George Kennedy

George Kennedy


Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
February 18, 1925
February 28, 2016


A versatile character actor for over five decades, Academy Award winner George Kennedy brought both gravity and boundless energy to a considerable list of memorable pictures ranging from "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) and "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) to the campy "Airport" pictures and the "Naked Gun" franchise. A near two-decade stint in the military preceded his acting pursuits, where he logged n...

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Family & Companions

Joan McCarthy
Born c. 1931.


During WWII, Kennedy served as an Armed Forces Radio and TV officer. He also opened the first Army Information Office in NYC which provided assistance to service-oriented films and TV programs.

Kennedy underwent an emergency triple-bypass surgery on September 30, 2002. He originally entered the hospital for a hip replacement, but doctors found that sleep apnea had weakened Kennedy's heart and lungs.


A versatile character actor for over five decades, Academy Award winner George Kennedy brought both gravity and boundless energy to a considerable list of memorable pictures ranging from "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) and "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) to the campy "Airport" pictures and the "Naked Gun" franchise. A near two-decade stint in the military preceded his acting pursuits, where he logged numerous appearances as heavies and rough-hewn types in pictures like "Charade" (1963) and "The Sons of Katie Elder" (1964). However, his turn as a tough Southern prisoner who becomes Paul Newman's disciple of sorts in "Cool Hand Luke" brought him both an Oscar and a career boost that included heroic turns in all four "Airport" films, "The Boston Strangler" (1968) and "The Eiger Sanction" (1975). Kennedy's career went into decline in the mid-1970s, though there were occasional flashes of offbeat brilliance; most notably the slapstick "Naked Gun" series. Kennedy's long and impressive body of work surpassed any career dips, and he remained one of Hollywood's most dependable and well-regarded talents. George Kennedy died at his home in Boise, Idaho on February 28, 2016. He was 91.

George Harris Kennedy, Jr. was born into a New York-based show business family on Feb. 18, 1925. Kennedy's father was a musician and orchestra leader who died when his son was only four years old, leaving him to be raised by his mother, former ballet dancer Helen Kieselbach. He had made his acting debut two years before in a touring production of "Bringing Up Father" and would continue to perform as a radio actor until the outbreak of World War II, when he joined the Army. The service would occupy the next 16 years of his life, during which he was instrumental in establishing the Army Information Office, which provided technical service to the film and television industries, and spun records as a disk jockey on Armed Forces Radio.

A back injury ended Kennedy's career in the military, but it provided him with a direct route back into show business. He served as a technical advisor for the popular "Phil Silvers Show" (CBS, 1955-59) and landed a few uncredited appearances on the series as well. The experience inspired him to try his hand at acting. In the late 1950s he began appearing in bit and supporting roles on television series. His burly frame and deep voice made him ideal for crooked cowpokes, gunmen and the occasional tough detective in Western and crime series throughout the early 1960s; he also made his screen debut around this time as one of the rebel soldiers who joins "Spartacus" (1960) in the rousing conclusion of Stanley Kubrick's acclaimed epic. Within a few years, he was handling more substantial roles in features like "Lonely Are the Brave" (1962) and "Charade" (1963) opposite Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

Like all journeyman actors, Kennedy worked in every possible genre, from high-gloss thrillers like "Charade" and "Mirage" (1965) to low-budget horror flicks like "Strait-Jacket" (1964) and scores of Westerns, including the John Wayne classic, "The Sons of Katie Elder" (1965). Kennedy's on-screen roles continued to subsist largely of tough, loud-mouthed rogues and authority figures, though there were occasional forays into more sympathetic parts, like the compassionate Union officer in the anti-war film "Shenandoah" (1965), starring his acting idol, Jimmy Stewart.

Kennedy's onscreen assignments continued to grow in stature throughout the 1960s. He reunited with Stewart in the air crash drama "Flight of the Phoenix" (1966), then lent solid support to such major players as Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes and Robert Ryan in "The Dirty Dozen" (1967), as well as Michael Caine and Jane Fonda in "Hurry Sundown" (1967). That same year, the 42-year-old actor finally landed his big break as Paul Newman's chain-gang antagonist and eventual companion in Stuart Rosenberg's "Cool Hand Luke" (1967). The role afforded Kennedy a rare opportunity to show all the colors in his acting palette - menacing at first, but later thoughtful, repentant and even worshipful towards Newman's unbreakable convict. The turn won Kennedy an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1967, and ushered him to the forefront of the screen acting community.

