Edgar Kennedy

Edgar Kennedy


Also Known As
E Livingston Kennedy
Birth Place
Monterey, California, USA
April 26, 1890
November 09, 1948
Cause of Death
Throat Cancer


Prolific screen comedian Edgar Kennedy's trademark was the "slow burn," an expression of complete and utter frustration expressed through his furrowed brows and a meaty hand passed across his face, which he perfected over the course of a four-decade career that began in silent pictures and later came to include such classics as "Duck Soup" (1933), "Twentieth Century" (1934), "A Star is B...


Prolific screen comedian Edgar Kennedy's trademark was the "slow burn," an expression of complete and utter frustration expressed through his furrowed brows and a meaty hand passed across his face, which he perfected over the course of a four-decade career that began in silent pictures and later came to include such classics as "Duck Soup" (1933), "Twentieth Century" (1934), "A Star is Born" (1937) and "Unfaithfully Yours" (1948). Burly and balding, Kennedy played middle-class authority figures whose tenuous grip on maintaining the status quo, whether in their homes or the public, was undone by some of the best comedians in show business - from Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy to the Marx Brothers and Wheeler and Woolsey. Most of these turns were supporting and even bit appearances, but Kennedy was also the star of a lengthy series of shorts for RKO in which his Everyman failed to keep the peace in his own house. By the 1940s, Kennedy's ubiquitous presence made him a favorite of film fans and critics alike, who delighted in seeing his slow burn exercised to perfection, even if only for a few moments of screen time. At the time of his death in 1948, Kennedy had filmed some 100 features and over 200 shorts, each of which showcased a top comic talent who gave his all to losing his cool.

Born April 26, 1890 in Monterey County, CA, Edgar Livingston Kennedy spent much of his early teens criss-crossing the United States to indulge a case of wanderlust. He had been a skilled boxer while a student at San Rafael High School, and supported himself as a professional light heavyweight for much of 1911 and 1912. When not in the ring, where he allegedly went 14 rounds with champion Jack Dempsey, Kennedy was a singer in various musical shows throughout the Midwest while supporting himself with various odd jobs. The performing bug clearly left the greatest impression on Kennedy, who returned to California in 1912 to try his hand at the nascent movie industry. He became a member of producer Mack Sennett's repertory company in 1914, appearing frequently as a background or supporting player in dozens of short comedies between 1912 and 1921. Among his credits with Sennett was "Tillie's Punctured Romance" (1914) opposite Charlie Chaplin, as well as numerous vehicles for Fatty Arbuckle and Mabel Normand.

After Kennedy's contract with Sennett expired in 1921, he decided to work as a freelancer for other studios, though he continued to turn up in Sennett pictures as a guest player for several years. In 1928, he signed with Sennett's main competitor, Hal Roach, where he worked steadily as a supporting player before gaining his first starring role in 1929's "A Pair of Tights." But Kennedy was best employed as easily frustrated, occasionally slow-witted civil servants, bosses and fathers, who were driven to the boiling point by such comic foils as Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chase. Kennedy also directed several two-reelers for Roach, most notably the Laurel and Hardy classics "From Soup to Nuts" (1928) and "You're Darn Tootin'" (1928).

Kennedy was dropped by Roach in 1930 due to an economy drive, but soon landed at RKO, where he starred in a series of short subjects unofficially titled "The Average Man." As suburban father and husband "Edgar Kennedy," his dizzy wife and extended family of freeloaders consistently drove him to the heights of distraction. The popular series, which eventually included 103 shorts filmed over a 17-year period, was a forerunner of the domestic situation comedy that would become staples of both radio and television in subsequent years. The success of the "Average Man" series helped to make Kennedy a favorite character actor in studio pictures, where he etched a number of memorably apoplectic supporting turns. He was an irate chairman of a peace conference in the Wheeler and Woolsey starrer "Diplomaniacs" (1933), and then reached the heights of irritation as a lemonade salesman targeted by Chico and Harpo Marx in the classic "Duck Soup" (1933). Kennedy could also be counted on to lend some levity to straight dramas like D.W. Griffith and Woody Van Dyke's "San Francisco" (1936) or "A Star is Born" (1937). On occasion, he even played against type, most notably in "The Falcon Strikes Back" (1943), where his genial puppeteer is revealed to be a murderer.

Kennedy continued to provide his slow burn in features well into the late '40s, including the Gene Kelly musical "Anchors Aweigh" (1945) and Harold Lloyd's final picture, "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock" (1948), as the bartender who concocted a drink that sent Lloyd into a daylong binge. The latter film was directed by screwball comedy legend Preston Sturges, who also helmed one of Kennedy's final screen turns, as a music-loving police detective in "Unfaithfully Yours" (1948). Kennedy succumbed to throat cancer on Nov. 9, 1948. At the time of his passing, he was reportedly scheduled to appear at a testimonial dinner given in his honor three days later. His last feature, released posthumously, was the Michael Curtiz musical "My Dream is Yours" (1949), which starred Doris Day and Jack Carson.

