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George Kennedy
George Kennedy 1975.JPG
Publicity photo of George Kennedy (1975)
George Harris Kennedy Jr.

(1925-02-18)February 18, 1925
New York City, U.S.
Died February 28, 2016(2016-02-28) (aged 91)
Middleton, Idaho, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1956–2014
Dorothy Gillooly
(m. 1946; div. 1959)
Norma Wurman
(m. 1959; div. 1971)
Norma Wurman
(m. 1973; div. 1978)
Joan McCarthy
(m. 1978; died 2015)
Children 6

George Harris Kennedy Jr. (February 18, 1925 – February 28, 2016) was an American actor who appeared in more than 100 film and television productions. He played "Dragline" opposite Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967), winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role and being nominated for the corresponding Golden Globe. He received a second Golden Globe nomination for portraying Joe Patroni in Airport (1970).

Among the notable films he had a significant role in are Cool Hand Luke, Charade, Strait-Jacket, McHale's Navy, Shenandoah, The Sons of Katie Elder, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, The Boston Strangler, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, Airport 1975, Earthquake, The Eiger Sanction, and The Naked Gun.

Kennedy was the only actor to appear in all four films in the Airport series, reprising the role of Joe Patroni three times. He also played Police Captain Ed Hocken in the Naked Gun series of comedy films, and corrupt oil tycoon Carter McKay on the original Dallas television series.

Early life, education and military service

Kennedy was born on February 18, 1925, 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. He was raised by his mother, Helen A. (née Kieselbach), a ballet dancer. His maternal grandfather was a German immigrant; his other ancestry was Irish and English.

Kennedy made his stage debut at age two in a touring company of Bringing Up Father, and by seven was a New York City radio DJ.

Kennedy graduated in 1943 from Chaminade High School in Mineola, Long Island, New York.

Kennedy enlisted in the United States Army during World War II in 1943. He served 16 years, reaching the rank of captain. Kennedy served in the infantry under George S. Patton, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and earned two Bronze Stars. He re-enlisted after the war and was discharged in the late 1950s due to a back injury.


George Kennedy Sarge 1971
Promotional photo of Kennedy for the TV series Sarge, 1971

His first notable screen role was a military policeman on the TV sitcom The Phil Silvers Show, where he also served as a technical adviser to ensure accuracy for the show's military base setting. Kennedy later described the Silvers show as "a great training ground".

His film career began in 1961 in The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. He appeared in several Hollywood movies, including as a jail guard in the Kirk Douglas modern western Lonely Are the Brave (1962), a ruthless criminal in the Cary Grant suspense film Charade (1963), and in a Joan Crawford thriller, Strait-Jacket (1964).

Kennedy was busy in 1965. He appeared with Gregory Peck in the mystery Mirage, with a large cast led by James Stewart in the plane-crash adventure The Flight of the Phoenix, with John Wayne in the war film In Harm's Way, and with Wayne and Dean Martin in the western The Sons of Katie Elder.

He played the character "Blodgett" in a 1966 episode "Return to Lawrence" of the ABC Western series The Legend of Jesse James.

Then came the role for which he 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.

Kennedy followed with films such as The Dirty Dozen, Bandolero!, and The Boston Strangler. In 1970, he appeared in the Academy Award-winning disaster film Airport, in which he played one of its main characters, airline troubleshooter Joe Patroni. He reprised this role in Airport 1975, Airport '77 and The Concorde ... Airport '79, the only cast member to appear in each film of the series.

The Airport franchise helped inspire the Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker satire Airplane!, in which the filmmakers hoped to cast Kennedy as the bumbling plane dispatcher. The role went to Lloyd Bridges, because Kennedy "couldn't kill off his Airport cash-cow", Jerry Zucker said in 2010.

Kennedy co-starred with Clint Eastwood in two films, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and The Eiger Sanction, and with ensemble casts in the disaster film Earthquake and the Agatha Christie mystery Death on the Nile.

George Kennedy The Blue Knight 1976
Kennedy as Bumper Morgan in The Blue Knight, 1976

He also starred in two television series: Sarge, which aired from 1971 to 1972 on NBC, and The Blue Knight, a CBS series that ran for 24 episodes from 1975 to 1976.

