George Kennedy

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George Kennedy
George Kennedy 1975.JPG
Publicity photo of George Kennedy, 1975
BornGeorge Harris Kennedy, Jr.
(1925-02-18) February 18, 1925 (age 89)
New York City, New York, U.S.
ResidenceEagle, Ada County, Idaho
EducationChaminade High School in Mineola, New York
Alma materTarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas
Years active1927-1943, 1955–present
Home townNew York City, New York

Norma Wurman (1959–1971; divorced)

Joan McCarthy (1978–present)
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For other uses, see George Kennedy (disambiguation).
George Kennedy
George Kennedy 1975.JPG
Publicity photo of George Kennedy, 1975
BornGeorge Harris Kennedy, Jr.
(1925-02-18) February 18, 1925 (age 89)
New York City, New York, U.S.
ResidenceEagle, Ada County, Idaho
EducationChaminade High School in Mineola, New York
Alma materTarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas
Years active1927-1943, 1955–present
Home townNew York City, New York

Norma Wurman (1959–1971; divorced)

Joan McCarthy (1978–present)

George Harris Kennedy, Jr.[1] (born February 18, 1925) is an American actor who has appeared in more than two hundred film and television productions. He is perhaps best known for four of his roles: as the convict "Dragline" in Cool Hand Luke, for which he won an Academy Award; as airline mechanic Joe Patroni in all four of the 1970s Airport disaster films; as Captain Ed Hocken in the Naked Gun series of comedy films; and as corrupt oil tycoon Carter McKay on the original Dallas television series.

Early life[edit]

Kennedy was born 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.[2] He was raised by his mother, Helen A. (née Kieselbach), a ballet dancer.[1][3] His maternal grandfather was a German immigrant; his ancestry also includes Irish and English.[1]

Kennedy made his stage debut at the age of two, later becoming a radio performer. Kennedy put aside show business during World War II and served in the United States Army for sixteen years, having seen combat and working in the Armed Forces radio. He was involved with the opening of the first Army Information Office,[4] which provided technical assistance to films and television shows.[4] After retiring from the Army because of a back injury, Kennedy found his way back to the entertainment industry.


Promotional photo of Kennedy for the TV series Sarge, 1971

Kennedy became a technical adviser for the television series The Phil Silvers Show, where after encouragement from Silvers his acting career began with a few one-line parts.[4] After a very brief appearance in the 1960 blockbuster Spartacus, his film career began in 1961 in The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. He then appeared in several prominent Hollywood movies, including Charade (1963) opposite Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, and James Coburn; "Strait-Jacket" (1964) opposite Joan Crawford and Diane Baker, 1964's Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, opposite Bette Davis, and in such popular 1965 films as the crash-survivor drama The Flight of the Phoenix with James Stewart and the war story In Harm's Way with John Wayne.

He made numerous television appearances on such programs as The Andy Griffith Show, Peter Gunn, Bonanza, McHale's Navy and Gunsmoke. Kennedy played George Spangler in the 1963 Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Greek Goddess." He portrayed the character "Blodgett" in a 1966 episode "Return to Lawrence" of the ABC western series The Legend of Jesse James, starring Christopher Jones in the title role. He also appeared on The Match Game as one of the panelists.

Then came a career-changing performance as Kennedy won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Cool Hand Luke (1967). He played "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.

He followed with films such as The Dirty Dozen, Bandolero! and The Boston Strangler. In 1970, he appeared in the Academy Award-winning disaster story Airport in which he played one of its key characters, airline troubleshooter Joe Patroni. He reprised this role in Airport 1975 and in two sequels.

Continuing to work with some of the biggest names in the business, Kennedy co-starred with Clint Eastwood in a pair of films, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and The Eiger Sanction and with an ensemble cast including Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner in the disaster film Earthquake. He was part of an all-star cast in the Agatha Christie mystery Death on the Nile in 1978, joining the likes of David Niven, Peter Ustinov, Angela Lansbury and Bette Davis.

Kennedy as Bumper Morgan in The Blue Knight, 1976

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 connecting in the comedy hit 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.

On television, Kennedy starred as Carter McKay in the CBS prime time serial Dallas (1978–1991), appearing from 1988-1991. In the late 1990s, he promoted Breathasure tablets in television commercials with the quote, "I never go anywhere without my Breathasure." Around this time, he reprised his role as McKay in the television films Dallas: JR Returns and Dallas: War of the Ewings. In 1996, he played himself on Wings. He was asked to reprise his role from Airport (much to his annoyance) by Brian Hackett (Steven Weber).

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 small film Don't Come Knocking, playing the director of an ill-fated western.


The handprints of George Kennedy in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

Kennedy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to motion pictures, located at 6352 Hollywood Blvd.

Writing career[edit]

Kennedy has written 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.

Personal life[edit]

Kennedy resides in Eagle in Ada County in southwestern Idaho. He is married to Joan McCarthy and has a daughter, Shaunna. The couple adopted their granddaughter, Taylor,[4] after the incarceration of the child's mother.