By Paul Gaita



Director (Feature Film)

The Reel Virginian (1924)

Cast (Feature Film)

When Comedy Was King (1960)
The Golden Age of Comedy (1958)
My Dream Is Yours (1949)
Uncle Charlie
Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
Variety Time (1948)
Edgar Kennedy
Heaven Only Knows (1947)
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947)
Jake, the bartender
Anchors Aweigh (1945)
Police captain
Captain Tugboat Annie (1945)
Captain Bullwinkle
It Happened Tomorrow (1944)
Inspector Mulrooney
The Great Alaskan Mystery (1944)
Hitler's Madman (1943)
Crazy House (1943)
The Girl from Monterrey (1943)
Doc Hogan
Crime Smasher (1943)
Air Raid Wardens (1943)
Joe Bledsoe
The Falcon Strikes Back (1943)
Smiley Dugan
The Girl From Monterey (1943)
In Old California (1942)
Kegs McKeever
There's One Born Every Minute (1942)
Moe Carson
Hillbilly Blitzkrieg (1942)
Sgt. Gatling
Private Snuffy Smith (1942)
The sergeant [Cooper]
Pardon My Stripes (1942)
Warden Bingham
Blondie in Society (1941)
Public Enemies (1941)
The Bride Wore Crutches (1941)
Captain McGuire
Too Many Blondes (1941)
Hotel manager
Sandy Is a Lady (1940)
Officer Rafferty
Li'l Abner (1940)
Cornelius Cornpone
Margie (1940)
Remedy for Riches (1940)
George Browning
Dr. Christian Meets the Women (1940)
George Browning
Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940)
Sheriff Gregory
Sandy Gets Her Man (1940)
Fire Chief Galvin
The Quarterback (1940)
Little Accident (1939)
Paper hanger
Charlie McCarthy, Detective (1939)
Inspector Dailey
Laugh It Off (1939)
Judge McGuinnis
It's a Wonderful World (1939)
Lieutenant Miller
Everything's on Ice (1939)
Joe Barton
Scandal Street (1938)
Daniel Webster Smith
The Black Doll (1938)
Sheriff Renick
Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus (1938)
Arthur Bailey
Hollywood Hotel (1938)
When You're in Love (1937)
Michael O'Brien
A Star Is Born (1937)
True Confession (1937)
Double Wedding (1937)
Super-Sleuth (1937)
Lieutenant Garrison
When's Your Birthday? (1937)
Mr. [Henry] Basscombe
San Francisco (1936)
Robin Hood of El Dorado (1936)
Sheriff Judd
Fatal Lady (1936)
Rudolf Hochstetter
Three Men on a Horse (1936)
The Bride Comes Home (1936)
Mad Holiday (1936)
[Sergeant] Donovan
Yours for the Asking (1936)
The Return of Jimmy Valentine (1936)
It's Up to You (1936)
Elmer Block
Small Town Girl (1936)
Captain Mack
Living on Velvet (1935)
In Person (1935)
Rendezvous at Midnight (1935)
Little Big Shot (1935)
$1,000 a Minute (1935)
Woman Wanted (1935)
The Cowboy Millionaire (1935)
Persimmon Bates
Kid Millions (1934)
All of Me (1934)
We're Rich Again (1934)
The Silver Streak (1934)
Twentieth Century (1934)
[Oscar] McGonigle
Gridiron Flash (1934)
"Pinkie" Thurston
The Marines Are Coming (1934)
Buck Martin
Flirting with Danger (1934)
Jimmy Pierson
King Kelly of the U.S.A. (1934)
Happy [Moran]
Money Means Nothing (1934)
Herbert Green
Heat Lightning (1934)
The husband
Duck Soup (1933)
Street vendor
Professional Sweetheart (1933)
Tillie and Gus (1933)
Diplomaniacs (1933)
Presiding delegate
Scarlet River (1933)
Sam Gilroy
Cross Fire (1933)
Editor Wimpy
Son of the Border (1933)
Carnival Boat (1932)
Penguin Pool Murder (1932)
Hold 'Em Jail (1932)
The warden [Elmer Jones]
Little Orphan Annie (1932)
Daddy Warbucks
Rockabye (1932)
Westward Passage (1932)
Bad Company (1931)
Quick Millions (1931)
They Had To See Paris (1929)
Editor Eggers
Wedding Bill$ (1927)
The Wrong Mr. Wright (1927)
My Old Dutch (1926)
Bill Sproat
The Golden Princess (1925)
Gewilliker Hay
His People (1925)
Thomas Nolan
The Night Message (1924)
Lem Beeman
Mabel's Wilful Way (1915)
Wished on Mabel (1915)
Fatty and Mabel at the San Diego Exposition (1915)
Fatty's Tintype Tangle (1915)
Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)
Restaurant owner
The Knockout (1914)
Fatty and the Bathing Beauties (1913)
Fatty Joins the Force (1913)

