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'Cool Hand Luke' Character Actor George Kennedy Dies, Aged 91

By Thomas Swan t.swan@classicalite.com on Mar 01, 2016 02:12 AM EST
George Kennedy Caption:WESTWOOD, CA - JUNE 27: Actor George Kennedy attends the 'Dennis the Menace Strikes Again!' Westwood Premiere on June 27, 1998 at the Mann Plaza Theatre in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage) (Photo : (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage))

George Kennedy, a familar face in supporting roles in both movies and television, has passed away at the age of 91. From Charade to The Naked Gun movies to the Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke, Mr. Kennedy seldom played the leads in films but you were well aware of his presence. He was not only a large man in stature but was equally sized in his talent as well. The George Kennedys are what make cinema great and we have lost a giant, one of the last of the great all-time character actors. His grand son confirmed that the burly, beloved actor passed away on Sunday of natural causes.

For Kennedy, his career turned around in the blink of an eye when he was cast in Cool Hand Luke. Until that point, Kennedy was largely type cast in bad guy roles on TV and in movies. Be that as it may, Kennedy's presence was undeniable and he caught your attention immediately when he came on screen.

He was born George Kennedy Jr. February 18 1925 in New York City. According to the Hollywood Reporter online, "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."

Mr. Kennedy would serve as technical adviser on the Phil Silvers TV show for a few years before the bespeculed comedian would encourage him to try his hand at acting. He would do the guest starring route on many shows in the late fifties and sixties when westerns were hugely popular. Mr. Kennedy would build a reputation that culminated in him winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in Cool Hand Luke.

Recently, I was asked if the term "Character Actor" was an insult. Watch a George Kennedy film sometime. He and others from that era are what today's Hollywood is missing.

Classicalite joins others to salute and honor this great actor. He would be missed but he will be forever with us. Just go turn on the TV. Pretty soon you might find yourself saying, "Hey look! It's George Kennedy."

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TagsGeorge Kennedy, Character Actor, Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke, Dead at Age 91

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