George Kennedy Dies: ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Oscar Winner Was 91
George Kennedy, a versatile actor whose long list of credits includes the Airport and Naked Gun films and an Oscar for his supporting role in Cool Hand Luke, has died in Middleton, ID. He was 91. Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris told the Idaho Statesman Kennedy died at 4:35 AM Sunday. The cause of death isn’t known, but DeGeus-Morris says the actor had a history of heart problems.
The burly Kennedy would star alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names — including Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Bette Davis, Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston — and was equally adept at broad comedy and heavy drama. He began his career on The Phil Silvers Show in the mid-1950s and guested on numerous TV shows. Specializing in the Western and war genres, he racked up TV credits including Maverick, Gunsmoke, Route 66, The Untouchables and Rawhide. By the early 1960s, he started landing roles on the big screen in such films as Lonely Are the Brave, Charade and In Harm’s Way.
He cemented his Hollywood cred with a pair of film classics in the late ’60s: playing a mild-mannered Army major in the star-studded war drama The Dirty Dozen and chain-gang leader Dragline in Cool Hand Luke. The latter role won Kennedy an Oscar in his only nomination.