By 1970, Kennedy had finally broken out of the supporting acting mold to land his first lead in "Guns of the Magnificent Seven" (1970), as the gun for hire played by Yul Brynner in "The Magnificent Seven" (1960). That same year, he made his first appearance as dogged airplane mechanic Joe Patroni in the glossy disaster drama, "Airport" (1970). After receiving a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, Kennedy revisited the character in its three ludicrous sequels, "Airport 1975" (1975), "Airport '77" (1977) and "The Concorde: Airport '79" (1979), in which Patroni finally got to pilot a doomed flight. There were also impressive appearances opposite Clint Eastwood - once as his nemesis in "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" (1973) and later as his ally in "The Eiger Sanction" (1975) - and a single-season stint as a fair-minded beat cop on the TV series, "The Blue Knight" (CBS, 1975-76).

The mid-1970s marked a precipitous decline in Kennedy's career. Gone, suddenly, were the roles in major Hollywood movies; replaced instead were a string of low-budget horror pictures, comedies and exploitation flicks. The worst of the lot was John Derek's jaw-dropping "Bolero" (1984) which starred his ubiquitous wife Bo in various states of undress, but "Wacko" (1982), "Uninvited" (1988) and "Demonwarp" (1989) certainly gave the Derek flesh-fest a run for its money. Television provided some degree of respect for Kennedy's talents; he enjoyed a recurring role on "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991) as a oil company foil for Larry Hagman's J.R. Ewing, and there were quality TV projects like "The Jesse Owens Story" (1984) and "Backstairs at the White House" (NBC, 1979), in which he played President Warren G. Harding.

Fortunately, this low-budget material, which dominated Kennedy's output well into the 21st century, eventually transformed industry perception of him into a camp figure, which in turn afforded him a new audience as a broad comic performer. He had shown flashes of ability in that arena in Albert Brooks' "Modern Romance" (1981), in which he played himself as the star of an atrocious science fiction film, as well as serving as host of a 1981 episode of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), but his turn as Captain Ed Hocken, the slow-witted, food-loving sidekick to Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin in "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" (1988) and its two successful sequels - The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994) - were particularly spirited. In fact, his performance as Hocken nearly sent up that of Nielsen's, which was no small feat. Because of his success with "Naked Gun," he was later asked to join his "Dirty Dozen" co-stars Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown and Clint Walker to voice an aggressive action toy brought to life in Joe Dante's underrated sci-fi comedy, "Small Soldiers" (1997). He also made for an ebullient pitchman for Breathasure tablets in a series of humorous spots in the late 1990s.

Kennedy retired from acting in 1998, but returned in 2003 to a regular routine of television and low-budget features, including a stint on "The Young and the Restless" (CBS, 1973- ). A pleasant exception at this time was Wim Wenders' "Don't Come Knocking" (2003), which cast him as the frustrated director of a trouble-plagued Western. In addition to his acting roles, Kennedy was credited as author on two mystery novels, Murder on Location (1981) and Murder on High (1984), both of which featured Kennedy as amateur sleuth on the trail of killers in a Hollywood setting rife with his many famous co-stars. An uncredited ghost author penned both novels. George Kennedy died at his home in Boise, Idaho on February 28, 2016 of natural causes; a spokesman announced that the 91-year-old had been suffering from heart disease.



Cast (Feature Film)

