George Kennedy, Character Actor, Dies at 91

Kimberly RipleyLife

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George Kennedy, the character actor known for roles in films like Airport, Cool Hand Luke, and the Naked Gun series of films, died on Sunday at the age of 91.

Grandson Cory Schenkel confirmed George Kennedy's passing.

"He passed Sunday morning, due to old age and some health issues," Schenkel said.

George Kennedy broke into acting after using his military expertise while serving as an adviser to Phil Silvers of Sgt. Bilko fame. He began playing roles as a character actor in the 1960s.

His biggest role in the 1960s--no doubt the catalyst to his career--was his role as Dragline in Cool Hand Luke. Dragline was a a convict who became friends with Paul Newman's character Luke.

George Kennedy loved that as he gained experience in the acting world, his characters went from being bad guys to good guys. He expressed that during a 1978 interview.

"The marvelous thing about that movie was that as my part progresses, I changed from a bad guy to a good guy," he said. "The moguls in Hollywood must have said, 'Hey, this fellow can do something besides be a bad guy.'"

One of the funnier roles George Kennedy played was that of Joe Patroni, a mechanic and overall problem solver in the Airport movies of the 1970s.

In his later years, George Kennedy starred on a soap opera, doing a seven-year run on The Young and the Restless. He acted well into his 80s.

Who was your favorite character played by George Kennedy?

Kimberly Ripley
Kimberly Ripley is a freelance writer and published author from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A wife, mom of five and 'Nana' to Lilly and Aiden, she loves cooking for her big family and watching HGTV in her spare time. Kim is guilty of starting way more home design projects than she can finish. Visit her at Twitter and Facebook.