Sheriff J.W. Pepper: From Adversary to Ally in the World of James Bond
Sheriff John W. Pepper, a character from the Louisiana parish in the United States, is brought to life by the late American actor Clifton James. He features in two James Bond films Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
As a local law enforcement figure, Pepper initially emerges as a foe to Bond in Live and Let Die. However, in an ironic turn of events his role evolves into an unwitting, yet ultimately valuable ally in The Man with the Golden Gun.
Sheriff John W. Pepper
Sheriff J.W. Pepper first appears in Live and Let Die during a boat chase sequence. Pursuing Bond at nearly 90 miles an hour, Mr. Big’s henchman Adam unintentionally catches the attention of the Sheriff who gives chase and arrests him at gunpoint. Moments later, Bond’s speedboat jumps an embankment beside them, followed by Dr. Kananga‘s henchmen who crash into Pepper’s squad car.
In the ensuing chaos, Adam escapes and continues the chase. Pepper later commandeers a police vehicle and heads to Miller’s bridge, where officers have set up a failed roadblock to stop Bond.
Lacking resources to keep up with Bond, Sheriff Pepper tries enlisting his brother-in-law, Billy-Bob, who owns a fast boat. However, Adam steals it and speeds off to join the chase by water.
As Sheriff Pepper and his squad cars crash during the pursuit, he ends up confronting Bond and Felix Leiter at the marina. The irate Sheriff attempts to arrest Bond, but the police captain reveals Bond’s identity, much to the sheriff’s frustration.
In The Man with the Golden Gun, Sheriff Pepper is vacationing in Thailand with his wife, Maybelle. After an amusing encounter with an elephant, J.W. finds himself at an AMC dealership when Bond arrives, needing a vehicle to chase Francisco Scaramanga.
Unaware of Bond’s presence, Sheriff J.W. Pepper joins him for a wild ride that includes a daring corkscrew jump. During the ride, Sheriff pepper and Bond recognize each other, and Bond resumes his pursuit of Scaramanga and his miniature henchman, Nick Nack, who have kidnapped Mary Goodnight.
When they reach Scaramanga’s hideout, the sheriff gets arrested by the Thai police while Bond escapes as Scaramanga flees in a flying car. Sheriff J.W. Pepper’s fate remains unknown.
Clifton James was an American actor born on May 29, 1920. He served in the South Pacific during WWII from 1942 to 1945, earning the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.
His acting career began with his first film role as Colonel Ramsey in The Strange One (1957), followed by appearances in various lesser-known films throughout the late 1950s and 1960s. Often cast in southern roles as officers, James’ big break came with his portrayal of the comedic Sheriff J.W. Pepper in the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973), which he reprised for the next film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
He also played similar roles in Silver Streak (1976) and Superman II (1980), and in TV shows uch as The A-Team and The Dukes of Hazzard, where he played Sheriff Lester Crabb, a temporary replacement for the regular Sheriff Rosco.
Aside from his comedic roles, James portrayed the district attorney in The Untouchables (1987), a Navy master-at-arms in The Last Detail (1973), and baseball team owner Charles Comiskey in Eight Men Out (1988). His final film appearance was in Raising Flagg (2006).