Kennedy starred in two Japanese productions, Junya Satō's Proof of the Man in 1977 and Kinji Fukasaku's Virus in 1980. Both films were produced by Haruki Kadokawa and featured extensive international casts and shooting locations. Although Proof of the Man was only released theatrically in Japan and Virus saw a financially unsuccessful truncated cut in the U.S., Kennedy was highly enthusiastic towards his involvement.

In 1984, Kennedy starred opposite Bo Derek in the box-office bomb Bolero. His other films during the 1980s included Savage Dawn, The Delta Force and Creepshow 2, before playing a top supporting role in the comedy film 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 again co-starred.

In 1990, Kennedy appeared in the Korean film Mayumi directed by Shin Sang-ok who was best known for having been kidnapped with actress and wife Choi Eun-hee by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Mayumi was Shin's attempt at re-entering the South Korean film industry and was the country's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 63rd Academy Awards, but it was not accepted as a nominee. Despite featuring Kennedy, it saw no wide release outside of South Korea and was ultimately a domestic box office failure.

On television, Kennedy starred as Carter McKay in the CBS prime time serial Dallas (1978–1991), appearing from 1988 to 1991. From the mid- to late-1990s, he promoted "Breathasure" tablets in radio and television commercials. Around this time, he reprised his role as McKay in the television films Dallas: J.R. Returns and Dallas: War of the Ewings. 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 film Don't Come Knocking, playing the director of an ill-fated western.

Kennedy made his final film appearance in The Gambler (2014) as Ed, the dying grandfather of Mark Wahlberg's Jim Bennett. His role lasts for less than two minutes during the film's opening scene, wherein Ed (moments before his death) bequeaths the responsibilities of patriarch to a heartbroken Jim.

Personal life

Marriages and children

Kennedy was married four times, to three women. In the 1940s, he married Dorothy Gillooly (1926–2012), who had served in the Women's Army Corps. They had one son, Kevin Kennedy, before being divorced in the 1950s; Dorothy returned to her hometown, Buffalo, New York, and raised their son there. In 1959, Kennedy married Norma Wurman, also known as Revel Wurman (1929–2007). The couple had two children, son Christopher and daughter Karianna. Kennedy and Norma divorced the first time in 1971, remarried in 1973, and divorced a second and final time in 1978. That same year, Kennedy married Joan McCarthy (née Castagna), daughter of John Castagna and former wife of William James McCarthy. They remained married until her death in September 2015. The couple adopted three children including Shaunna Kennedy. In 1998, after Shaunna was declared unfit to raise her daughter Taylor, Kennedy and Joan adopted that grandchild also.


Kennedy was friends with James Stewart, and provided the voiceover in a Turner Classic Movies mini-tribute to Stewart. Kennedy was an aviator who enjoyed flying and owned a Cessna 210 and Beechcraft Bonanza. Following his experiences working for the Far East Network during WWII and professional involvement with Proof of the Man and Virus, Kennedy maintained a lifelong affinity for Japan and its culture.

Illness and death

Kennedy resided in Eagle, Idaho, at the time of his death. He died on the morning of February 28, 2016, of a heart ailment at an assisted living facility in Middleton, Idaho, 10 days after his 91st birthday. He had a history of heart disease.



