sucker!

James Coburn, Rod Steiger

Released: 1971

Directed by: Sergio Leone

Duck, You Sucker!, also known as A Fistful of Dynamite and Once Upon a Time… the Revolution, is a 1971 Italian epic buddy Zapata Western film directed by Sergio Leone. The film stars Rod Steiger and..

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The Muppet Movie

16.The Muppet Movie

Steve Martin, Mel Brooks

Released: 1979

Directed by: James Frawley

The Muppet Movie is a 1979 American-British musical road comedy film and the first of a series of live-action feature films starring Jim Henson’s Muppets. Directed by James Frawley, the film’s..

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Hudson Hawk

17.Hudson Hawk

Bruce Willis, Andie MacDowell

Released: 1991

Directed by: Michael Lehmann

Hudson Hawk is a 1991 American action comedy film directed by Michael Lehmann. Bruce Willis stars in the title role and also co-wrote the story. Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, David…

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18.Death of a Soldier

James Coburn, Bill Hunter

Released: 1986

Directed by: Philippe Mora

Death of a Soldier is a 1986 Australian film based on the life of American serial killer Eddie Leonski. The film was shot using locations around Melbourne, Victoria. The film is directed by Philippe…
  • The Man from Elysian Fields

19.The Man from Elysian Fields

Mick Jagger, Julianna Margulies

Released: 2002

Directed by: George Hickenlooper

The Man from Elysian Fields is a 2001 drama film directed by George Hickenlooper, and starring Andy Garcia, Mick Jagger, Olivia Williams, Julianna Margulies, and James Coburn..
  • Maverick

    20.Maverick

    Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster

    Released: 1994

    Directed by: Richard Donner

    Maverick is a 1994 Western comedy film directed by Richard Donner and written by William Goldman, based on the 1950s television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins. The film stars Mel..

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