‘Naked Gun’ actor, George Kennedy dies at 91

image

Oscar winning actor, George Kennedy has died. He died on Sunday morning of natural causes in Boise, Idaho, according to his grandson, Cory Schenkel.
He was aged 91.

George picked up an Oscar for 1967’s Cool Hand Luke. He was, however, best known for his work in the Airport and Naked Gun franchises.

Kennedy played rancher and Ewing family nemesis Carter McKay on Dallas from 1988-1991, later reprising his role in the reunion pics Dallas: J.R. Returns (1996) and Dallas: War of the Ewings (1998).
Although he didn’t appear in the recent TNT revival, his presence was felt via Carter’s grandson Hunter (played by Fran Kranz).

His final TV role was in 2003 on CBS’ The Young and the Restless , playing the biological father to Victor Newman.

George Kennedy Jr. was born Feb. 18, 1925, in New York City. His father was a pianist and a composer/conductor at the Proctor’s Theater in Manhattan, and his mother danced with vaudeville’s Le Ballet Classique.

He made his acting debut at age 2 in a touring company of Bringing Up Father, traveling with the show for two years, and later voiced children’s radio shows.

Following high school graduation, Kennedy enlisted in the Army in 1943 with the hope of becoming a pilot in the Army Air Corps. He wound up in the infantry, served under Gen. George Patton and distinguished himself with his valor: He won two Bronze Stars and four rows of combat and service ribbons. After World War II, a bizarre medical condition — his left leg was shorter than his right by 3 inches — left him in traction for two years.

In the mid-1950s after re-enlisting, Kennedy worked in Armed Forces Radio and Television, and that got him a job in New York as technical adviser (and a few uncredited appearances) on the army-camp comedy Sgt. Bilko. Watching Phil Silvers and show creator Ned Hiken work whetted his appetite for acting. Additional good fortune arrived when the production company’s secretary referred him to a chiropractor who alleviated his leg and back problems.

With 30 percent disability after 15 years of service, Kennedy moved to Hollywood in 1959 and played an array of toughs who could go up against such stars of TV Westerns as 6-foot-7 James Arness in Gunsmoke, 6-foot-6 Clint Walker in Cheyenne and 6-foot-6 Chuck Connors in The Rifleman.

“The big guys were on TV and they needed big lumps to eat up,” Kennedy said in a 1971 interview. “All I had to do was show up on the set, and I got beaten up.”

Of course, he fought Paul Newman early on in Stuart Rosenberg’s drama Cool Hand Luke as Dragline, the leader of the prisoners who gives Newman’s character his nickname.

“The marvelous thing about that movie,” Kennedy recalled in a 1978 interview, “was that as my part progresses, I changed from a bad guy to a good guy. The moguls in Hollywood must have said, ‘Hey, this fellow can do something besides be a bad guy.’ ”

Kennedy’s vast body of work also includes Spartacus (1960); Lonely Are the Brave (1962); the John Wayne classic The Sons of Katie Elder (1965); The Dirty Dozen (1967); The Boston Strangler (1968); Earthquake (1974); Death on the Nile (1978), Albert Brooks’ Modern Romance (1981), in which he played himself as the star of an atrocious sci-fi film; Bolero (1984) opposite Bo Derek; Small Soldiers (1997), in which he voiced Brick Bazooka; and Wim Wenders’ Don’t Come Knocking (2005).

He appeared in NBC’s See How They Run (1964), which is considered the first movie made for TV. He also played President Warren G. Harding in the 1979 miniseries Backstairs at the White House and had a long-standing role on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless.

Kennedy’s wife, Joan, died in September.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s