'The Longest Yard,' 'F Troop' Actor James Hampton Dies at 84
James Hampton, the affable character actor adept at playing bumbling sidekicks and sweet-faced guys-next-door, died Wednesday in Forth Worth, Texas, at 84.
A family spokesman confirmed to THR that the cause was complications from Parkinson's disease.
Born July 9, 1936, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and raised in Dallas, Hampton studied acting in New York and L.A. (with Leonard Nimoy) ahead of a 1963 TV debut. He was a perfect everyman, and found work on the classic series "Dr. Kildare" (1963), "Gomer Pyle: USMC" (1965), and "Gunsmoke" (1963 & 1965). It was on "Gunsmoke" that he met lifelong friend Burt Reynolds, with whom he would go on to work in several films and on TV.
In 1965, Hampton landed the memorable role of Trooper Hannibal Dobbs on "F Troop," a zany satire about the staff at a remote army outpost in the 1860s Wild West. The series lasted only two seasons at the time, but became a syndication bonanza along the lines of "Gilligan's Island."
Hampton recurred on "The Doris Day Show" (1968-1971), and made many guest appearances on shows that revealed his range — everything from the broad physical comedy of "Love, American Style" (1971-1974) to playing a psychotic murderer on "Mannix" (1975).
Hampton's work with Reynolds included some of his most high-profile films: "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing" (1973), "The Longest Yard" (1974), "W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings" (1975), and "Hustle" (1975).
For his role as Caretaker in "The Longest Yard," Hampton — though already a veteran of the business — was nominated for a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer.
He would also break into TV directing thanks to Reynolds, helming 16 episodes of "Evening Shade" (1992-1994) and continuing to direct for the next several years.
Hampton also enjoyed an association with Disney that included appearing on "The Magical World of Disney" (1972) and in the films "Hawmps!" (1976) and "The Cat from Outer Space" (1978), but he was able to intertwine more serious roles, including in "The China Syndrome" (1979) and "Sling Blade" (1996), with his comedy work.
In 1985, his performance in the movie "Teen Wolf" led to voice work on an animated TV spin-off series (1986-1987), as well as in the sequel, "Teen Wolf Too" (1987).
He was Saul Taylor on 49 episodes of "Days of Our Lives" (1989) and continued working steadily on TV and in films until retiring in 2015.
Hampton is survived by his wife of over 18 years, Mary Deese, by three children, and by his grandchildren.