The Gambler (2014)
Sands of Oblivion (2007)
Don't Come Knocking (2005)
Dennis the Menace Strikes Again (1998)
Dallas: War of the Ewings (1998)
Small Soldiers (1998)
Cats Don't Dance (1997)
Dallas: J.R. Returns (1996)
Carter Mckay
River of Stone (1996)
Distant Justice (1995)
Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)
Driving Me Crazy (1991)
Hangfire (1991)
Mayumi the Virgin Terrorist (1991)
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (1991)
Brain Dead (1990)
Good Cops, Bad Cops: The Biggest Heist in History (1990)
Hired to Kill (1990)
Fatal Skies (1990)
Bradford Kelly
Ministry of Vengeance (1989)
The Terror Within (1989)
Private Roads (No Trespassing) (1988)
Nightmare at Noon (1988)
Sheriff Hanks
Born to Race (1988)
Vincent Duplain
Demonwarp (1988)
Bill Crafton
Esmeralda Bay (1988)
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
Uninvited (1988)
What Price Victory (1988)
Creepshow 2 (1987)
Radioactive Dreams (1986)
Liberty (1986)
The Delta Force (1986)
Father O'Malley
International Airport (1985)
Savage Dawn (1985)
Tick Rand
Rigged (1985)
Benjamin Wheeler
Bolero (1984)
Chattanooga Choo Choo (1984)
Wacko (1983)
The Jupiter Menace (1982)
A Rare Breed (1981)
Nathan Hill
Search & Destroy (1981)
Anthony Fusqua
The Archer: Fugitive From the Empire (1981)
Modern Romance (1981)
Just Before Dawn (1981)
Roy Mclean
Death Ship (1980)
Captain Ashland
Hotwire (1980)
Virus (1980)
Steel (1980)
The Double Mcguffin (1979)
The Concorde--Airport '79 (1979)
Mean Dog Blues (1978)
Brass Target (1978)
Death on the Nile (1978)
Andrew Pennington
Airport '77 (1977)
Ningen no shomei (1977)
The Human Factor (1975)
The Eiger Sanction (1975)
Airport '75 (1975)
Thunderbolt And Lightfoot (1974)
Red Leary
A Cry in the Wilderness (1974)
Sam Hadley
Deliver Us From Evil (1973)
Walter "Cowboy" Mcadams
Cahill, U.S. Marshal (1973)
Lost Horizon (1972)
A Great American Tragedy (1972)
Fools' Parade (1971)
[Dallas] Doc Council
The Priest Killer (1971)
Sarge Swanson
Dirty Dingus Magee (1970)
Hoke Birdsill
...tick...tick...tick... (1970)
John Little
Zigzag (1970)
Paul R. Cameron
Airport (1970)
Pat Patroni
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969)
John McKay
Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)
Gaily, Gaily (1969)
Axel P. Johanson
The Ballad of Josie (1968)
Arch Ogden
The Boston Strangler (1968)
Phil DiNatale
The Pink Jungle (1968)
Sammy Ryderbeit
Bandolero! (1968)
Sheriff Johnson
The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968)
Hurry Sundown (1967)
Sheriff Coombs
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Maj. Max Armbruster
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
Mirage (1965)
Shenandoah (1965)
Colonel Fairchild
In Harm's Way (1965)
Colonel Gregory
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
Strait-Jacket (1964)
Leo Krause
McHale's Navy (1964)
Henri Le Clerc
Island of the Blue Dolphins (1964)
Aleut captain
The Man From the Diners' Club (1963)
Charade (1963)
Herman Scobie
Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
The Silent Witness (1962)
Gus Jordan
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1961)
Nathan Dillon

Cast (Special)

The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998)
Jimmy Stewart: Hometown Hero (1993)
The Naked Gun 2-1/2: Looking Down the Barrel of Comedy (1991)
Bliss (1984)
Counterattack: Crime in America (1982)
Counterattack: Crime in America (1982)
Never Say Never (1979)
Harry Walter

Music (Special)

Road Trip to Music Mania (2000)

Cast (Short)

The Lion Roars Again (1975)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Monster Makers (2003)
National Lampoon's Men in White (1998)
Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story (1992)
Counterforce (1991)
Vince Colby
The Gunfighters (1987)
The Jesse Owens Story (1984)
Backstairs at the White House (1979)

Life Events


Made TV debut on "The Phil Silvers Show/Sgt. Bilko" (CBS), also acted as technical adviser


Feature film debut, "Little Shepard of Kingdom Come"


TV-movie debut, "See How They Run" (NBC)


Breakthrough screen role, "Cool Hand Luke"


TV series debut as regular, Father Samuel Swanson in "Sarge" (NBC)


Played title role in series "The Blue Knight" (CBS)


Hosted short-lived public affairs series "Counterattack: Crime in America" (ABC)


Landed a recurring appearance on CBS drama "Dallas" as Carter McKay


Cast as Ed Hocken in "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!"


