Burt Kennedy

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Burt Kennedy
Born (1922-09-03)September 3, 1922
Muskegon, Michigan, United States
Died February 15, 2001(2001-02-15) (aged 78)
Sherman Oaks, California, United States
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Occupation Film director, writer, producer
Years active 1955–2000

Burt Kennedy (September 3, 1922 – February 15, 2001) was an American screenwriter and director known mainly for directing Westerns. Budd Boetticher called him "the best Western writer ever."[1]

Biography[edit]

Kennedy was born in 1922. His parents were dancers in vaudeville. They moved to Michigan, where Kennedy attended high school. He graduated school in 1941 and enlisted in the army the following year. Kennedy saw World War II service in the 1st Cavalry Division.[2]

Early Writing Work[edit]

Kennedy went to work at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he did some acting. "I’d walk out on stage and it felt like I’d been there my whole life," he recalled. But he found acting unsatisfactory. "I could see that you could be around this town for a long time before you could be a success as an actor. But writing, no one could stop you from writing. You’re never out of work if you’re a writer, you could just sit down and write."[2]

Kennedy found work writing for radio. He began to specialise in Westerns, in part due to the advice of James Edward Grant who told him, "Why compete with all the big writers when there are hardly any good western writers as such?” Some good writers have written westerns but there were very few genuine western writers in this town that were really good writers. He said that the competition was easier that way, and if you write a good western, you’re apt to go further faster. And it turned out he was right. Because I never stopped, from 1953-54 up until the mid 70s, I never stopped working at all."[2]

Kennedy used his training as a cavalry officer to secure a job as a fencing trainer and fencing stunt double in films.

Batjac[edit]

Kennedy wrote 13 episodes for a proposed TV series about a Mexican. which John Wayne read and tried to get financed as a vehicle for Pedro Gonzales through Wayne's Batjac Productions.[2]

Although the TV program was never produced, it led Kennedy to write Seven Men from Now (1956) for Batjac. It was written for Wayne but he wanted to take a break from Westerns so it was made with Randolph Scott. It was directed by Budd Boetticher and would be the first of what became known as the "Ranown Cycle".

Also for Batjac Kennedy wrote Gun the Man Down (1956) starring James Arness, and Man in the Vault (1956) a contemporary thriller. Both were directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.

Kennedy also wrote The Tall T for Batjac, based on a story by Elmore Leonard. When Wayne broke up with his partner Robert Fellows, Fellows took The Tall T script and made it with Scott and Boetticher.[2]

Boetticher, Kennedy and Scott were reteamed on Buchanan Rides Alone (1958).

Warner Bros[edit]

Kennedy was put under contract by Warner Bros for whom he wrote Fort Dobbs (1958) and Yellowstone Kelly (1959). He wrote two other scripts including an adaptation of A Distant Trumpet that was not used.[2]

Then for Boetticher and Scott he wrote Ride Lonesome (1959) and Comanche Station (1960). He did some uncredited work on The Alamo (1960).

Directing[edit]

Kennedy made his directorial debut with the Western The Canadians (1961) with Robert Ryan, which he also wrote.

He began directing episode TV, including Lawman, The Virginian, and Combat!. Kennedy would often write the episodes he directed and he also served as a producer on Combat.

He wrote but did not direct the Audie Murphy Western Six Black Horses (1962).

Kennedy returned to features as director with the Western comedy Mail Order Bride (1964) with Buddy Ebsen. He followed it with The Rounders (1965), starring Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda which Kennedy also wrote and produced; led to a TV series, which Kennedy produced and directed some episodes.episodes of which Kennedy also directed.

Kennedy directed a contemporary film The Money Trap (1966), starring Ford and Rita Hayworth, then returned to Westerns with Return of the Seven (1966), a sequel to The Magnificent Seven.

Kennedy directed The War Wagon (1967) with John Wayne and Kirk Douglas and Welcome to Hard Times (1967) with Henry Fonda. His story formed the basis of Return of the Gunfighter (1967) though he did not direct it and he did some work on the script of Stay Away, Joe (1968).

