George Harris Kennedy Jr. (February 18, 1925 – February 28, 2016) was an American actor who appeared in more than 100 film and television productions. He played "Dragline" opposite Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967), winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role and being nominated for the corresponding Golden Globe. He received a second Golden Globe nomination for portraying Joe Patroni in Airport (1970).
Among the notable films he had a significant role in are Charade, Strait-Jacket, McHale's Navy, Shenandoah, The Sons of Katie Elder, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, The Boston Strangler, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Airport 1975, Earthquake and The Eiger Sanction.
Kennedy was the only actor to appear in all four films in the Airport series, having reprised the role of Joe Patroni three times. He also played Police Captain Ed Hocken in the Naked Gun series of comedy films, and corrupt oil tycoon Carter McKay on the original Dallas television series.
Kennedy was born on February 18, 1925, in New York City, into a show business family. His father, George Harris Kennedy, a musician and orchestra leader, died when Kennedy was four years old. He was raised by his mother, Helen A. (née Kieselbach), a ballet dancer. His maternal grandfather was a German immigrant; his other ancestry was Irish and English.
Kennedy made his stage debut at age two in a touring company of Bringing Up Father, and by seven was a New York City radio DJ. Joining the U.S. Army during World War II, he served 16 years, reaching the rank of captain. He was discharged in the late 1950s due to a back injury. His first notable screen role was a military policeman on the TV sitcom The Phil Silvers Show, where he served as a technical adviser, a role which Kennedy later described as "a great training ground".
His film career began in 1961 in The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. He appeared in several Hollywood movies, including as a sadistic jail guard in the Kirk Douglas modern western Lonely Are the Brave (1962), a ruthless criminal in the Cary Grant suspense film Charade (1963), and in a Joan Crawford thriller, Strait-Jacket (1964).
Kennedy was busy in 1965. He appeared with Gregory Peck in the mystery Mirage, with a large cast led by James Stewart in the plane-crash adventure The Flight of the Phoenix, with John Wayne in the war film In Harm's Way and with Wayne and Dean Martin in the western The Sons of Katie Elder.
He played the character "Blodgett" in a 1966 episode "Return to Lawrence" of the ABC Western series The Legend of Jesse James.
Then came the role for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Cool Hand Luke (1967), that of "Dragline," a chain-gang convict who at first resents the new prisoner in camp played by Paul Newman, then comes to idolize the rebellious Luke.
Kennedy followed with films such as The Dirty Dozen, Bandolero!, and The Boston Strangler. In 1970, he appeared in the Academy Award-winning disaster film Airport, in which he played one of its main characters, airline troubleshooter Joe Patroni. He reprised this role in Airport 1975, Airport '77 and The Concorde ... Airport '79, the only cast member to appear in each film of the series.
The Airport franchise helped inspire the Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker satire Airplane!, in which the filmmakers hoped to cast Kennedy as the bumbling plane dispatcher. The role went to Lloyd Bridges, because Kennedy "couldn’t kill off his Airport cash-cow", Jerry Zucker said in 2010.
Kennedy co-starred with Clint Eastwood in two films, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and The Eiger Sanction, and with ensemble casts in the disaster film Earthquake and the Agatha Christie mystery Death on the Nile.
He also starred in two television series, Sarge, which aired from 1971-72 on NBC, and The Blue Knight, a CBS series that ran for 24 episodes from 1975-76.
Kennedy starred in two Japanese productions, Junya Satō's Proof of the Man in 1977 and Kinji Fukasaku's Virus in 1980. Both films were produced by Haruki Kadokawa and featured extensive international casts and shooting locations. Although Proof of the Man was only released theatrically in Japan and Virus saw a financially unsuccessful truncated cut in the U.S., Kennedy was highly enthusiastic towards his involvement.
In 1984, Kennedy starred opposite Bo Derek in the box-office bomb Bolero. He made other minor films including Savage Dawn, The Delta Force and Creepshow 2, before playing a role in the comedy film The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! in 1988, playing Captain Ed Hocken opposite Leslie Nielsen's comical cop Frank Drebin. There were two sequels in which Kennedy co-starred.