Year Title Role Notes
1961 The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come Nathan Dillon CinemaScope film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.
1962 Lonely Are the Brave Deputy Sheriff Gutierrez Film adaptation of the Edward Abbey novel The Brave Cowboy; directed by David Miller.
The Silent Witness Gus Jordan
1963 The Man from the Diners' Club George Comedy film directed by Frank Tashlin.
Charade Herman Scobie Romantic comedy/mystery film directed by Stanley Donen.
1964 Strait-Jacket Leo Krause Thriller film directed and co-produced by William Castle.
McHale's Navy Henri Le Clerc Based on the 1962–1966 black and white television sitcom of the same name, and directed by Edward Montagne.
Island of the Blue Dolphins Aleut Captain Drama film directed by James B. Clark.
Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte Foreman Psychological thriller film directed and produced by Robert Aldrich.
1965 In Harm's Way Colonel Gregory Epic war film produced and directed by Otto Preminger.
Mirage Willard Thriller film directed by Edward Dmytryk, and based on the novel Fallen Angel written by Howard Fast under the pseudonym Walter Ericson.
Shenandoah Colonel Fairchild American Civil War film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.
The Sons of Katie Elder Curley Western film directed by Henry Hathaway.
The Flight of the Phoenix Mike Bellamy Drama film produced & directed by Robert Aldrich and based on the 1964 novel The Flight of the Phoenix by Elleston Trevor.
1967 Hurry Sundown Sheriff Coombs Drama film produced and directed by Otto Preminger.
The Dirty Dozen Major Max Armbruster American war film directed by Robert Aldrich.
Cool Hand Luke Dragline Prison drama film directed by Stuart Rosenberg.
The Ballad of Josie Arch Ogden Comedy western film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.
1968 Bandolero! Sheriff July Johnson Western directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.
The Pink Jungle Sammy Ryderbeit Thriller film directed by Delbert Mann.
The Legend of Lylah Clare Matt Burke Uncredited
The Boston Strangler Det. Phil DiNatale Neo-noir film based on the true story of the Boston Strangler and the book by Gerold Frank, and directed by Richard Fleischer.
1969 Guns of the Magnificent Seven Chris Adams
  • A Zapata Western, and the second sequel to the 1960 western film The Magnificent Seven, and directed by Paul Wendkos.
  • Also known as The Magnificent Seven 3.
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Big John McKay Western film directed by Burt Kennedy.
Gaily, Gaily Axel P. Johanson
1970 ...tick...tick...tick... John Little Crime drama directed by Ralph Nelson.
Airport Joe Patroni Drama film directed and written by George Seaton, and based on Arthur Hailey's 1968 novel of the same name.
Zig Zag Paul R. Cameron
  • Drama film directed by Richard A. Colla.
  • Also released as False Witness.
Dirty Dingus Magee Herkimer "Hoke" Birdsill Anti-Western film directed and produced by Burt Kennedy.
1971 Fools' Parade Dallas "Doc" Council
  • Comedy-drama film directed by Andrew McLaglen.
  • Also known as Dynamite Man from Glory Jail.
1973 Lost Horizon Sam Cornelius Musical film directed by Charles Jarrott.
Cahill U.S. Marshal Abe Fraser Western film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.
1974 Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Red Leary Crime film written and directed by Michael Cimino.
Airport 1975 Joe Patroni Air disaster film, and the first sequel to the successful 1970 film Airport, and directed by Jack Smight.
Earthquake Sergeant Lew Slade Ensemble disaster film directed and produced by Mark Robson.
1975 The Eiger Sanction Ben Bowman Action-thriller film, based on the novel of the same name by Trevanian, and directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.
The "Human" Factor John Kinsdale Drama film directed by Edward Dmytryk.
1977 Airport '77 Joe Patroni Air disaster film and the third film of the Airport franchise, and directed by Jerry Jameson.
Ningen no shōmei Ken Shuftan
  • Japanese film directed by Junya Satō.
  • Proof of the Man (人間の証明, Ningen no Shōmei)
1978 Mean Dog Blues Captain Omar Kinsman Drama film directed by Mel Stuart.
Death on the Nile Andrew Pennington British film based on the Agatha Christie mystery novel of the same name, directed by John Guillermin, and adapted by Anthony Shaffer.
Brass Target General George S. Patton Post-war suspense film based on the novel The Algonquin Project by Frederick Nolan, and directed by John Hough.
1979 Search and Destroy Anthony Fusqua Action-thriller film directed by William Fruet.
The Double McGuffin Chief Talasek Drama film written and directed by Joe Camp.
Steel Big Lew Cassidy Drama film directed by Steve Carver.
The Concorde ... Airport '79 Captain Joe Patroni
  • Air disaster film directed by David Lowell Rich.
  • Also known as Airport '80: The Concorde in the United Kingdom.
1980 Death Ship Captain Ashland British-Canadian horror film directed by Alvin Rakoff.
Virus Admiral Conway
Hotwire Farley & Harley Fontenot
1981 Just Before Dawn Roy McLean
  • Independent slasher film directed by Jeff Lieberman.
  • Also known as Survivance in France.
Modern Romance Himself; Zoron Comedy film directed by and starring Albert Brooks.
The Archer: Fugitive from the Empire Brakus

Sword and sorcery action film written, directed and produced by Nicholas J. Corea.