Reprised Hocken role in "The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear"


Third outing as Hocken, "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult"


Reprised role for the CBS movie "Dallas: War of the Ewings"


Made a cameo in the comedy feature "View from the Top"


Joined the cast of "The Young and the Restless" (CBS)


Cast in Wim Wenders' "Don't Come Knocking" opposite Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange; Shepard wrote screenplay


Appeared alongside Michael Madsen, David Carradine, and Danny Trejo in "Six Days in Paradise"


Co-starred in the ensemble family drama "Another Happy Day"

Photo Collections

Dirty Dingus Mcgee - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Dirty Dingus Mcgee (1970), starring Frank Sinatra. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.


Movie Clip

Cool Hand Luke (1967) -- (Movie Clip) Plastic Jesus Luke (Paul Newman) receives word in prison that his mother has died, and sings a loosely religious song in director Stuart Rosenberg's Cool Hand Luke, 1967.
Brass Target (1978) -- (Movie Clip) Up Your Sweet Red Commie... Profane especially for the period but full marks to George Kennedy, in high octane portrayal of General George Patton, in post-War Germany, tangling with a fictional Russian general (Reinhold Olszewski) over military justice and stolen Allied gold, in Brass Target, 1978.
Good Guys And The Bad Guys, The (1969) -- (Movie Clip) Running For Governor? Corny ending after the crooks are caught in the train crash staged outside Chama, New Mexico, then-governor David Cargo uses his own name interviewing the fictional mayor (Martin Balsam), then ex-lawman Robert Mitchum, reformed crook George Kennedy, and new marshal Dick Peabody wrap things up, in The Good Guys And The Bad Guys, 1969.
Good Guys And The Bad Guys, The (1969) -- (Movie Clip) Opening, Marshal Flagg Opening with the custom-written title song (by William Lava and Ned Washington, sung by Glenn Yarbrough), exploiting the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, which was what drew writer-producers Ronald Cohen and Dennis Shryack to Chama, New Mexico, and introducing Robert Mitchum, in The Good Guys And The Bad Guys, 1969.
Good Guys And The Bad Guys, The (1969) -- (Movie Clip) Stay Here And Hold His Hand Kicked out of his job as marshal in nearby Progress but determined to stop the gang that includes washed-up bandit McKay (George Kennedy), Flagg (Robert Mitchum) attempts an arrest but is thwarted by Deuce (John Davis Chandler) and his self-assured boss Waco (David Carradine), in The Good Guys And The Bad Guys, 1969.
Flight Of The Phoenix, The (1965) -- (Movie Clip) Eat The Monkey Brit officer Harris (Peter Finch) organizes, pilot Towns (James Stewart) his ally, accountant Dan Duryea frets, Ernest Borgnine surrenders his radio, Hardy Kruger interferes, Richard Attenborough, Christian Marquand, George Kennedy, Ian Bannen in the mix, in The Flight Of The Phoenix, 1965.
Flight Of The Phoenix, The (1965) -- (Movie Clip) Send Up Some Smoke Stranded in the Libyan desert, survivors George Kennedy and Ian Bannen try to dissuade Alex Montoya from joining Harris (Peter Finch) to seek water, pilot Towns (James Stewart) and Moran (Richard Attenborough) seeing them off, in Robert Aldrich's The Flight Of The Phoenix, 1965.
Strait-Jacket (1964) -- (Movie Clip) Raised On A Farm Carole (Diane Baker) chats with Aunt & Uncle (Rochelle Hudson, Leif Erickson) about the bad dream her reformed axe-murderess mother Lucy (Joan Crawford) had, she meantime visiting farm hand Leo (George Kennedy), in William Castle's Strait-Jacket, 1964.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) -- (Movie Clip) Set Yourself Free Introduction of the Glaser Brothers theme song (Set Yourself Free, by Willis Hoover), as we’ve learned that Mississippi sheriff Little (George Kennedy) lost the election to a black man (Jim Brown), and manages his disgruntled deputies (Don Stroud, Mills Watson), early in director Ralph Nelson’s …tick…tick…tick…, 1970.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) -- (Movie Clip) There's A Rumor Goin' Round Opening director Ralph Nelson’s uneven and sometimes brilliant feature from James Lee Barrett’s original screenplay, menacing Dub Taylor as Junior fries an egg and George Kennedy begins his striking performance as Mississippi sheriff John Little, in …tick…tick…tick…, 1970, starring Jim Brown.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) -- (Movie Clip) What If You Can't? Director Ralph Nelson inserts a song from the soundtrack by country music pioneers The Glaser Brothers, as new Mississippi sheriff Jim Price (Jim Brown) arrives to take over, predecessor Little (George Kennedy), deputies (Don Stroud, Mills Watson) and mayor Parks (Fredric March) receiving, in ...tick...tick...tick..., 1970.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) -- (Movie Clip) About Your Complexion Intriguing fare as newly-ousted Mississippi sheriff Little (George Kennedy) and wife Julia (Lynn Carlin) try to laugh, then replacement Price (Jim Brown) at work with town drunk (Roy Glenn), in director Ralph Nelson's ...tick...tick...tick..., 1970.


