Cool Hand Luke and Naked Gun star George Kennedy dies aged 91

George Kennedy, star of Cool Hand Luke and The Naked Gun trilogy, has died at the age of 91.

The Oscar-winning actor’s death was confirmed last night after he had endured a long battle with ill health.

Born in New York 1925, he began his acting career aged just two as a stage performer and would spend most of his childhood voicing radio shows.

He then halted his career to serve in World War II but his big screen break eventually came when he played MP Sgt. Kennedy in The Phil Silvers Show (1956-59).

He would then build up a strong resume of low-budget film and television roles throughout the 1960s with the most successful being in 1967.


That year saw him play Major Max Armbruster in the war adventure The Dirty Dozen but it was his role as grizzled prisoner Dragline in the prison drama Cool Hand Luke that would earn him the biggest plaudits as he managed to overshadow his more renowned co-star Paul Newman.

Kennedy’s performance helped him secure the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in what was to be his only Oscar nomination. That same year saw him appear in real-life crime drama The Boston Strangler (1968).

Into the 1970s, he then played the role of fixer Joe Patroni in the disaster blockbuster Airport (1970), a character he would go on to play in three sequels.

The 70s also brought him appearances in the likes of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1975) and Death on the Nile (1978) as well as featuring in another disaster flick in Earthquake (1974).

He continued to star in various films and television shows during the 1980s with another key year coming in 1988. As well as playing the part of Carter McKay in the hugely successful soap opera Dallas, he would show off his comedy chops with his humourous role as bumbling Detective Captain Ed Hocken in the hilarious smash hit The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!.

As was the case with Airport, he would reprise the part of Ed for two sequels in 1991 and 1994.

Kennedy’s acting career would eventually slow down in the late 90s/00s though he did manage to fit in a vocal role as Brick Bazooka in the toy-based adventure Small Soldiers (1998).

His final screen appearances where to come in the comedy drama Another Happy Day (2011) and the crime thriller The Gambler (2014).

Kennedy is survived by his daughter and two grandchildren.

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