1982 Wacko Mr. Doctor Graves Horror-parody film directed by Greydon Clark.
The Jupiter Menace Himself A documentary that examines the theory that the world is doomed, and that nothing can be done about it.
1984 Chattanooga Choo Choo Bert Comedy film directed by Bruce Bilson.
A Rare Breed Nathan Hill
Bolero Cotton Romantic drama film written and directed by John Derek.
Nominated – Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
Rigged Ben
1985 Radioactive Dreams Spade Chandler Post-apocalyptic science fiction-comedy film directed by Albert Pyun.
Savage Dawn Tick Rand Action-drama film directed by Simon Nuchtern.
1986 The Delta Force Father O'Malley Action-thriller film directed by Menahem Golan.
1987 Creepshow 2 Ray Spruce (segment "Old Chief Wood'nhead"), Live-action/animated horror comedy anthology film directed by Michael Gornick.
The Gunfighters Deke Turner Western film directed by Clay Borris.
1988 Born to Race Vincent Duplain
Counterforce Vince Colby
Demonwarp Bill Crafton
Nightmare at Noon Sheriff Hanks
Alien Terminator Heinrich Holzmann Italian film
Uninvited Mike Harvey
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Captain Ed Hocken This film marked the start of the Naked Gun franchise born out of the cancellation of Police Squad!.
1989 The Terror Within Hal
Ministry of Vengeance Rev. Hughes
Esmeralda Bay Wilson Spanish-French film production, directed by Jesús Franco.
1990 Brain Dead Vance
Hired to Kill Thomas
Mayumi Bahraini investigator
  • Korean film directed by Shin Sang-ok.
  • Mayumi (Hangul: 마유미) also known as Mayumi: Virgin Terrorist
1991 Hangfire Warden E. Barles
Driving Me Crazy John McCready
The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear Captain Ed Hocken
Intensive Care Dr. Bruckner Dutch film
1992 Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story Father Dave
Distant Justice Tom Bradfield
1994 Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult Captain Ed Hocken
River of Stone
1997 Cats Don't Dance L.B. Mammoth Voice
Bayou Ghost Officer Lowe
1998 Small Soldiers Brick Bazooka Voice
Dennis the Menace Strikes Again Grandpa Johnson
2003 View from the Top Passenger Requesting Vodka Uncredited
2005 Three Bad Men Ed Fiske
Truce Dr. Peter Gannon
Don't Come Knocking Director
2007 Sands of Oblivion John Tevis
2008 The Man Who Came Back Judge Duke
2010 Six Days in Paradise Monty Crenshaw
Mad Mad Wagon Party JB Scotch
2011 Another Happy Day Joe Baker
2014 The Gambler Ed Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1956–1959 The Phil Silvers Show MP Sergeant Kennedy 14 episodes
1959 Cheyenne Lee Nelson Episode: "Prisoner of Moon Mesa"
Colt .45 Hank Episode: "The Rival Gun"
The Deputy Tex Episode: "The Big Four"
Sugarfoot Sykes Episode: "The Canary Kid, Inc."
1960 Gunsmoke Emil Episode: "The Blacksmith"
Route 66 Thad Skinner Pilot Episode: "Black November"
Peter Gunn Karl Episode: "The Crossbow"
Sugarfoot Ross Kuhn Episode: "Funeral at Forty Mile"
Shotgun Slade Tex Episode: "The Spanish Box"
Laramie Gallagher Henchman Episode: "Duel at Alta Mesa"
Maverick Deputy Jones Episode: "Hadley's Hunters"
Lawman Burt Episode: "To Capture the West"
Have Gun – Will Travel Tarnitzer Episode: "The Legacy"
Lieutenant John Bryson Episode: "A Head of Hair"
1961 Bat Masterson Sheriff Zeke Armitage Episode: "The Fourth Man"
Have Gun – Will Travel Preston Episode: "The Road"
Deke Episode: "The Vigil"
Rud Saxon Episode: "A Proof of Life"
Brother Grace Episode: "Squatter's Rights"
Gunsmoke Pat Swooner Episode: "Big Man"
The Untouchables Birdie Episode: "The King of Champagne"
Gunslinger Sheriff Episode: "The Buried People"
Bonanza Peter Long Episode: "The Infernal Machine"