In 1990, Kennedy appeared in the Korean film Mayumi directed by Shin Sang-ok who was best known for having been kidnapped with actress and wife Choi Eun-hee by North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il. Mayumi was Shin's attempt at re-entering the South Korean film industry and was the country's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 63rd Academy Awards, but it was not accepted as a nominee. Despite featuring Kennedy, it saw no wide release outside of South Korea and was ultimately a domestic box office failure.
On television, Kennedy starred as Carter McKay in the CBS prime time serial Dallas (1978–1991), appearing from 1988 to 1991. From the mid- to late-1990s, he promoted Breathasure tablets in radio and television commercials. Around this time, he reprised his role as McKay in the television films Dallas: J.R. Returns and Dallas: War of the Ewings. In the late 1970s, Kennedy also appeared as a celebrity guest on the television game show Match Game.
In 1998, he voiced Brick Bazooka for the film Small Soldiers. He then made several independent films, before making a 2003 comeback to television in the soap opera The Young and the Restless, playing the character Albert Miller, the biological father to legendary character Victor Newman. In 2005, he made a cameo appearance in the film Don't Come Knocking, playing the director of an ill-fated western.
Kennedy made his final film appearance in The Gambler (2014) as Ed, the dying grandfather of Mark Wahlberg's Jim Bennett. His role lasts for less than two minutes during the film's opening scene, wherein Ed (moments before his death) bequeaths the responsibilities of patriarch to a heartbroken Jim.
For his contributions to motion pictures, Kennedy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6352 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Kennedy wrote three books. In 1983, he wrote the murder mystery Murder On Location, set on a film shoot. A second novel, Murder on High, was released in 1984. In 2011, he wrote his autobiography, Trust Me.
Marriages and children
Kennedy was married four times, to three women. In the 1940s, he married Dorothy Gillooly (1926-2012), who had served in the Women's Army Corps. They had one son, Kevin Kennedy, before being divorced in the 1950s; Dorothy returned to her hometown, Buffalo, NY, and raised her son there. In 1959, Kennedy married Norma Wurman, also known as Revel Wurman (1929-2007). The couple had two children, a son Christopher and a daughter Karianna. Kennedy and Norma were divorced for the first time in 1971, got remarried in 1973, and were divorced for a second and final time in 1978. That same year (1978), Kennedy married Joan McCarthy (nee Castagna), daughter of John Castagna and former wife of William James McCarthy. They remained married until her death in September 2015. The couple adopted three children, including Betty Kennedy (later an actress) and Shaunna Kennedy, who developed drug-abuse problems. In 1998, after Shaunna was declared unfit to raise her daughter Taylor, Kennedy and Joan adopted that grandchild also.
George Kennedy attended Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas under the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) in 1943 and 1944. The program was closed in 1944 when the unit was called to active duty. George Kennedy and his wife returned to Tarleton for homecoming celebrations in 1980.
Kennedy was an aviator who enjoyed flying and owned a Cessna 210 and Beechcraft Bonanza. Following his experiences working for the Far East Network during WWII and professional involvement with Proof of the Man and Virus, Kennedy maintained a lifelong affinity for Japan and its culture.
Kennedy resided in Eagle, Idaho, at the time of his death. He died on the morning of Sunday, February 28, 2016, of a heart ailment at an assisted living facility in Middleton, Idaho, ten days after his 91st birthday. He had a history of heart disease. He had also been much affected by the death of Joan, his third wife, less than six months previously.
At the time of his death, Kennedy was the oldest living Oscar winner in the Best Supporting Actor category. Coincidentally, he died the day of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony.