Director (Short)

Bigger and Better (1930)
Fifty Million Husbands (1930)

Cast (Short)

It's Your Move (1945)
'Taint Legal (1940)
Gasoloons (1935)
Help Wanted, Female (1931)
Love Fever (1931)
High Gear (1931)
Fifty Million Husbands (1930)
Dollar Dizzy (1930)
Girl Shock (1930)
The Big Kick (1930)
Night Owls (1930)
Doctor's Orders (1930)
The Head Guy (1930)
The Real McCoy (1930)
The First Seven Years (1930)
Ladrones ("Night Owls", Spanish) (1930)
Bigger and Better (1930)
Looser Than Loose (1930)
Ladies Last (1930)
The Big Squawk (1929)
Hotter Than Hot (1929)
Perfect Day (1929)
Bacon Grabbers (1929)
Angora Love (1929)
Great Gobs (1929)
The Boy Friend (1928)
The Finishing Touch (1928)
Hearts and Flowers (1919)
His Bitter Pill (1916)
Madcap Ambrose (1916)
The Noise of Bombs (1914)
Ambrose's First Falsehood (1914)
Mabel's Dramatic Career (1913)
The Speed Kings (1913)
Bangville Police (1913)

Life Events


Movie Clip

Twentieth Century (1934) -- (Movie Clip) I Despise Temperament! Bracketed by press agent O'Malley and business manager Webb (Roscoe Karns, Walter Connnolly), who work for her semi-fugitive former boss (who's also on board), actress Lily (Carole Lombard) isn't happy with her assistant (Dale Fuller), her boyfriend (Ralph Forbes) or the train service in Howard Hawks' Twentieth Century, 1934.
Twentieth Century (1934) -- (Movie Clip) Tell Her I'm Dying! Still on the train, nearing the climax, impresario Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore) conspires with his aides (Roscoe Karns and Walter Connolly) to persuade Lily (Carole Lombard) to sign a new contract in Howard Hawks' Twentieth Century, 1934.
Penguin Pool Murder (1932) -- (Movie Clip) I Believe The Word Is "Scrammed" Upstairs at the aquarium, debriefing witnesses, James Gleason as cop Piper tangles with Edna May Oliver as the lead, schoolteacher-snoop Miss Withers, interviewing potential suspect Seymour (Donald Cook), as the cop Donovan (Edgar Kennedy) stops another crime, in Penguin Pool Murder, 1932.
Penguin Pool Murder (1932) -- (Movie Clip) Never Try To Evade The Law Foul play already underway, Joe Hermano the escaping thief, then the delightful introduction, George Archainbaud directing, of Edna May Oliver as schoolteacher Miss Withers in the first feature in the series based on Stuart Palmer’s novels, shot inside the old New York Aquarium, James Donlan the guard, Edgar Kennedy the cop, in Penguin Pool Murder, 1932.
Star Is Born, A (1937) -- (Movie Clip) You Know What Your Chances Are Looks to be the real office of the real Central Casting in Burbank as Esther (Janet Gaynor), in town for about a month, gets tough love from Peggy Wood, then her landlord (Edgar Kennedy) and meets new fellow tenant Danny (Andy Devine), early in David Selznick's A Star Is Born, 1937.
True Confession (1937) -- (Movie Clip) When You Don't Come Out Helen (Carole Lombard), with pal Daisy (Una Merkel), has to sneak back into the house she fled when the owner got grabby while interviewing her for a job, not knowing the guy has been murdered, Edgar Kennedy leading the cops, in True Confession, 1937, co-starring Fred MacMurray.
Gridiron Flash (1934) -- (Movie Clip) Keep Him In School Coach Eversmith (Joe Sauers) in a panic, trying to keep mischievous recruited convict Tommy (Eddie Quillan) from quitting the college football team, seeking help from cop Pinkie (Edgar Kennedy) and co-ed Jane (Betty Furness), in the early Pandro Berman production Gridiron Flash, 1934.
Hitler's Madman (1943) -- (Movie Clip) Sworn To Destroy Nazism Native of Lidice, Bohemia Karel Vavra (Alan Curtis) has parachuted in, and tricked fellow citizens to into a meeting about resisting Nazi occupiers, with girlfriend Jamila (Patricia Morison), early in Hitler's Madman, 1943.