Gunsmoke Jake Bayloe Episode: "Kitty Shot"
1962 The Tall Man Hyram Killgore Episode: "One for All"
Rawhide George Wales Episode: "The Peddler"
Gunsmoke Hug Episode: "The Boys"
Have Gun – Will Travel Big John Episode: "Don't Shoot the Piano Player"
Going My Way Mike Episode: "A Man for Mary"
Death Valley Days Steamboat Sully Episode: "Miracle at Whiskey Gulch"
Outlaws Joe Ferris Episode: "Farewell Performance"
1963 The Andy Griffith Show State Police Detective Episode: "The Big House"
Have Gun – Will Travel Brother Grace Episode: "The Eve of St. Elmo"
Dr. Kildare Joe Cramer Episode: "To Each His Own Prison"
Perry Mason George Spangler Episode: "The Case of the Greek Goddess"
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", "The Return of Big Frenchy"
1964 Gunsmoke Cyrus Episode: "Crooked Mile"
Bonanza Waldo Watson Episode: "The Scapegoat"
The Virginian Jack Marshman Episode: "A Gallows for Sam Horn"
Gunsmoke Warden Stark Episode: "The Warden"
1965 Daniel Boone (1964 TV series) Zach Morgan S2/E11 "A Rope for Mingo"
Laredo Jess Moran Episode: "Pride of the Rangers"
The Virginian Tom "Bear" Suchette Episode: "Nobility of Kings"
A Man Called Shenandoah Mitchell Canady Episode: "A Special Talent for Killing"
1966 Gunsmoke Ben Payson Episode: "Harvest"
The Legend of Jesse James Blodgett Episode: "Return to Lawrence"
Dr. Kildare Sergeant Hensley Episodes: "Mercy or Murder", "Strange Sort of Accident"
The Virginian Huck Harkness Episode: "The Trail to Ashley Mountain"
The Big Valley Jack Thatcher Episode: "Barbary Red"
1967 Tarzan Crandell Episode: "Thief Catcher"
1971 Ironside Father Samuel Cavanaugh
  • Episode: "The Priest Killer"
  • This was the second pilot for the Sarge TV series.
  • It aired the week before the first episode of Sarge.
Sarge Father Samuel Patrick "Sarge" Cavanaugh (Swanson) 16 episodes
1974 A Cry in the Wilderness Sam Hadley Television film
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/Host Episode: "George Kennedy/Miles Davis"
1983 Fantasy Island Adam Cobb Episode: "God Child/Curtain Call"
1984 The Jesse Owens Story Charles 'Charley' Riley Television film
1986 Benson Himself Episodes: "Reel Murder" parts 1 & 2
1988–1991 Dallas Carter McKay 67 episodes
1994 Lonesome Dove Judge J.T. "Rope" Calder Episode: "Judgement Day"
1995 The Commish Al Scali Episode: "The Golden Years"
The Gambler Part III: The Legend Continues General Nelson Miles Television miniseries
1996 Wings Himself Episode: "What About Larry?"
The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest General Axton Episode: "DNA Doomsday"
Dallas: J.R. Returns Carter McKay Television film
1998 Dallas: War of the Ewings Carter McKay Television film
2003 The Young and the Restless Albert Miller Episodes: #1.7762, #1.7763, #1.7764
2004 The Complete History of U.S. Wars 1700–2004 Host 8 episodes
2010 The Young and the Restless Albert Miller (ghost) Episode: #1.9553

Awards and nominations

Year Category Award Work Role Result ref
1968 Academy Award Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor Cool Hand Luke Dragline Won
Laurel Award Male Supporting Performance
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
1971 Airport Joe Patroni
Laurel Award Male Supporting Performance


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

For his contributions to motion pictures, Kennedy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6352 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

Writing career

Kennedy wrote 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.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: George Kennedy para niños

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