He was a Chicago-based stage actor by the time he began his film career in the forgettable action drama The Sharkfighters (1956). A reedy, sensitive-looking blond, James Olson showed an understated power in his performances that often received critical applause, but also a taciturn personality that kept audiences at bay. His performance as Joanne Woodward's suitor in Rachel, Rachel (1968) gained him the best reviews of his career and it seemed he had finally earned his stripes, but despite impressive parts in The Andromeda Strain (1971) and Ragtime (1981), not to mention the TV-movies The Family Nobody Wanted (1975) and "The Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer (1977), he never made a name for himself. A durable talent, he remained a reliable presence for years with TV guest spots, but by the the 1990s he had all but disappeared.
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