Wednesday, February 17, 2010

George Kennedy

For fifty years, George Kennedy has been one of our favorite character actors playing bullies and thugs or the dependable sidekick.

George Harris Kennedy, Jr. was born on February 18, 1925 in New York City into a show business family. His father, George Harris Kennedy Sr. was a musician and orchestra leader. His mother, Helen Kieselbach was a ballet dancer.

George Kennedy made his stage debut at the age of two and later became a radio performer as a young adult.

George Kennedy put aside show business during World War II. He spent sixteen years in the United States Army, seeing combat and serving directly under General Patton. During his military career, he worked in the Armed Forces radio. He was involved with the opening of the first Army Information Office, which provided technical assistance to films and TV shows. After retiring from the military George Kennedy found his way back to the entertainment industry.

George Kennedy originally was a technical advisor for the television series Sergeant Bilko.

In 1956, he made his acting debut in an episode of The Phil Silvers Show. Roles soon followed in episodes of Cheyenne, Lawman, Wanted Dead or Alive, Peter Gunn and Maverick.

In 1960, he made his film debut as a slave in Spartacus. In 1961, he appeared in his first credited film role as Nathan Dillon in The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come.

During the 1960s, he appeared in such television shows as Route 66, Bat Masterson, The Untouchables, Rawhide, Have Gun Will Travel, The Andy Griffith Show, McHale's Navy, and Bonanza.

During the 1960s he appeared films such as Lonely Are The Brave (1962), Charade (1963), McHale's Navy (1964), Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), In Harm's Way (1965), Shenandoah (1965), The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), The Dirty Dozen (1967), and The Boston Strangler (1968).

In 1967, George Kennedy was cast as Dragline, a chain gang convict, in Cool Hand Luke. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

During the 1970s, George Kennedy appeared in films such as Airport (1970), Dirty Dingus Magee (1970), Fools' Parade (1971), Lost Horizon (1973), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Airport 1975 (1974), Earthquake (1974), Airport '77 (1977), Death on the Nile (1978) and The Concorde ... Airport '79 (1979).

The 1980s brought George Kennedy roles in films such as Chattanooga Choo Choo (1984) The Delta Force (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987) and Nightmare at Noon (1988). On television he appeared in episodes of Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and the made for televison movie The Jesse Owens Story (1984).

Just when George Kennedy career seemed to be on a downward spiral, he appeared as Captain Ed Hocken opposite Leslie Nielsen's comical cop Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988). He would reprise the role in two sequels: The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994). George Kennedy was back on top.

On television, George Kennedy portrayed Carter McKay in the CBS prime time serial Dallas and several made for television Dallas movies during the 1990s.

In 1998, George Kennedy retired and moved to Idaho with his wife. But retirement life was not for George Kennedy.

He most recently protrayed Judge Duke in The Man Who Came Back (2008).

In 2010, George Kennedy will be Mad Mad Wagon Party (2010) and Six Days in Paradise (2010).

George Kennedy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures.

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