George Kennedy

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George Kennedy
George Kennedy 1975.JPG
Publicity photo of George Kennedy, 1975
Born George Harris Kennedy, Jr.
(1925-02-18) February 18, 1925 (age 90)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Residence Eagle, Idaho, U.S.
Education Chaminade High School, Mineola, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1927–1943, 1955–present
Home town New York City, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s) Norma Wurman (1959–1971; divorced)
Joan McCarthy (1978–present)
Children 2

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. His wide variety of roles include "Dragline" in Cool Hand Luke, for which he won an Academy Award; as Joe Patroni in all four of the 1970s Airport disaster films; as Police 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 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, like the Phil Silvers Show.[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, Maverick, McHale's Navy and Gunsmoke, Route 66 S1,E1. 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, Airport '77 and The Concorde ... Airport '79. 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 the late 1970s Kennedy also appeared as a celebrity guest on the television game show Match Game.

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 they have a daughter, Shaunna. The couple adopted their granddaughter, Taylor,[4] after the incarceration of the child's mother.

He was also good friends with James Stewart and his voice is featured in a TCM commercial commemorating Stewart.

Kennedy is a licensed pilot who enjoyed flying and owned a Cessna 210 and Beechcraft Bonanza.[6]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Other notes
1960 Spartacus Rebel soldier Uncredited
1961 The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come Nathan Dillon
1962 Lonely Are the Brave Deputy Sheriff Gutierrez
1963 The Man from the Diner's Club George
Charade Herman Scobie
1964 McHale's Navy Henri Le Clerc
Island of the Blue Dolphins Aleut Captain
Strait-Jacket Leo Krause
Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte Foreman
1965 Mirage Willard
In Harm's Way Colonel Gregory
The Flight of the Phoenix Mike Bellamy
Shenandoah Col. Fairchild
The Sons of Katie Elder Curley
1967 The Dirty Dozen Major Max Armbruster
Hurry Sundown Sheriff Coombs
Cool Hand Luke Dragline Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Laurel Award for Male Supporting Performance
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
The Ballad of Josie Arch Ogden
1968 The Pink Jungle Sammy Ryderbeit
The Boston Strangler Phil DiNatale
Bandolero! Sheriff Johnson
1969 The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Big John McKay
Gaily, Gaily Johanson
Guns of the Magnificent Seven Chris Adams
1970 ...tick...tick...tick... John Little
Airport Joe Patroni Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated - Laurel Award for Male Supporting Performance
Zigzag Paul R. Cameron
Dirty Dingus Magee Herkimer 'Hoke' Birdsill
1971 Fools' Parade 'Doc' Council
1973 Lost Horizon Sam Cornelius
Cahill U.S. Marshal Abe Fraser
1974 Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Red Leary
Airport 1975 Joe Patroni
Earthquake Sgt. Lew Slade
1975 The Eiger Sanction Ben Bowman
The 'Human' Factor John Kinsdale
1977 Airport '77 Joe Patroni
Ningen no shōmei Ken Shuftan
1978 Mean Dog Blues Captain Omar Kinsman
Brass Target Gen. George S. Patton
Death on the Nile Andrew Pennington
1979 Steel Big Lew Cassidy
The Concorde ... Airport '79 Capt. Joe Patroni
Search and Destroy Anthony Fusqua
The Double McGuffin Chief Talasek
1980 Virus Admiral Conway
Death Ship Ashland
1981 Just Before Dawn Roy McLean
Modern Romance Himself
1982 Wacko Mr. Doctor Graves
1984 Chattanooga Choo Choo Bert
Bolero Cotton
1985 Radioactive Dreams Spade Chandler
Savage Dawn Tick Rand
The Gambler Part III: The Legend Continues General Nelson Miles TV movie series
1986 The Delta Force Father O'Malley
1987 Creepshow 2 Ray Spruce segment "Old Chief Wood'nhead"
The Gunfighters Deke Turner
1988 Born to Race Vincent Duplain
Uninvited Mike Harvey
Counterforce Vince Colby
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Capt. Ed Hocken
Demonwarp Bill Crafton
1989 The Terror Within Hal
1990 Brain Dead Vance
Hired to Kill Thomas
1991 Intensive Care Dr. Bruckner
Driving Me Crazy McCready
The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear Captain Ed Hocken
1994 Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult Captain Ed Hocken
1997 Cats Don't Dance L.B. Mammoth voice
1998 Small Soldiers Brick Bazooka voice
Dennis the Menace Strikes Again Grandpa Johnson
2005 Don't Come Knocking Director
2007 Sands of Oblivion John Tevis
2008 The Man Who Came Back Judge Duke
2011 Another Happy Day Joe
2014 The Gambler Ed

Television roles[edit]