|1961||The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come||Nathan Dillon||CinemaScope film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.|
|1962||Lonely Are the Brave||Deputy Sheriff Gutierrez||Film adaptation of the Edward Abbey novel The Brave Cowboy, and directed by David Miller.|
|The Silent Witness||Gus Jordan|
|1963||The Man from the Diners' Club||George||Comedy film directed by Frank Tashlin.|
|Charade||Herman Scobie||Romantic comedy/mystery film directed by Stanley Donen.|
|1964||Strait-Jacket||Leo Krause||Thriller film directed and co-produced by William Castle.|
|McHale's Navy||Henri Le Clerc||Based on the 1962–1966 black and white television sitcom of the same name, and directed by Edward Montagne.|
|Island of the Blue Dolphins||Aleut Captain||Drama film directed by James B. Clark.|
|Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte||Foreman||Psychological thriller film directed and produced by Robert Aldrich.|
|1965||In Harm's Way||Colonel Gregory||Epic war film produced and directed by Otto Preminger.|
|Mirage||Willard||Thriller film directed by Edward Dmytryk, and based on the novel Fallen Angel written by Howard Fast under the pseudonym Walter Ericson.|
|Shenandoah||Colonel Fairchild||American Civil War film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.|
|The Sons of Katie Elder||Curley||Western film directed by Henry Hathaway.|
|The Flight of the Phoenix||Mike Bellamy||Drama film produced & directed by Robert Aldrich and based on the 1964 novel The Flight of the Phoenix by Elleston Trevor.|
|1967||Hurry Sundown||Sheriff Coombs||Drama film produced and directed by Otto Preminger.|
|The Dirty Dozen||Major Max Armbruster||American war film directed by Robert Aldrich.|
|Cool Hand Luke||Dragline||Prison drama film directed by Stuart Rosenberg.|
|The Ballad of Josie||Arch Ogden||Comedy western film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.|
|1968||Bandolero!||Sheriff July Johnson||Western directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.|
|The Pink Jungle||Sammy Ryderbeit||Thriller film directed by Delbert Mann.|
|The Legend of Lylah Clare||Matt Burke||Uncredited|
|The Boston Strangler||Det. Phil DiNatale||Neo-noir film based on the true story of the Boston Strangler and the book by Gerold Frank, and directed by Richard Fleischer.|
|1969||Guns of the Magnificent Seven||Chris Adams|
|The Good Guys and the Bad Guys||Big John McKay||Western film directed by Burt Kennedy.|
|Gaily, Gaily||Axel P. Johanson|
|1970||...tick...tick...tick...||John Little||Crime drama directed by Ralph Nelson.|
|Airport||Joe Patroni||Drama film directed and written by George Seaton, and based on Arthur Hailey's 1968 novel of the same name.|
|Zig Zag||Paul R. Cameron|
|Dirty Dingus Magee||Herkimer "Hoke" Birdsill||Anti-western film directed and produced by Burt Kennedy.|
|1971||Fools' Parade||Dallas "Doc" Council|
|1973||Lost Horizon||Sam Cornelius||Musical film directed by Charles Jarrott.|
|Cahill U.S. Marshal||Abe Fraser||Western film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.|
|1974||Thunderbolt and Lightfoot||Red Leary||Crime film written and directed by Michael Cimino.|
|Airport 1975||Joe Patroni||Air disaster film, and the first sequel to the successful 1970 film, Airport, and directed by Jack Smight.|
|Earthquake||Sergeant Lew Slade||Ensemble disaster film directed and produced by Mark Robson.|
|1975||The Eiger Sanction||Ben Bowman||Action-thriller film, based on the novel of the same name by Trevanian, and directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.|
|The "Human" Factor||John Kinsdale||Drama film directed by Edward Dmytryk.|
|1977||Airport '77||Joe Patroni||Air disaster film and the third film of the Airport franchise, and directed by Jerry Jameson.|
|Ningen no shōmei||Ken Shuftan|
|1978||Mean Dog Blues||Captain Omar Kinsman||Drama film directed by Mel Stuart.|
|Death on the Nile||Andrew Pennington||British film based on the Agatha Christie mystery novel of the same name, directed by John Guillermin, and adapted by Anthony Shaffer.|
|Brass Target||General George S. Patton||Post-war suspense film based on the novel The Algonquin Project by Frederick Nolan, and directed by John Hough.|
|1979||Search and Destroy||Anthony Fusqua||Action-thriller film directed by William Fruet.|
|The Double McGuffin||Chief Talasek||Drama film written and directed by Joe Camp.|
|Steel||Big Lew Cassidy||Drama film directed by Steve Carver.|
|The Concorde ... Airport '79||Captain Joe Patroni|
|1980||Death Ship||Captain Ashland||British-Canadian horror film directed by Alvin Rakoff.|
|Hotwire||Farley & Harley Fontenot|
|1981||Just Before Dawn||Roy McLean|
|Modern Romance||Himself; Zoron||Comedy film directed by and starring Albert Brooks.|
|The Archer: Fugitive from the Empire||Brakus||
Sword and sorcery action film written, directed and produced by Nicholas J. Corea.
