by Carmel Dagan, Variety.com
George Kennedy, who won a supporting actor Oscar for his role alongside Paul Newman in the beloved film “Cool Hand Luke,” and was also a fixture of 1970s disaster movies including the “Airport” franchise and “Earthquake,” died Sunday in Boise, Idaho. He was 91. His grandson Cory Schenkel reported the death on his Facebook page.
While Kennedy largely played gruff, blue-collar characters in dramas and genre films, he allowed a comedic side to emerge in the deadpan “The Naked Gun” movies.
Kennedy appeared in all four of the “Airport” movies of the 1970s as Joe Patroni, the reluctant, cigar-chomping but highly effective chief mechanic who could be counted upon when the chips were down and supreme expertise was required. He also turned in a powerful performance in 1975’s “Earthquake” as the hearty, sentimental police sergeant Slade, who helps where he can in the wake of the devastating temblor.
Kennedy toiled in the TV trenches for much of the 1960s, especially guesting on Westerns — and occasionally appearing in supporting roles in high-profile films such as “In Harm’s Way,” “The Sons of Katie Elder,” “The Flight of the Phoenix” and “The Dirty Dozen.”
He finally burst into the public consciousness with his 1967 role as Dragline in “Cool Hand Luke,” in which he was second-billed and held his own alongside star Paul Newman. The New York Times said: “George Kennedy is powerfully obsessive as the top-dog who handles things his way as effectively and finally as destructively as does the warden or the guards.”
During the 1970s he made two attempts at starring in his own television series: 1971’s brief “Sarge,” in which he played a priest with a police background, and 1975’s “The Blue Knight,” an adaptation of the Joseph Wambaugh novel and subsequent TV movie in which he played a Los Angeles beat cop.
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Great actor RIP