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George Kennedy, the strong good guy

A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia

George Kennedy’s headshot | Pencil on paper

George Kennedy, the strong good guy

“Dragline” in Cool Hand Luke and officer Bumper Morgan in The Blue Knight TV show

George Kennedy contributed to make bigger the list of great supporting actors who endorse the movie stars and help them to be what they are; they wouldn’t be there without people like him by their side. Let’s pay tribute to this 6ft 4in tall, sandy haired who appeared in more than 175 movies, remembering not only some of those titles where he did so well, but also the movie stars he went along with:

  • Charade (1963), directed by Stanley Donen. George Kennedy plays the role of villain Herman Scobie. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn were there with him (and also in supporting roles, James Coburn and Walter Matthau).
  • Cool Hand Luke (1967), directed by Stuart Rosenberg. George Kennedy wins an Academy Award as best supporting actor. His character “Dragline”, a tough prison veteran who fights Paul Newman and then becomes his most faithful follower.
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), directed by Michael Cimino. Mr. Kennedy plays another villain here, Red Leary, one who hates and hits Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges). Clint Eastwood (Thunderbolt) was the other film star.
  • The Eiger Sanction (1975), directed by Clint Eastwood. Again a supporting role (Ben Bowman) in a Clint Eastwood film.
  • The Naked Gun (1988), directed by David Zucker. George Kennedy is Captain Ed Hocken, the dim-witted boss of Detective Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen).

 

Some biographical information about George Kennedy

George Harris Kennedy was born in New York on February the 18th 1925. He began his career as an actor at the early age of two years old when he joined the musical adaptation of a very popular comic strip, Bringing Up Father.

George lost his father, a bandleader, at the age of four, so he was brought up by his mother, a dancer, and spent much of his childhood acting in children’s radio productions, where he even hosted his own show.

During Second World War, George Kennedy served in the US Army in Europe, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and reenlisted and served with the Armed Forces Radio Network in Germany, Japan and Korea. He was forced to retire in 1959 due to back health issues.

George Kennedy’s screen debut arrived in 1960, with a short (uncredited) appearance in Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960) and began to become a popular actor in 1963’s Charade, with Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, James Coburn and Walter Matthau.

60’s were the years when he played important supporting roles in disaster movies such as the Airport films or Earthquake, with Charlton Heston, and in the 70’s he starred his own TV show for two seasons (1975-1976), The Blue Knight, where he played the role of Bumper Morgan, a veteran LA police officer who patrols the streets in uniform.

Another Kennedy’s important appearance in a TV series was as a cattle rancher and rival to JR Ewing (Larry Hagman) in Dallas, playing the role of Carter McKay.

George Kennedy was the author of two thrillers, Murder on Location (1983), and Murder on High (1984) and he also wrote his autobiography in 2011, Trust Me.

He died on the morning of February 28. He had four adopted children, including his granddaughter Taylor, whose mother, one of his own children, had become addicted to drugs and alcohol.