The highly acclaimed actor Anthony James, who featured in prominent roles in Best Picture Oscar winners In the Heat of the Night and Unforgiven, has died of cancer, aged 77.
Born Jimmy Anthony on July 22, 1942, in Myrtle Beach, SC, he reversed his name to avoid confusion with another actor. After high school, he and his mother got a train to Los Angeles, where he set out to achieve his dream of becoming a Hollywood actor. Aside from acting, he was also a skilful painter and more than 100 of his works were sold at galleries in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Santa Fe, NM, and Japan.
James had only made one single brief appearance on a TV series when Norman Jewison decided to make the bold move to cast him as the killer Ralph in 1967s In the Heat of the Night, which starred Sidney Poitier alongside Rod Steiger. The film went on to win five Oscars, including the biggest award of them all, Best Picture.
Another highpoint in his career came 25 years later when he played a key role in Unforgiven as the no-good brothel owner Skinny Dubois, who ends up on the receiving end of Bill Munny’s gun. That 1992 picture starring and helmed by Eastwood won four Academy Awards, including the Best Picture prize, and would be the last film credit of James’ career as he bowed out at the top.
James worked mostly in TV series and guesting on some of the most popular drama series in the States throughout the 1970s and ’80s. His CV boasts appearances on Quincy, M.E., Vega$, Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, S.W.A.T., Police Story, The Streets of San Francisco and Ironside. His Reagan-era TV credits include The A-Team, Simon & Simon, Hunter, Riptide, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as Sledge Hammer.
The family of Anthony James have suggested that donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.