George Kennedy, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the incarcerated thug that was charmed by Paul Newman in the 1967 classic “Cool Hand Luke,” was an American actor who found his niche in playing hurly burly characters in film and television.
Born into a show business family as George Harris Kennedy, this true blue American made his stage debut at the age of 2. World War II led him on a 16-year trajectory as a member of the U.S. Army, but a back injury led him back to the United States, where he navigated his way into show business.
Kennedy’s first speaking role in a major film was as the last slave to exclaim, “I am Spartacus!” in the 1960 blockbuster starring Kirk Douglas. He later appeared in other well-known Hollywood films such as “Charade,” opposite Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, and “Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” opposite Bette Davis.
Kennedy’s status strengthened in the '70s, when he appeared in the disaster story “Airport” and its three sequels. He enjoyed his slice of the popular icon pie in the '80s and '90s, when he spoofed his own past characters as Capt. Ed Hocken opposite Leslie Nielsen in the “Naked Gun” series of films.
Kennedy died Feb. 28, 2016 at his home in Boise, Idaho. He was 91.
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