Kennedy had a huge success with Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) starring James Garner,though Kennedy did not write the script.

Kennedy directed two films with Robert Mitchum, Young Billy Young (1969) and The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969), then directed Frank Sinatra in Dirty Dingus Magee (1970).

1970s[edit]

Kennedy directed Richard Crenna in The Devil's Backbone (1970) then he and Garner tried to repeat the success of Support Your Local Sheriff with Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971).

Kennedy made Hannie Caulder (1971) with Raquel Welch and was reunited with John Wayne in The Train Robbers (1973).

He turned to television for Shootout in a One Dog Town (1974) with Crenna, and Sidekicks (1974), the pilot for a TV series based on the film Skin Game (1971). He also directed a contemporary thriller, All the Kind Strangers (1974).

Kennedy started directing Drum (1976) but was replaced by producer Dino De Laurentiis with Steve Carver during the shoot. He directed The Killer Inside Me (1976), based on the Jim Thompson (writer) novel. His story provided the basis for Escape from the Dark (1976).

Kennedy returned to episodic television doing episodes of Big Hawaii, How the West Was Won, The Rhinemann Exchange and Concrete Cowboys. He also did the TV movies Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid (1978), The Wild Wild West Revisited (1979) and More Wild Wild West (1980).

1980s[edit]

Kennedy wrote and directed Wolf Lake (1980) with Rod Steiger and directed a lot of episodic television: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Magnum, P.I., The Yellow Rose, Simon and Simon, Rowdies and Snoops.

He did a feature with Donald Sutherland, The Trouble with Spies (shot 1984 released 1987), the TV movies Louis L'Amour's Down the Long Hills, The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory (1987), Once Upon a Texas Train (1988), Where the Hell's That Gold? (1989), and Big Bad John (1990).

Final Years[edit]

Kennedy's last credits as director were the Hulk Hogan comedy Suburban Commando (1991) and the TV movie Comanche (2000). He also worked on the script for the Clint Eastwood movie White Hunter Black Heart (1990).

In 1996, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[3]

An Army lieutenant in World War II, during which he received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart, Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[4]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Director Producer Writer Other Notes
1956 Seven Men From Now Yes
Gun the Man Down Yes
Man in the Vault Yes
1957 The Tall T Yes
1959 Ride Lonesome Yes
1960 Comanche Station Yes
1961 The Canadians Yes Yes
1962 Six Black Horses Yes
1964 Mail Order Bride Yes Yes
1965 The Rounders Yes Yes
The Money Trap Yes
1966 Return of the Seven Yes
1967 Return of the Gunfighter Yes
Welcome to Hard Times Yes Yes
The War Wagon Yes
1969 Support Your Local Sheriff! Yes
Young Billy Young Yes Yes
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Yes
1970 Dirty Dingus Magee Yes Yes
1971 The Deserter Yes
Support Your Local Gunfighter Yes Yes Executive producer
Hannie Caulder Yes Yes
1973 The Train Robbers Yes Yes
1976 The Killer Inside Me Yes
1977 Escape from the Dark Yes
1980 Wolf Lake Yes Yes
1987 The Trouble with Spies Yes Yes Yes
1990 Big Bad John Yes Yes
White Hunter Black Heart Yes
1991 Suburban Commando Yes
2000 Comanche Yes Yes

Television[edit]

Year Title Notes
1974 Shootout in a One-Dog Town Director
Television movie
Sidekicks Director/Producer
Television movie
All the Kind Strangers Director
Television movie
1977 The Rhinemann Exchange Director
Television miniseries
1978 Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid Director
Television movie
1979 The Wild Wild West Revisited Director
Television movie
1980 More Wild Wild West Director
Television movie
1986 Louis L'Amour's Down the Long Hills Director
Television movie
1987 The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory Director
Television movie
1988 Once Upon a Texas Train Director/Producer/Writer
Television movie
Where the Hell's That Gold? Director/Producer/Writer
Television movie

References[edit]

External links[edit]