YearFilmRoleOther notes
1960SpartacusHakan Küçük(Hakunin)uncredited
1961The Little Shepherd of Kingdom ComeNathan Dillon
1962Lonely are the BraveDeputy Sheriff Gutierrez
1963The Silent WitnessGus Jordan
The Man from the Diner's ClubGeorge
CharadeHerman Scobie
1964McHale's NavyHenri Le Clerc
Island of the Blue DolphinsAleut Captain
Strait-JacketLeo Krause
Hush… Hush, Sweet CharlotteForeman
In Harm's WayColonel Gregory
The Flight of the PhoenixMike Bellamy
ShenandoahCol. Fairchild
The Sons of Katie ElderCurley
1967The Dirty DozenMajor Max Armbruster
Hurry SundownSheriff Coombs
Cool Hand LukeDraglineAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Laurel Award for Male Supporting Performance
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
The Ballad of JosieArch Ogden
1968The Pink JungleSammy Ryderbeit
The Legend of Lylah ClareMatt Burkeuncredited
The Boston StranglerPhil DiNatale
Bandolero!Sheriff Johnson
1969The Good Guys and the Bad GuysBig John McKay
Gaily, GailyJohanson
Guns of the Magnificent SevenChris
1970...tick...tick...tick...John Little
AirportJoe PatroniNominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated - Laurel Award for Male Supporting Performance
ZigzagPaul R. Cameron
Dirty Dingus MageeHerkimer 'Hoke' Birdsill
1971Fools' Parade'Doc' Council
1973Lost HorizonSam Cornelius
Cahill U.S. MarshalAbe Fraser
1974Sonic BoomA Man In The WildernessShort Film
A Cry in the WildernessSam HadleyTV movie
Thunderbolt and LightfootRed Leary
Airport 1975Joe Patroni
EarthquakeSgt. Lew Slade
1975The Eiger SanctionBen Bowman
The 'Human' FactorJohn Kinsdale
1977Airport '77Joe Patroni
Ningen no shōmeiKen Shuftan
1978Mean Dog BluesCaptain Omar Kinsman
Brass TargetGen. George S. Patton
Death on the NileAndrew Pennington
1979The Concorde ... Airport '79Capt. Joe Patroni
The Double McGuffinChief Talasek
Search and DestroyAnthony Fusqua
SteelBig Lew Cassidy
1980VirusAdmiral Conway
Death ShipAshland
HotwireFarley & Harley Fontenot
1981Just Before DawnRoy McLean
Modern RomanceHimself
1983WackoMr. Doctor Graves
1984A Rare BreedNathan Hill
Chattanooga Choo ChooBert
1985Radioactive DreamsSpade Chandler
Savage DawnTick Rand
The Gambler Part III: The Legend ContinuesGeneral Nelson MilesTV movie series
1986The Delta ForceFather O'Malley
1987Creepshow 2Ray Sprucesegment "Old Chief Wood'nhead"
1988Top LineHeinrich Holzmannreleased as Alien Terminator
Born to RaceVincent Duplain
Nightmare at NoonSheriff Hanks
UninvitedMike Harvey
EscuadrónVince Colby
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!Capt. Ed Hocken
DemonwarpBill Crafton
1989Ministry of VengeanceRev. Hughes
La Bahía esmeraldaWilson
The Terror WithinHal
1990Brain DeadVance
Hired to KillThomas
1991Intensive CareDr. Bruckner
Driving Me CrazyMcCready
The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of FearCaptain Ed Hocken
1992Distant JusticeTom Bradfield
1994River of Stone
Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final InsultCaptain Ed Hocken
1997Bayou GhostOfficer Lowe
Cats Don't DanceL.B. Mammothvoice
1998Small SoldiersBrick Bazookavoice
Dennis the Menace Strikes AgainGrandpa Johnson
2003View from the TopPassenger Requesting Vodkauncredited
2005Three Bad MenEd Fiske
TruceDr. Peter Gannon
Don't Come KnockingDirector
2007Sands of OblivionJohn Tevis
2008The Man Who Came BackJudge Duke
2011Another Happy DayJoe

Television series[edit]


YearTitleRoleOther notes
1960"Gunsmoke" The BlacksmithEmilS06E02
1961Bat MastersonSherriffEpisode: The Fourth Man
1961Have Gun Will TravelTarnitzerEpisode: THE LEGACY
1961The UntouchablesBirdies2E5
1961BonanzaPeter Long1 episode "The Infernal Machine"
1962The Tall ManHyram Killgore"One for All"
1962Going My WayMike"A Man for Mary"
1963The The Andy Griffith ShowState Police Detective1 episode "The Big House"
1963Perry MasonGeorge Spangler"The Case of the Greek Goddess"
1963The Travels of Jaimie McPheetersAngus"The Day of the Long Night"
1964BonanzaWaldo1 episode "The Scapegoat"
1964GunsmokeWarden Stryker1 episode "The Warden"
1966GunsmokeBen Payson1 episode
1971SargeFather Samuel Patrick "Sarge" Cavanaugh (Swanson)16 episodes
1975The Blue KnightBumper Morgan24 episodes
1979Backstairs at the White HousePresident Warren G. Harding1 episode
1981Saturday Night LiveHimself-Guest host1 episode, 10/17/81
1988–1991; 1996; 1998DallasCarter McKay67 episodes + 2 TV Movies
1996WingsHimself1 episode
The Real Adventures of Jonny QuestGeneral Axton1 episode "DNA Doomsday"
2003The Young and the RestlessAlbert Miller3 episodes
2010The Young and the RestlessAlbert Miller (ghost)1 episode


  1. ^ a b c George Kennedy genealogy.
  2. ^ Interview with George Kennedy Actor & Movie Star. Healthy 21 March 2005.
  3. ^ George Kennedy Biography. Film
  4. ^ a b c d George Kennedy.

External links[edit]