|1982||Wacko||Mr. Doctor Graves||Horror-parody film directed by Greydon Clark.|
|The Jupiter Menace||Himself||A documentary [sic], that examines the theory that the world is doomed, and that nothing can be done about it.|
|1984||Chattanooga Choo Choo||Bert||Comedy film directed by Bruce Bilson.|
|A Rare Breed||Nathan Hill|
|Bolero||Cotton||Romantic drama film written and directed by John Derek.|
|1985||Radioactive Dreams||Spade Chandler||Post-apocalyptic science fiction-comedy film directed by Albert Pyun.|
|Savage Dawn||Tick Rand||Action-drama film directed by Simon Nuchtern.|
|1986||The Delta Force||Father O'Malley||Action-thriller film directed by Menahem Golan.|
|1987||Creepshow 2||Ray Spruce||(segment "Old Chief Wood'nhead"), Live-action/animated horror comedy anthology film directed by Michael Gornick.|
|The Gunfighters||Deke Turner||Western film directed by Clay Borris.|
|1988||Born to Race||Vincent Duplain|
|Nightmare at Noon||Sheriff Hanks|
|Alien Terminator||Heinrich Holzmann|
|The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!||Captain Ed Hocken||This film marked the start of the Naked Gun franchise born out of the cancellation of Police Squad!.|
|1989||The Terror Within||Hal|
|Ministry of Vengeance||Rev. Hughes|
|La bahía esmeralda||Wilson|
|Hired to Kill||Thomas|
|1991||Hangfire||Warden E. Barles|
|Driving Me Crazy||John McCready|
|The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear||Captain Ed Hocken|
|Intensive Care||Dr. Bruckner|
|1992||Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story||Father Dave|
|Distant Justice||Tom Bradfield|
|1994||Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult||Captain Ed Hocken|
|River of Stone|
|1997||Cats Don't Dance||L.B. Mammoth||Voice|
|Bayou Ghost||Officer Lowe|
|1998||Small Soldiers||Brick Bazooka||Voice|
|Dennis the Menace Strikes Again||Grandpa Johnson|
|2003||View from the Top||Passenger Requesting Vodka||Uncredited|
|2005||Three Bad Men||Ed Fiske|
|Truce||Dr. Peter Gannon|
|Don't Come Knocking||Director|
|2007||Sands of Oblivion||John Tevis|
|2008||The Man Who Came Back||Judge Duke|
|2010||Six Days in Paradise||Monty Crenshaw|
|Mad Mad Wagon Party||JB Scotch|
|2011||Another Happy Day||Joe Baker|
|2014||The Gambler||Ed||(final film role)|
|1956–1959||The Phil Silvers Show||MP Sergeant Kennedy||14 episodes|
|1959||Cheyenne||Lee Nelson||Episode: "Prisoner of Moon Mesa"|
|Colt .45||Hank||Episode: "The Rival Gun"|
|The Deputy||Tex||Episode: "The Big Four"|
|Sugarfoot||Sykes||Episode: "The Canary Kid, Inc."|
|1960||Gunsmoke||Emil||Episode: "The Blacksmith"|
|Route 66||Thad Skinner||Pilot Episode: "Black November"|
|Peter Gunn||Karl||Episode: "The Crossbow"|
|Sugarfoot||Ross Kuhn||Episode: "Funeral at Forty Mile"|
|Shotgun Slade||Tex||Episode: "The Spanish Box"|
|Laramie||Gallagher Henchman||Episode: "Duel at Alta Mesa"|
|Maverick||Deputy Jones||Episode: "Hadley's Hunters"|
|Lawman||Burt||Episode: "To Capture the West"|
|Have Gun – Will Travel||Tarnitzer||Episode: "The Legacy"|
|Lieutenant John Bryson||Episode: "A Head of Hair"|
|1961||Bat Masterson||Sheriff Zeke Armitage||Episode: "The Fourth Man"|
|Have Gun – Will Travel||Preston||Episode: "The Road"|
|Deke||Episode: "The Vigil"|
|Rud Saxon||Episode: "A Proof of Life"|
|Brother Grace||Episode: "Squatter's Rights"|
|Gunsmoke||Pat Swooner||Episode: "Big Man"|
