Kennedy in A Star Is Born (1937)
April 26, 1890|
Monterey County, California, U.S.
November 9, 1948 (aged 58)|
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Throat cancer|
Patricia Violet Allwyn|
(m. 1924; his death)
Edgar Livingston Kennedy (April 26, 1890 – November 9, 1948) was an American comedic film character actor, known as "Slow Burn". A slow burn is an exasperated facial expression, performed very deliberately; Kennedy embellished this by rubbing his hand over his bald head and across his face, in an attempt to hold his temper. Kennedy is best known for a small role as a lemonade vendor in the Marx Brothers film Duck Soup, as well as the many Hal Roach films he appeared in.
Kennedy was born on April 26, 1890, in Monterey County, California, to Canadians Neil Kennedy and Annie Quinn. He attended San Rafael High School before taking up boxing. He was a light-heavyweight and once went 14 rounds with Jack Dempsey. After boxing, he worked as a singer in vaudeville, musical comedy and light opera.
Making his debut in 1911, Kennedy appeared in about 500 films, working with some of the biggest film comedians in the United States, including Roscoe Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Charley Chase, and the Our Gang series. He was also one of the original Keystone Kops.
Kennedy's burly frame originally suited him for villainous or threatening roles in silent pictures. By the 1920s Kennedy was working for producer Hal Roach, who kept the actor busy playing supporting roles in short comedies. Kennedy starred in one short, A Pair of Tights (1928), in which he plays a tightwad determined to spend as little as possible on a date. His antics with comedian Stuart Erwin are reminiscent of Roach's Laurel and Hardy comedies, produced concurrently. Roach also used Kennedy as a director on half a dozen two-reeler comedies.
In 1930, Edgar Kennedy was featured by RKO-Pathe in a pair of short-subject comedies, Next Door Neighbors and Help Wanted, Female. Kennedy's characterization of a short-tempered householder was so effective that RKO built a series around it. The "Average Man" comedies starred Kennedy as a blustery, stubborn guy determined to accomplish a household project or get ahead professionally, despite the meddling of his featherbrained wife (usually Florence Lake), her freeloading brother (originally William Eugene, then Jack Rice) and his dubious mother-in-law (Dot Farley). Kennedy pioneered the kind of domestic situation comedy that later became familiar on television. Each installment would end with Edgar embarrassed, humbled or defeated, looking at the camera and doing his patented slow burn. The Edgar Kennedy Series, with its theme song "Chopsticks", became a standard part of the movie-going experience: Kennedy made six "Average Man" shorts a year for 17 years. In 1938, Kennedy worked as a straight man for British comedian Will Hay in Hey! Hey! USA.
Kennedy became so identified with frustration that practically every studio hired him to play hotheads. He often played dumb cops, detectives, and even a prison warden; sometimes he was a grouchy moving man, truck driver, or blue-collar workman. His character usually lost his temper at least once. In Diplomaniacs, Kennedy presides over an international tribunal, where Wheeler & Woolsey want to do something about world peace. "Well, ya can't do anything about it here", yells Kennedy, "this is a peace conference!" Kennedy, established as the poster boy for frustration, even starred in an instructional film titled The Other Fellow, in which loudmouthed roadhog Edgar always vents his anger on other drivers (each one played by Kennedy as well), little realizing that, to them, he is "the other fellow."
Perhaps his most unusual roles were as a puppeteer in the detective mystery The Falcon Strikes Back and as a philosophical bartender inspired to create exotic cocktails in Harold Lloyd's last film, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947). He also played comical detectives opposite two titans of acting: John Barrymore in Twentieth Century (1934) and Rex Harrison in Unfaithfully Yours (1948); in the latter, he tells conductor Harrison that "Nobody handles Handel like you handle Handel."
Kennedy died of throat cancer at the Motion Picture Hospital, San Fernando Valley on 9 November 1948. His body was interred at the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, Los Angeles County, California.
- Brown of Harvard (1911, Short) as Claxton Madden
- Hoffmeyer's Legacy (1912, Short) as Keystone Kop (uncredited)
- The Bangville Police (1913, Short) as 3rd Deputy (in straw hat)
- The Star Boarder (1914, Short) as Landlady's Husband
- The Knockout (1914, Short) as Cyclone Flynn (uncredited)
- Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914) as Restaurant Owner / Butler (uncredited)
- The Stolen Triumph (1916) as Edwin Rowley, Jr.
