George Harris Kennedy Jr. passed away this Sunday. He was 91 years old. The versatile character actor appeared in more than 75 films over a 50 + career and had a couple of Oscar nominations for Best Supporting roles including an award-winning performance in Cool Hand Luke.
Yours to remember:
Cool Hand Luke (1967- Stuart Rosenberg)
This terrific prison drama was a breakthrough in George’s early career. As a leading prisoners who fights the title-character (played by Paul Newman in a cooler-than-cool Oscar nominated performance) and than comes to respect and idolize him, Kennedy is wonderfully likable.
…tick…tick…tick… (1970- Ralph Nelson)
In the vein (and a follow-up) of In the Heat of the Night, this tension-filled and racially-controversial crime drama is set in a small Mississippi town where a new black deputy (played by ex-American fooltball player Jim Brown in one of his best roles) has been elected sheriff of the community. As a reluctant and defeated deputy who later joins forces with the new sheriff against a group of vigilantes, Kennedy is pretty solid and adds depth to his character. Because it was rarely seen since it’s initial release, this solid social drama as become a cult film.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974- Michael Cimino)
In Michael Cimino’s highly enjoyable directorial debut, George Kennedy plays a red-hair bandit who gets mixed in a heist while looking for a previous loot. Although Clint Eastwood, as the leader of the group, and Jeff Bridges as a young Ned, are the stars, Kennedy’s character is the most colorful (and he chews in every scenes).
Death Ship (1980- Alvin Rakoff)
In this underrated and chilling British-Canadian horror flick, Kennedy plays the captain of a rammed cruise ship. Along with a few survivors, they go aboard a mysterious black ship... Canadian director Rakoff builds up the tension while relying on atmospheric settings (the incessant boat-machinery noises for instance) rather than going for the usual shock values. Kennedy’s character rapidly looses his mind and he is quite good when confronting his future replacement as captain (Richard Crenna of Rambo fame). The result is quite satisfactory and a gratifying variation on the ghost ship thematic.
The Naked Gun : From the Files of Police Squad! (1988- ZAZ)
In this hilarious comedy based on an earlier televisions series, Kennedy showed his versatility and comic flair as Leslie Nielsen’s sidekick. Kennedy reprises his roles of Capt. Ed Hocken in the two vastly inferior sequels.