Anthony James (born James Anthony) was born on July 22nd 1942 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He was the only child of Greek immigrants George Anthony and Marika Palla. His parents immigrated from Greece to America only a few years before his birth. Sadly his father died when he was only eight years old and his Mother raised him alone.
James moved to Hollywood eighteen years later to begin an acting career; being 6’6 and an amazing ability to character act helped him didn’t hurt his chances either! He noted that to help him his mother “took a job as a factory steam presser while I tried to start my career, Those first years in Hollywood were difficult and scary.”
He debuted in 1966 in an episode of T.H.E. Cat called ” Little Arnie from Long Ago” as Man outside Go Go club but soon moved onto bigger and better things like 1967’s In The Heat of The Night where he played the awfully sleazy diner counterman Ralph Henshaw in a small role that almost stole the entire film from the rest of the cast. Similar roles soon flooded in as the 1960’s ended (The High Chaparral, Cimarron Strip, Prescription: Murder, New Face in Hell, The Good Guys, Sam Whiskey, The Big Valley, Gunsmoke) but James was not as worried about being typecast as his mother was, “My mother wasn’t thrilled – she always thought of me as the heroic romantic lead – but eventually accepted it,” he reflected.
As the 1970’s arrived James found himself playing the role of H.C. Tolbert in the racially provocative movie …tick… tick… tick…, and also racked up appearances in Company of Killers, Hawaii Five-O, Bonanza, Vanishing Point, Sarge, Ironside, and Mod Squad. As Cole Carlin he got his ear shot off and whipped by Clint Eastwood in 1973’s High Plains Drifter, and the followed that up with roles in The Streets of San Francisco, Police Story, Hollywood Cowboy, S.W.A.T., Charlie’s Angels, Starsky and Hutch, and Burnt Offerings where he played a creepy silent chauffeur opposite Bette Davis. He noted that “for one scene, she was made up to appear over a hundred years old which was done in her hotel room for her convenience, I was staying in the same hotel and met her in the lobby as she came down in character as an old woman. I said ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Davis ….. we should probably get over to the set because it will take a long time to get your makeup on! Davis’s entourage froze with shock, but she got the joke.
In 1978 James was reunited with Bette Davis (alongside Christopher Lee) in Return from Witch Mountain where he noted that “during the 9 weeks of filming had all our scenes together. Director John Hough and I were the only people she would allow in her dressing room!”
As the 1970’s rolled into the 1980’s James appeared in Man From Atlantis, Texas Detour, Vega$, The Fifth Floor, Quincy M.E., Ravagers, B.J. and the Bear, Enos, as well as managing to get in two different roles in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, where he played Varek (alongside Frank Gorshin, John Quade, Markie Post, and Victor Argo) in the two part episode “The Plot To Kill A City” and later Mr. Graf in the episode “The Golden Man.”
For the majority of the 80’s James would appear in nearly every major show we cared about including Blue Thunder, Whiz Kids, Matt Houston, Nightmares, Knightrider, V, Hunter, The A-Team (3 different times), The Fall Guy, Sledge Hammer!, Outlaws, Simon & Simon, Amazing Stories, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Mortuary Academy.
In 1988 James ventured into the world of music videos appearing in Poison’s “Fallen Angel” before returning back to the tv screen in Beauty and the Beast, Married…With Children, and Father Dowling Investigates, as well as on the big screen in Unforgiven where Clint Eastwood killed him, and in The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear where he got to sing!
In the mid-nineties, James retired from acting and moved to Massachusetts to pursue his art career full time. His artwork has been well received and he has exhibited at galleries throughout the United States. His work is described as abstract on an emotional level; he paints from within and the struggle between light and dark is evident on canvas. Though the subjects of the paintings are generally simplified to basic geometric shapes, the mix of colours creates an intricate pattern and a certain drama that overtakes the canvas. He continues to live and paint in the Boston area. He published a book of art and poetry, ‘Language of the Heart,’ in 1994, and his works are sold through Renjeau Gallery.
When reflecting on his career James notes “I never considered myself a celebrity, just a sometime recognizable face.” His autobiography, Acting My Face, was published in 2014.
Categories: Heroes of Cult