Remembering George Kennedy

George Kennedy in "Cool Hand Luke"

George Kennedy in "Cool Hand Luke"

By Sean Tuohy

Actor George Kennedy was rough and tumble with a hard stare that could crumble most men, but was also soft and gentle with a smile that could light up the darkest room. Hollywood sadly lost one of the few remaining greats yesterday. For more than 40 years Kennedy graced the big and small screens, and made sure to breath life into each and every character he played. 

We took a moment to remember some of Kennedy's best roles. 

“The Blue Knight” (1975-1976)

Only on air for one season, “Blue Knight,” a hard-hitting police drama, seems to be everlasting. Kennedy played LAPD Officer Bumper Morgan, a grizzled vet with a heart of gold who worked the streets and tried to keep them clean. Kennedy played the character grounded in the real world; a tired man who had seen too much too soon, yet came to work every day ready for something new. 

“The Dirty Dozen” (1967)

Even though Kennedy had a small role in the major action film, he made a big splash as the leveled headed Army officer who helps put together a squad of convicts to go behind enemy lines during World War II. Kennedy more than held his own with acting giant Lee Marvin.

“The Naked Gun” Trilogy (1988, 1991, 1994)

Willing to show his goofy side, Kennedy made us slap our knees until they were black and blue in this off-the-wall trilogy. He plays the straight-laced cop who always finds himself in the middle of a goofy mess. His reactions to Leslie Nielsen’s Frank Drebin in the following scene are comedy gold. 

“The Delta Force” (1986)

An otherwise standard pro-America, pro-explosion action film from the 1980s, “The Delta Force showcased Kennedy’s onscreen power as a priest being held hostage. Level headed and calm, but with a boiling rage resting just under the surface, Kennedy was a powerhouse in an otherwise dull film.

“The Eiger Sanction” (1975)

In this overlooked thriller from the 1970s, Kennedy plays the trainer and partner to a hit man (Clint Eastwood) who must catch and kill an assassin while rock climbing. 

“Cool Hand Luke” (1967)

We saved the best for last. Stepping out of his comfort zone, the Yankee-born Kennedy played a hard swinging southern convict in this classic Paul Newman picture. Kennedy nearly steals the show (and landed an Oscar).