LOS ANGELES – Greek-American actor Anthony James whose films include In the Heat of the Night and Unforgiven passed away from cancer on May 26 in Massachusetts at the age of 77, Variety reported.
James was born Jimmy Anthony in Myrtle Beach, SC on July 22, 1942 to Greek immigrant parents George and Marika. His father ran a restaurant in Myrtle Beach in the 1940s but passed away when James was just eight years old. His mother raised him on her own from then on and was his “hero” according to his obituary.
Following his high school graduation, he persuaded his mother to move with him to Los Angeles so he could pursue acting. His mother cleaned houses and James cleaned bathrooms to help pay for his acting classes.
When he began his professional acting career, he had to change his name since there was already an actor named Jimmy Anthony. At age 26, he scored his first role in a major Hollywood film in the 1967 Academy Award-winner for Best Picture, In the Heat of the Night, launching his 27-year career. His final movie role, also in an Academy Award-winning film, was in 1992, as Skinny Dubois in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.
James also appeared on many popular television series, including the original Hawaii Five-0 in 1968, S.W.A.T in 1975, Charlie’s Angels in 1976, The A-Team in 1983, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Married… with Children, both in 1987, Variety reported.
Though in his film roles he most often played the bad guy, James was known for his kindness, and being well-read. He adored Greek tragedy and the music of Mikis Theodorakis as well as nineteenth and early twentieth-century poets, writers and philosophers, according to his obituary.
After retiring from acting and moving to New England, James pursued art and writing. Over 100 of his paintings have been sold by galleries in Boston, New York, Santa Fe, San Francisco, and Japan. In 1994, he published Language of the Heart, an art book of his paintings and poems. In 2014, James published his memoir, Acting My Face.
In lieu of flowers, donations in James’ memory may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.