Year Title Role Other notes
1959 Cheyenne Lee Nelson episode: "Prisoner of Moon Mesa"
1959 Colt .45 Hank episode: "The Rival Gun"
1959 The Deputy Tex episode: "The Big Four"
1959 Sugarfoot Sykes episode: "The Canary Kid, Inc."
1960 Gunsmoke Emil episode: "The Blacksmith"
1960 Peter Gunn Karl episode: "The Crossbow"
1960 Sugarfoot Ross Kuhn episode: "Funeral at Forty Mile"
1960 Shotgun Slade Tex episode: "The Spanish Box"
1960 Laramie Gallagher Henchman episode: "Duel at Alta Mesa"
1960 Maverick Deputy Jones episode: "Hadley's Hunters"
1960 The Lawman Burt episode: "To Capture the West"
1960 Have Gun Will Travel Tarnitzer episode: "The Legacy"
1960 Have Gun Will Travel Lt. John Bryson episode: "A Head of Hair"
1961 Bat Masterson Sherriff episode: "The Fourth Man"
1961 Have Gun Will Travel Preston episode: "The Road"
1961 Have Gun Will Travel Deke episode: "The Vigil"
1961 Have Gun Will Travel Rud Saxon episode: "A Proof of Life"
1961 Have Gun Will Travel Brother Grace episode: "Squatter's Rights"
1961 Gunsmoke Pat Swooner episode: "Big Man"
1961 The Untouchables episode: "The King of Champagne"
1961 Gunslinger episode: Sheriff episode: "The Buried People"
1961 Bonanza Peter Long episode: "The Infernal Machine"
1961 Gunsmoke Jake Bayloe episode: Kitty Shot
1962 The Tall Man Hyram Killgore episode: "One for All"
1962 Rawhide George Wales episode: "The Peddler"
1962 Gunsmoke Hug episode: "The Boys"
1962 Have Gun Will Travel Big John episode: "Don't Shoot the Piano Player"
1962 Going My Way Mike episode: "A Man for Mary"
1962 Death Valley Days Steamboat Sully episode: "Miracle at Whiskey Gulch"
1962 The Outlaws Joe Ferris episode: "Farewell Performance"
1963 The Andy Griffith Show State Police Detective episode: "The Big House"
1963 Have Gun Will Travel Brother Grace episode: "The Eve of St. Elmo"
1963 Dr. Kildare Joe Cramer episode: "To Each His Own Prison"
1963 Perry Mason George Spangler episode: "The Case of the Greek Goddess"
1963 The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters Angus episode: "The Day of the Long Night"
1963-1964 McHale's Navy Big Frenchy episodes: "French Leave for McHale", and "The Return of Big Frenchy"
1964 Gunsmoke Cyrus episode: "Crooked Mile"
1964 Bonanza Waldo episode: "The Scapegoat"
1964 The Virginian Jack Marshman episode: "A Gallows for Sam Horn"
1964 Gunsmoke Warden Stryker episode: "The Warden"
1965 Daniel Boone Zach Morgan episode: "A Rope for Mingo"
1965 Laredo Jess Moran episode: "Pride of the Rangers"
1965 The Virginian Tom 'Bear' Suchette episode: "Nobility of Kings"
1965 A Man Called Shenandoah Mitchell Canady episode: "A Special Talent for Killing"
1966 Gunsmoke Ben Payson episode: "Harvest"
1966 The Legend of Jesse James Blodgett episode "Return to Lawrence"
1966 Dr. Kildare Sgt. Hensley episodes: "Mercy or Murder", and "Strange Sort of Accident"
1966 The Virginian Huck Harkness episode: "The Trail to Ashley Mountain"
1966 The Big Valley Jack Thatcher episode: "Barbary Red"
1967 Tarzan Crandell episode: "Thief Catcher"
1971 Sarge Father Samuel Patrick "Sarge" Cavanaugh (Swanson) 16 episodes
1971 Ironside Father Samuel Cavanaugh episode: "The Priest Killer"
1975 The Blue Knight Bumper Morgan 24 episodes
1979 Backstairs at the White House President Warren G. Harding episode: #1.2
1981 Saturday Night Live Himself-Guest host 1 episode, 10/17/81
1983 Fantasy Island Adam Cobb episode: "God Child/Curtain Call"
1988–1991; 1996; 1998 Dallas Carter McKay 67 episodes + 2 TV Movies
1994 Lonesome Dove Judge J.T. 'Rope' Calder episode: "Judgement Day"
1996 Wings Himself 1 episode
1996 The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest General Axton episode: "DNA Doomsday"
2003 The Young and the Restless Albert Miller episodes: #1.7762, #1.7763, and #1.7764
2010 The Young and the Restless Albert 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
  6. ^ "A Plane Crazy America". AOPA Pilot: 79. 

External links[edit]