George Kennedy, veteran actor whose work included some top films as well as classics of early television has died. He was 91.
Kennedy’s father was a musician and his mother was a dancer, so he made his stage debut while still a toddler, and worked in radio as a youngster. He left show business to serve in World War Two, eventually remaining as a career man in the army for sixteen years.
George Kennedy’s background in both acting and the military helped him obtain work as the technical advisor on the TV series “You’ll Never Get Rich,” later retitled “The Phil Silvers Show” on which Silvers played iconic TV character Sergeant Ernie Bilko. Kennedy accepted a few one-line bit parts on the show to help out, and eventually took somewhat larger roles on occasion. Silvers encouraged him to return to acting, and Kennedy landed a small part in Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus” (1960). He continued acting in movies throughout the 1960s, including parts in “Charade” (1963), “The Flight of the Phoenix” (1965), and “Cool Hand Luke” (1966), for which he won an Oscar.
Kennedy also did extensive work in television, including such shows as “The Andy Griffith Show,” “McHales Navy,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Perry Mason,” while continuing to act in movies like “The Dirty Dozen” (1967). By this time, Kennedy was established as one of the most durable, versatile, and dependable character actors working in movies and television.
Continuing to act in the 70s and 80s in films featuring Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris, Kennedy co-starred in all of the “Airport” movies of the 70s, and won a new legion of fans for his appearance in the “Naked Gun” series of films featuring Leslie Nielsen in the 90s. His last film was in 2014.
Kennedy wrote several books during the 80s, His autobiography was released in 2011.