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, Idaho, U.S.
EducationChaminade High School, Mineola, New York, U.S.
Alma materTarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas, U.S.
Years active1927–1943, 1955–present
Home townNew York City, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s)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, Idaho, U.S.
EducationChaminade High School, Mineola, New York, U.S.
Alma materTarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas, U.S.
Years active1927–1943, 1955–present
Home townNew York City, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s)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]


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 appeared in several prominent Hollywood movies, including Charade (1963); Strait-Jacket (1964); Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964); The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and In Harm's Way (1965).[5]

He made numerous television appearances on such programs as The Asphalt Jungle, 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. Then came the role for which Kennedy 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.[5]

Kennedy followed this role 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.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]


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.

Selected filmography[edit]

YearFilmRoleOther notes
1960SpartacusRebel soldierUncredited
1961The Little Shepherd of Kingdom ComeNathan Dillon
1962Lonely are the BraveDeputy Sheriff Gutierrez
1963The 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 Boston StranglerPhil DiNatale
Bandolero!Sheriff Johnson
1969The Good Guys and the Bad GuysBig John McKay
Gaily, GailyJohanson
Guns of the Magnificent SevenChris Adams
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
1974Thunderbolt 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
1980VirusAdmiral Conway
Death ShipAshland
1981Just Before DawnRoy McLean
Modern RomanceHimself
1983WackoMr. Doctor Graves
1984Chattanooga 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"
1988Born to RaceVincent Duplain
UninvitedMike Harvey
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!Capt. Ed Hocken
DemonwarpBill Crafton
1989The Terror WithinHal
1990Brain DeadVance
1991Intensive CareDr. Bruckner
Driving Me CrazyMcCready
The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of FearCaptain Ed Hocken
1994Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final InsultCaptain Ed Hocken
1997Cats Don't DanceL.B. Mammothvoice
1998Small SoldiersBrick Bazookavoice
Dennis the Menace Strikes AgainGrandpa Johnson
2005Don't Come KnockingDirector
2007Sands of OblivionJohn Tevis
2008The Man Who Came BackJudge Duke
2011Another Happy DayJoe
2015The GamblerEdPost-production

Television series[edit]

YearTitleRoleOther notes
1959CheyenneLee Nelsonepisode: "Prisoner of Moon Mesa"
1959Colt .45Hankepisode: "The Rival Gun"
1959The DeputyTexepisode: "The Big Four"
1959SugarfootSykesepisode: "The Canary Kid, Inc."
1960GunsmokeEmilepisode: "The Blacksmith"
1960Peter GunnKarlepisode: "The Crossbow"
1960SugarfootRoss Kuhnepisode: "Funeral at Forty Mile"
1960Shotgun SladeTexepisode: "The Spanish Box"
1960LaramieGallagher Henchmanepisode: "Duel at Alta Mesa"
1960MaverickDeputy Jonesepisode: "Hadley's Hunters"
1960The LawmanBurtepisode: "To Capture the West"
1960Have Gun Will TravelTarnitzerepisode: "The Legacy"
1960Have Gun Will TravelLt. John Brysonepisode: "A Head of Hair"
1961Bat MastersonSherriffepisode: "The Fourth Man"
1961Have Gun Will TravelPrestonepisode: "The Road"
1961Have Gun Will TravelDekeepisode: "The Vigil"
1961Have Gun Will TravelRud Saxonepisode: "A Proof of Life"
1961Have Gun Will TravelBrother Graceepisode: "Squatter's Rights"
1961GunsmokePat Swoonerepisode: "Big Man"
1961The UntouchablesBirdieepisode: "The King of Champagne"
1961Gunslingerepisode: Sheriffepisode: "The Buried People"
1961BonanzaPeter Longepisode: "The Infernal Machine"
1961GunsmokeJake Bayloeepisode: Kitty Shot
1962The Tall ManHyram Killgoreepisode: "One for All"
1962RawhideGeorge Walesepisode: "The Peddler"
1962GunsmokeHugepisode: "The Boys"
1962Have Gun Will TravelBig Johnepisode: "Don't Shoot the Piano Player"
1962Going My WayMikeepisode: "A Man for Mary"
1962Death Valley DaysSteamboat Sullyepisode: "Miracle at Whiskey Gulch"
1962The OutlawsJoe Ferrisepisode: "Farewell Performance"
1963The Andy Griffith ShowState Police Detectiveepisode: "The Big House"
1963Have Gun Will TravelBrother Graceepisode: "The Eve of St. Elmo"
1963Dr. KildareJoe Cramerepisode: "To Each His Own Prison"
1963Perry MasonGeorge Spanglerepisode: "The Case of the Greek Goddess"
1963The Travels of Jaimie McPheetersAngusepisode: "The Day of the Long Night"
1963-1964McHale's NavyBig Frenchyepisodes: "French Leave for McHale", and "The Return of Big Frenchy"
1964GunsmokeCyrusepisode: "Crooked Mile"
1964BonanzaWaldoepisode: "The Scapegoat"
1964The VirginianJack Marshmanepisode: "A Gallows for Sam Horn"
1964GunsmokeWarden Strykerepisode: "The Warden"
1965Daniel BooneZach Morganepisode: "A Rope for Mingo"
1965LaredoJess Moranepisode: "Pride of the Rangers"
1965The VirginianTom 'Bear' Suchetteepisode: "Nobility of Kings"
1965A Man Called ShenandoahMitchell Canadyepisode: "A Special Talent for Killing"
1966GunsmokeBen Paysonepisode: "Harvest"
1966The Legend of Jesse JamesBlodgettepisode "Return to Lawrence"
1966Dr. KildareSgt. Hensleyepisodes: "Mercy or Murder", and "Strange Sort of Accident"
1966The Big ValleyJack Thatcherepisode: "Barbary Red"
1967TarzanCrandellepisode: "Thief Catcher"
1971SargeFather Samuel Patrick "Sarge" Cavanaugh (Swanson)16 episodes
1971IronsideFather Samuel Cavanaughepisode: "The Priest Killer"
1975The Blue KnightBumper Morgan24 episodes
1979Backstairs at the White HousePresident Warren G. Hardingepisode: #1.2
1981Saturday Night LiveHimself-Guest host1 episode, 10/17/81
1983Fantasy IslandAdam Cobbepisode: "God Child/Curtain Call"
1988–1991; 1996; 1998DallasCarter McKay67 episodes + 2 TV Movies
1994Lonesome DoveJudge J.T. 'Rope' Calderepisode: "Judgement Day"
1996WingsHimself1 episode
1996The Real Adventures of Jonny QuestGeneral Axtonepisode: "DNA Doomsday"
2003The Young and the RestlessAlbert Millerepisodes: #1.7762, #1.7763, and #1.7764
2010The Young and the RestlessAlbert Miller (ghost)episode: #1.9553


  1. ^ a b c George Kennedy genealogy.
  2. ^ Interview with George Kennedy Actor & Movie Star,, March 21, 2005; accessed July 24, 2014.
  3. ^ George Kennedy Biography,; accessed July 24, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d George Kennedy.
  5. ^ a b c d e f George Kennedy at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]