Gish Gallop Salutes Our Heroes: George Kennedy, Dead at 91

Legendary actor George Kennedy has died at the age of 91.
Legendary actor George Kennedy has died at the age of 91.

George Kennedy, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Cool Hand Luke, died Sunday in Boise, Idaho, according to the Idaho Statesman. He was 91. Kennedy’s film credits also included The Dirty DozenAirport! movies, a series of  Naked Gun comedies and the disaster film Earthquake among many others.

Kennedy appeared in all four of the Airport movies of the 1970s as Joe Patroni, the reluctant, cigar-chomping but highly effective chief mechanic who could be counted upon when the chips were down and supreme ability was required. He also turned in a powerful performance in 1975’s Earthquake as the hearty, sentimental police sergeant Slade, who helps where he can in the wake of the devastating temblor. He worked steadily in the 1980s but made an impression only in the 1988 deadpan police comedy The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! and its sequels.

He finally burst into the public consciousness with his 1967 role as Dragline in Cool Hand Luke, where he was second-billed and held his own along star Paul Newman. The New York Times said, “George Kennedy is powerfully obsessive as the top-dog who handles things his way as effectively and finally as destructively as does the warden or the guards.”

George Kennedy
George Kennedy in one of his later roles.

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

The actor also wrote books: murder mysteries Murder on Location, published in 1983, and Murder on High, released in 1984. His autobiography, Trust Me, was published in 2011.

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