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Subject: James Coburn, a Sly Presence in 80 Films

NY Times obit
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Date Posted: November 19, 2002 8:09:54 EDT

James Coburn, the rugged actor who reveled in playing rakish men of action and slyly humorous villains and overcame a debilitating illness to win an Academy Award for his performance in "Affliction" in 1998, died yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 74.

A spokeswoman for Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles said Mr. Coburn was in cardiac arrest when he arrived there.

A man of lean, flinty good looks, Mr. Coburn first established his reputation in "The Magnificent Seven" in 1960 and went on to star in more than 80 movies, many of them Westerns and action films, including "The Great Escape," "Charade," and "Our Man Flint."

His lanky body and Mephistophelean laugh led directors to type him as a villain, and though he became well known for those roles, he never made it to the front rank of Hollywood stars.

In the early 1980's, he developed rheumatoid arthritis so severe that it hampered his career for most of a decade. After a long and difficult recovery, he appeared in television commercials and in some films his admirers felt were beneath him.

But in 1999, he received an Academy Award as best supporting actor for his role as Nick Nolte's alcoholic father in Paul Schrader's acclaimed film "Affliction." Although many critics hailed it as the best performance of his career, he found it difficult to find work afterward.

Mr. Coburn was born in Laurel, Neb., the son of an auto mechanic and schoolteacher, and grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton. He made his stage debut at the La Jolla Playhouse opposite Vincent Price in "Billy Budd." He moved to New York City in the mid-1950's to study acting with Stella Adler.

He made his film debut as an outlaw in a Randolph Scott Western, "Ride Lonesome," in 1959. By that time he was a veteran of the genre, having done at least 40 television shows, most of them Westerns. He appeared in another Western, "Face of a Fugitive," the same year.

But it was his role as the knife-throwing Britt in "The Magnificent Seven" that first put him on the map. He had few lines, but his gaunt physique and bass-baritone voice had a powerful impact. Soon he was playing in Sam Peckinpah Westerns, including "Major Dundee" and "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid." He continued to play mostly supporting roles until the crime drama "Dead Heat in a Merry Go Round" (1966).

His fame reached a new level with his portrayal of Derek Flint in the James Bond spoof "Our Man Flint" (1966) and its sequel in the following year, "In Like Flint." In 1967 he starred in "The President's Analyst," a satire he also produced.

His marriage to Beverly Kelly ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Paula Murad, two children, Lisa and James Jr., and two grandchildren.

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James Coburn, 74; Actor Won an Oscar Late in His CareerYou beat me to it, T! Here's the LA Times obit - RNovember 19, 2002 8:11:46 EDT

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