|The Untouchables||Birdie||Episode: "The King of Champagne"|
|Gunslinger||Sheriff||Episode: "The Buried People"|
|Bonanza||Peter Long||Episode: "The Infernal Machine"|
|Gunsmoke||Jake Bayloe||Episode: "Kitty Shot"|
|1962||The Tall Man||Hyram Killgore||Episode: "One for All"|
|Rawhide||George Wales||Episode: "The Peddler"|
|Gunsmoke||Hug||Episode: "The Boys"|
|Have Gun – Will Travel||Big John||Episode: "Don't Shoot the Piano Player"|
|Going My Way||Mike||Episode: "A Man for Mary"|
|Death Valley Days||Steamboat Sully||Episode: "Miracle at Whiskey Gulch"|
|Outlaws||Joe Ferris||Episode: "Farewell Performance"|
|1963||The Andy Griffith Show||State Police Detective||Episode: "The Big House"|
|Have Gun – Will Travel||Brother Grace||Episode: "The Eve of St. Elmo"|
|Dr. Kildare||Joe Cramer||Episode: "To Each His Own Prison"|
|Perry Mason||George Spangler||Episode: "The Case of the Greek Goddess"|
|The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters||Angus||Episode: "The Day of the Long Night"|
|1963–1964||McHale's Navy||Big Frenchy||Episodes: "French Leave for McHale", "The Return of Big Frenchy"|
|1964||Gunsmoke||Cyrus||Episode: "Crooked Mile"|
|Bonanza||Waldo||Episode: "The Scapegoat"|
|The Virginian||Jack Marshman||Episode: "A Gallows for Sam Horn"|
|Gunsmoke||Warden Stryker||Episode: "The Warden"|
|1965||Daniel Boone||Zach Morgan||Episode: "A Rope for Mingo"|
|Laredo||Jess Moran||Episode: "Pride of the Rangers"|
|The Virginian||Tom "Bear" Suchette||Episode: "Nobility of Kings"|
|A Man Called Shenandoah||Mitchell Canady||Episode: "A Special Talent for Killing"|
|1966||Gunsmoke||Ben Payson||Episode: "Harvest"|
|The Legend of Jesse James||Blodgett||Episode: "Return to Lawrence"|
|Dr. Kildare||Sergeant Hensley||Episodes: "Mercy or Murder", "Strange Sort of Accident"|
|The Virginian||Huck Harkness||Episode: "The Trail to Ashley Mountain"|
|The Big Valley||Jack Thatcher||Episode: "Barbary Red"|
|1967||Tarzan||Crandell||Episode: "Thief Catcher"|
|1971||Ironside||Father Samuel Cavanaugh|
|Sarge||Father Samuel Patrick "Sarge" Cavanaugh (Swanson)||16 episodes|
|1975||The Blue Knight||Bumper Morgan||24 episodes|
|1979||Backstairs at the White House||President Warren G. Harding||Episode: #1.2|
|1981||Saturday Night Live||Himself/Host||Episode: "George Kennedy/Miles Davis"|
|1983||Fantasy Island||Adam Cobb||Episode: "God Child/Curtain Call"|
|1988–1991||Dallas||Carter McKay||67 episodes|
|1994||Lonesome Dove||Judge J.T. "Rope" Calder||Episode: "Judgement Day"|
|1995||The Gambler Part III: The Legend Continues||General Nelson Miles||Television miniseries|
|1996||Wings||Himself||Episode: "What About Larry?"|
|The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest||General Axton||Episode: "DNA Doomsday"|
|Dallas: J.R. Returns||Carter McKay||Television film|
|1998||Dallas: War of the Ewings||Carter McKay||Television film|
|2003||The Young and the Restless||Albert Miller||Episodes: #1.7762, #1.7763, #1.7764|
|2004||The Complete History of U.S. Wars 1700-2004||Host||8 episodes|
|2010||The Young and the Restless||Albert Miller (ghost)||Episode: #1.9553|
Awards and nominations
|1968||Academy Award||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor||Cool Hand Luke||Dragline||Won|
|Laurel Award||Male Supporting Performance|
|Golden Globe Award||Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture||Nominated|
|Laurel Award||Male Supporting Performance|