Classic Video Showplace

George Kennedy

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

One of the great aspects of the classic film, Charade, is its all-star cast.  Cary Grant, Audrey Heburn, James Coburn…the list goes on.

But people may be surprised to know that one of its biggest stars–and arguably the  movie’s most sinister villain, George Kennedy, was actually appearing in one of his earliest movie roles!

Kennedy was born on February 18, 1925, in New York City, into a show business family. He made his stage debut at the tender age of two — in a touring company’s production of Bringing Up Father.  Aside from a few television appearances, it would be nearly 35 years until George made it onto the Silver Screen.

Enlisting in the United States Army at the age of 17 during World War II, Geroge served 16 years, reaching the rank of captain. Kennedy served in the infantry under George S. Patton, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and he earned two Bronze Stars. Kennedy re-enlisted after the war and was discharged in the late 1950s due to a back injury.

After a recurring role on television’s Phil Silvers Show, Kennedy made his film debut in 1961’s The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, followed quickly by more prominent roles in the western, Lonely Are The Brave (starring Kirk Douglas), the romance/mystery/comedy, Charade, and a thriller, Strait-Jacket (with Joan Crawford).

A few years later, George appeared in the classic Cool Hand Luke and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role while also receiving a nomination for the corresponding Golden Globe.

Before the 1960s were out, Kennedy had appeared in 27 films before the end of 1969, including classics like Shenandoah, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, Bandolero, The Boston Strangler and the film version of McHale’s Navy.

But George’s success would continue early in 1970.

Kennedy would star in three films that year, none bigger than one of 1970’s summer blockbusters (and there were several), AirportThe star-studded air-disaster drama would be Universal Pictures’ biggest commercial success to date and earn ten Oscar nominations. Kennedy won a Golden Globe as a supporting actor portraying the character, Joe Patroni.

Airport would spawn a new generation of “disaster films,” including three other sequels.  Kennedy was the only actor to appear in each new installment of the film series.

George would continue to star in a wide variety of genres for the next several decades.  In 1988, he would introduce himself to a new generation of moviegoers by handling the role of Captain Ed Hocken — sidekick to Leslie Neilsen’s legendary turn as Lieutenant Frank Drebin, in The Naked Gun film series.

The first installment is regarded as one of the greatest comedy films of all-time and is even listed on The New York Times’ top 100 movies ever (Kennedy’s movies have several entries on this list).  George would continue to work in various film and television projects until the 2014 film, The Gambler.

At the time of his death in 2016, Kennedy was the oldest living actor to win an Oscar.  Coincidentally, he died the day of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony. 

You can see George Kennedy in classic films, including Charade, airing this Saturday at 8pm on ATVN.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.


The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ATVN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.