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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 10:10 GMT
Film star Coburn dies at 74
James Coburn
Coburn won an Oscar towards the end of his career
Veteran Hollywood star James Coburn has died at the age of 74.

He suffered a massive heart attack at his Los Angeles home, his manager Hillard Elkins said.


He was a hell of an actor, he had a great sense of humour

Hillard Elkins, manager
The Oscar-winning actor appeared in more than 70 films in a career spanning six decades.

He was best known for his portrayals of archetypal tough guys in such films as The Magnificent Seven, Our Man Flint and The Great Escape.

But it was for his performance as a dissolute father in the 1999 film Affliction that he received an Academy Award, for best supporting actor.

Magnificent performance

Born in Laurel, Nebraska, on 31 August, 1928, Coburn studied acting in Los Angeles and New York, where he made his debut on stage.

James Coburn in an early press shot
He played the tough guy rather than the romantic lead

He was 31 when he won his first film part in Ride Lonesome, in 1959.

This was followed a year later by his career-defining role as knife-throwing Britt in The Magnificent Seven, appearing alongside such movie greats as Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.

Although short on dialogue in the movie, Coburn's mere screen presence grabbed the public's attention, film historian Leonard Maltin noted.

Coburn played sidekicks and villains in movies through the 1960s, eventually landing a lead role of his own in the humorous spy spoofs Our Man Flint (1966), and In Like Flint, the following year, loosely based on the new James Bond series.

Illness

After a spate of films in the 1970s, including the highly acclaimed Golden Girl (1979), Coburn was afflicted with arthritis and all but disappeared from the screens.

James Coburn in 1973
Coburn in 1973, the year of Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid
Lamenting the lack of work, Coburn said at the time that "actors are boring when they're not working, it's a natural condition, because they don't have anything to do, they just lay around and that's why so many of them get drunk".

By the end of the 1990s, Coburn claimed he had "healed" himself and the work began to flow again.

His final role was as a dying author in the 2002 film The Man from Elysian Fields, which received mixed reviews.

Hillard Elkins said Coburn was a consumate professional.

"He was a guy who looked like he was casual, but he studied and he worked and he understood character," said Mr Elkins.

"He was a hell of an actor, he had a great sense of humour and those performances will be remembered for a very long time," he added.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Sergeant
"A man of few words on screen"
Derek Malcolm, film critic
"He was a very nice guy"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
James Coburn
Send us your tributes for the classic tough guy
See also:

19 Nov 02 | Entertainment
19 Nov 02 | Entertainment
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