Guns Of The Magnificent Seven (1969) -- Theatrical Trailer George Kennedy takes over Yul Brynner’s character “Chris,” but there’s no sign of “Vin,” (first Steve McQueen then Robert Fuller, though he survived The Magnificent Seven, 1960 and the first sequel, Return Of The Seven, 1966), and the plot goes a whole different way, in Guns Of The Magnificent Seven, 1969.
Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad, The (1988) -- (Original Trailer) Trailer for the first of the hit Leslie Nielsen features, derived from the failed TV series from the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team that made Airplane, (1980), with O.J. Simpson, Priscilla Presley and Ricardo Montalban, The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad, 1988.
Good Guys And The Bad Guys, The (1969) -- (Original Trailer) Original trailer for director Burt Kennedy’s comic-Western The Good Guys And The Bad Guys, 1969, with Robert Mitchum, George Kennedy, David Carradine and Tina Louise.
Dirty Dingus Magee (1970) -- (Original Trailer) Original trailer for the Frank Sinatra comic-Western Dirty Dingus Magee, 1970, featuring George Kennedy, Anne Jackson and Michele Carey, directed by Burt Kennedy.
Strait-Jacket - (Original Trailer) It's been 20 years since Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) murdered her husband with an axe. Is she through cutting her family down to size? Get the Strait-Jacket (1964).
Gaily, Gaily - (Original Trailer) Beau Bridges plays a young man coming of age in corrupt 1910's Chicago in Gaily, Gaily (1969) based on a novel by Ben Hecht (The Front Page).
Death on the Nile - (Original Trailer) Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) investigates the murder of an heiress during an Egyptian tour in Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile (1978).
Dirty Dozen, The - (Original Trailer) A renegade officer trains a group of misfits for a crucial mission behind enemy lines in The Dirty Dozen (1967) starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Jim Brown.
Cahill, United States Marshal - (Original Trailer) John Wayne stars as a tough lawman who has to bring in his own sons for train robbery in Cahill, U.S. Marshall (1973).
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte - (Academy Preview Trailer) Heads will roll as Bette Davis fights to keep her family's secrets in Robert Aldrich's Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).
Guns of the Magnificent Seven - (Pan-and-scan trailer) In Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), a new team assemble to rescue a captive rebel leader.
Sons of Katie Elder, The - (Original Trailer) John Wayne stars in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) about four sons of a ranch owner out to avenge his death.


George Kennedy Sr
Composer, conductor, band leader.
Helen Meade
Ballet dancer.
Shaunna Kennedy
Adopted; born c. 1964; has struggled with substance abuse; incarcerated in Southern California as a chronic offender.
Taylor Kennedy
Born c. 1994; adopted by Kennedy and his wife Joan.


Joan McCarthy
Born c. 1931.



During WWII, Kennedy served as an Armed Forces Radio and TV officer. He also opened the first Army Information Office in NYC which provided assistance to service-oriented films and TV programs.

Kennedy underwent an emergency triple-bypass surgery on September 30, 2002. He originally entered the hospital for a hip replacement, but doctors found that sleep apnea had weakened Kennedy's heart and lungs.