- The Blue Streak (1917)
- Mickey (1918) as Stage Driver / Bookie (uncredited)
- Yankee Doodle in Berlin (1919) as German Prison Guard (uncredited)
- Daredevil Jack (1920)
- Puppets of Fate (1921) as Mike Reynolds
- Skirts (1921)
- The Leather Pushers (1922) as Ptomaine Tommy
- Bell Boy 13 (1923) as Chef (uncredited)
- The Little Girl Next Door (1923) as Hank Hall
- The Night Message (1924) as Lem Beeman
- Racing for Life (1924) as Tom Grady
- Paths to Paradise (1925) as Detective (uncredited)
- The Trouble with Wives (1925) as Detective
- The Golden Princess (1925) as Gewilliker Hay
- The People vs. Nancy Preston (1925) as Gloomy Gus
- His People (1925) as Thomas Nolan
- Oh What a Nurse! (1926) as Eric Johnson
- My Old Dutch (1926) as Bill Sproat
- Across the Pacific (1926) as Cpl. Ryan
- The Better 'Ole (1926) as Cpl. Austin
- Going Crooked (1926) as Detective
- Finger Prints (1927) as O.K. McDuff
- The Gay Old Bird (1927) as Chauffeur
- The Wrong Mr. Wright (1927) as Trayguard
- Wedding Bill$ (1927) as Detective
- The Chinese Parrot (1927) as Maydorf
- Leave 'Em Laughing (1928, Short) (First appearance with Laurel and Hardy)
- Two Tars (1928, Short) as Motorist
- Trent's Last Case (1929) as Inspector Murch
- Perfect Day (1929, Short) as Uncle Edgar
- They Had to See Paris (1929) as Ed Eggers (uncredited)
- Welcome Danger (1929) as SFPD Desk Sergeant (uncredited)
- Night Owls (1930, Short) as Officer Kennedy
- Quick Millions (1931) as Cop (uncredited)
- Bad Company (1931) as Buffington - Doorman
- The Carnival Boat (1932) as Baldy
- Westward Passage (1932) as Elmer
- Hold 'Em Jail (1932) as Warden Elmer Jones
- Little Orphan Annie (1932) as Daddy Warbucks
- Rockabye (1932) as Water Wagon-Driver (uncredited)
- The Penguin Pool Murder (1932) as Donovan
- Scarlet River (1933) as Sam Gilroy
- Diplomaniacs (1933) as Chairman - Peace Conference
- Son of the Border (1933) as Windy
- Cross Fire (1933) as Ed Wimpy
- Professional Sweetheart (1933) as Tim Kelsey
- Tillie and Gus (1933) as Judge
- Duck Soup (1933) as Lemonade Vendor
- Good Housewrecking (1933)
- Twentieth Century (1934)
- Murder on the Blackboard (1934)
- King Kelly of the U.S.A. (1934)
- Affairs of a Gentleman (1934)
- The Marines Are Coming (1934)
- Heat Lightning (1934)
- We're Rich Again (1934)
- Flirting with Danger (1934)
- Money Means Nothing (1934)
- Gridiron Flash (1935)
- 1,000 Dollars a Minute (1935)
- Woman Wanted (1935)
- The Bride Comes Home (1935)
- In Person (1935)
- Little Big Shot (1935)
- Living on Velvet (1935)
- The Robin Hood of El Dorado (1936)
- Yours for the Asking (1936)
- Small Town Girl (1936)
- Fatal Lady (1936)
- Mad Holiday (1936)
- San Francisco (1936) as Sheriff
- Will Power (1936)
- A Star Is Born (1937) as Pop Randall
- Hollywood Hotel (1937)
- When's Your Birthday? (1937)
- True Confession (1937)
- Double Wedding (1937)
- The Other Fellow (1937)
- Hey! Hey! USA (1938)
- Scandal Sheet (1938)
- Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus (1938)
- The Black Doll (1938)
- Laugh it Off (1939)
- It's a Wonderful World (1939)
- The Quarterback (1940)
- Dr. Christian Meets the Women (1940)
- Sandy Gets Her Man (1940)
- Sandy Is a Lady (1940)
- Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940)
- Too Many Blondes (1941)
- Private Snuffy Smith (1942)
- There's One Born Every Minute (1942)
- Pardon My Stripes (1942)
- In Old California (1942)
- Air Raid Wardens (1943)
- Hitler's Madman (1943)
- Hold Your Temper (1943)
- The Falcon Strikes Back (1943) as Smiley Dugan
- The Girl from Monterrey (1943)
- Crazy House (1943)
- It Happened Tomorrow (1944)
- Radio Rampage (1944)
- Anchors Aweigh (1945)
- The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947) (a.k.a. Mad Wednesday)
- Heaven Only Knows (1947)
- Unfaithfully Yours (1948) as Detective Sweeney
- My Dream Is Yours (1949) as Uncle Charlie
- From Soup to Nuts (1928) — Laurel and Hardy two-reeler (silent)
- You're Darn Tootin' (1928) — Laurel and Hardy two-reeler (silent)
- "Death of Kennedy Recalls Actor's 1945 Visit Here". The Evening Independent. 10 Nov 1948. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- Heffernan, Harold (3 October 1939). "Edgar Kennedy Charges Film Heroes Steal His Stuff". The Calgary Herald. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- "Edgar Kennedy, Film Actor, Dies". St. Petersburg Times. 10 Nov 1948. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- Swenson, Bette (24 May 1945). "Movie Funny Man Declares He's Really Serious Fellow". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- "Actor Edgar Kennedy Dies of Throat Cancer". The Pittsburg Press. 10 Nov 1948. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- Lahue, Kalton (1971); Mack Sennett's Keystone: The man, the myth and the comedies; New York: Barnes; ISBN 978-0-498-07461-5; p. 194
- on YouTube
- "Edgar Kennedy Dies". Herald-Journal. 10 Nov 1948. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- A full digital copy of Kennedy's 1943 short film Hold Your Temper, co-starring Irene Ryan (later "Granny" on the television sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies), is available for viewing on YouTube. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
- on YouTube
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