Family & Companions
A sturdy character actor prolific on stage, screen and television in both small and prominent supporting roles, James Gammon excelled most typically as weathered, rustic types ranging from lawmen to bartenders; from cowhands to military men. Gammon began in the entertainment field at age 19 when he landed a job operating a camera at a TV station in Orlando, FL. Community theater work led him to relocate to Los Angeles in the early 1960s to try his hand professionally, and soon thereafter he made his TV debut in a small guest role on the long-running Western drama series, "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-1975).
Gammon made his feature film debut in a bit part in the classic prison drama, "Cool Hand Luke" (1967). From his role as a killer in "Macon County Line" (1973) to a detective in "The McCullochs" (1975) and a bartender in "Any Which Way You Can" (1980), the esteemed actor carved a modest niche for himself in a good variety of salty character roles. Along with partner Timothy Scott, Gammon also founded the Met Theater in the early 1970s and ran it for more than a decade, winning LA Drama Critics awards for his direction of "Bus Stop" (1973) and for his performance in "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (1974). Acting stints on "Bonanza" (NBC, 1959-1973) and "The Wild Wild West" (CBS, 1965-69) helped create an impressive resume of TV work and, through the '70s and early '80s, both the roles and the prominence of his projects steadily grew.
While Gammon continued to do fine theater work - as in the New York and L.A. productions of Sam Shepard's "A Lie of the Mind" - in the late 1980s, he also began to get more of a "familiar face" foothold on the big screen. One of his best film roles came as the sheriff pursuing an elusive and increasingly legendary "little man" wanted for murder in the fine "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez" (1983). Gammon has subsequently played supporting roles in such films as "Ironweed" (1987), "Major League" (1989), in which he famously portrayed team manager Lou Brown; "Crisscross" (1992) and "Wyatt Earp" (1994), and was especially fine as Horsethief Shorty in "The Milagro Beanfield War" (1988).
Gammon also took the plunge into series television with two interesting if short-lived comedies, "Bagdad Cafe" (CBS, 1990-91), as the scruffy resident artist Rudy, and "Middle Ages" (CBS, 1992), as part of the motley crowd of Chicago professionals reassessing their lives at the midway point. He had somewhat better luck when he joined the cast of the CBS cop drama "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1996-2001), portraying the title character's (Don Johnson) father, despite being only nine years older than Johnson. On July 16, 2010, the 70-year-old actor passed away from cancer of the adrenal glands and the liver.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Began working in the entertainment industry at age 19 as a camera operator at a TV station in Orlando, FL
Made his move into professional acting playing a bit part on the long-running CBS Western series, "Gunsmoke"
Feature film debut, "Cool Hand Luke"
TV-movie debut, "The Intruders"
First TV miniseries, "The Sacketts"
Played one of his few leading roles in the historical Western, "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez," taking second billing to Edward James Olmos in the title role
Acted at the Promenade Theater in the Off-Broadway production of Sam Shepard's "A Lie of the Mind"; also performed in a Los Angeles production of the play (date approximate)
Played most famous film role, baseball team manager Lou Brown in "Major League"
TV series debut, playing Rudy on the CBS sitcom "Bagdad Cafe," in support of Whoopi Goldberg and Jean Stapleton
Played Dave Nelson on the short-lived CBS comedy-drama series, "Middle Ages"
Played the recurring role of Coach Zelnick on the ABC period drama series, "Homefront"
Reprised role of baseball manager Lou Brown in "Major League II"
Co-starred in the Broadway production of Sam Shepard's "Buried Child"; earned a Tony nomination
Joined the cast of the CBS cop series "Nash Bridges" as the title character's father
Portrayed a rancher in "The Hi-Lo Country"
Had featured role in "The Cell"
Played Pat in "Life or Something Like It"
Appeared in "Cold Mountain," directed by Anthony Minghella
Cast in Wim Wenders' neo-Western "Don't Come Knocking" starring Sam Shepard
Guest-starred on ABC medical drama, "Grey's Anatomy"
Cast opposite Sean Astin in the sports drama, "The Final Season"
Acted in the Ed Harris-directed Western, "Appaloosa"