James Hampton Dead: “F Troop,” “Longest Yard,” and “Teen Wolf” actor was 84

He worked extensively with Burt Reynolds and directed episodes of the sitcom “Evening Shade”.

James Hampton, who played Hannibal Dobbs the bumblebee on F Troop, inmate Caretaker at Original The Longest Yard, and Michael J. Fox’s furry father in Teen Wolf, has died. He was 84 years old.

Hampton died Wednesday of complications from Parkinson’s disease at his Fort Worth, Texas home, a family spokesman said.

Hampton was a great friend of Burt Reynolds – the two first met on an episode of Gunsmoke in 1963 – and they were castmates in The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973), The Longest Yard (1974), WW, and the Dixie Dancekings (1975) and Hustle (1975). He also wrote and / or directed several episodes of Reynolds’ CBS sitcom Evening Shade.

The personable actor also portrayed handyman LeRoy B. Simpson on the Doris Day Show and was a villain on Mannix’s final episode. He appeared in The Cat From Outer Space (1978), The China Syndrome (1979), and Sling Blade (1996).

Hampton was born in Oklahoma City on July 9, 1936, and grew up in Dallas, where his parents Ivan and Edna owned a dry cleaning business. He attended the University of North Texas as a major in theatrical arts and was drafted into the US Army, where – as a reference to his service with F Troop – he was in the Fort Knox Cavalry before seeing his overseas service.

After the service, he studied acting with Sidney Lumet’s father, Baruch Lumet, at the Knox Street Theater in Dallas and performed in plays at the Casa Manana Theater in Fort Worth before moving to New York to pursue his career.

He auditioned to star in a short film, The Cliff Dwellers (1962), and got the job when he offered to build the sets as well. The film was surprisingly nominated for an Oscar and gave Hampton its first trip to Los Angeles, where it was signed by well-known agent Walter Kohner.

Kohner gave Hampton an appearance on an episode of Gunsmoke in May 1963 in which he played Jeb Willis, a naive young man accused of stealing a horse. Reynolds re-appeared as blacksmith Quint Asper on the CBS Western, and the two became friends. “I think he liked my sense of humor,” said Hampton.

Hampton took acting lessons from Leonard Nimoy and then landed the role of Pvt. Hannibal Dobbs on F troop. His character could play “Yankee Doodle” and “Dixie” on the bugle, though “Reveille” was a different story. The ABC comedy only aired two seasons (65 episodes from September 1965 to April 1967) but lived on in syndication for decades.

For The Longest Yard, Hampton had the opportunity to play the snitch Unger, he stated in a 2011 interview.

“With all due respect, sir, I don’t want to play that role,” Hampton told director Robert Aldrich. “He said, ‘Really? What do you want to play?’ I said, “I want to play caretaker.” He said, “Caretaker only has five lines.” I said, ‘Now he’s only got five lines.’ “

His dialogue increased as he and Reynolds improvised scenes and Aldrich “saw that there was a chemistry between me and Burt and let us go”. (Chris Rock played Caretaker in the Adam Sandler remake in 2005).

Although Hampton had been there for several years, in 1975 he was eligible to receive a Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer.

Hampton read for the basketball coach part in Teen Wolf (1985) before portraying the paternal werewolf, Harold Howard. He would return for the 1987 sequel and an animated CBS series.

He also played Aaron Ironwood, a childhood friend of James Garner’s character in trouble, in a 1975 episode of The Rockford Files and sketched a comedy on Mary Tyler Moore’s short-lived variety show from 1978.

His resume also included other shows such as Dr. Kildare, The FBI, Who’s the Boss ?, Full House and Days of Our Lives, like movies like Soldier Blue (1970), the Cavalry Hawmps! (1976), Condorman (1981), Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach (1988) and Pump Up the Volume (1990) and commercials for the American Egg Board (“the incredible edible egg”).

Hampton also directed episodes of Hearts Afire, Boston Common, Grace Under Fire, and Sister, Sister.

His autobiography, what? And give up show business? Was released in February.

Survivors are his second wife, actress Mary Deese, whom he married in 2002; Children James, Andrea and Frank; and grandchildren. Instead of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

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