George Kennedy is one of my all-time favorite actors. He started off in the 1950s like so many other actors, playing bit parts and guest starring roles on TV shows. It was in the mid 1960s though that Kennedy started to make a name for himself in movies. More than a star, he was a hugely successful character actor, often playing that key-essential-very necessary supporting part. When he did get a shot at starring roles, he didn't disappoint there either. Click on the movie title for the full review.
Cool Hand Luke (1967): Maybe Kennedy's most memorable and best part, he earned the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his part as Dragline, a chain gang prisoner who forms a friendship with Paul Newman's troublesome Luke. It's a showier part for Kennedy, a drawling, talkative Southerner who can talk his way in and out of just about every situation. A great talent, and a great chemistry with Newman.
The Dirty Dozen (1967): One of my favorite movies with maybe the best tough guy cast ever assembled. Kennedy gets a small part as the quick-thinking Intelligence officer Major Max Armbruster, a friend of Lee Marvin's Major Reisman. He's only in a few scenes, but Kennedy manages to hold his own with his limited screentime.
Zigzag (1970): A rare starring part for Kennedy, but the movie just falls short. Convoluted doesn't begin to describe a story that has a married man (Kennedy) diagnosed with malignant cancer who's trying to provide for his wife and daughter for after his coming death. It has some good moments, but the twisting and turning story never quite delivers.
The Sons of Katie Elder (1965): A scene-stealing part for Kennedy in an early bad guy part. As John Wayne, Dean Martin, Earl Holliman and Michael Anderson Jr. as the Elder brothers try to figure out what happened to their mother and father, Kennedy's Curly -- a brutal hired gun -- is brought in to "handle" the situation. Not a classic western, but one of my favorites nonetheless. This is a supporting part for Kennedy, but his scenes are particularly memorable, including one fight with the Duke that lasts about a second a half.
The Flight of the Phoenix (1965): A plane crashes in the desert in a horrific sand storm. The survivors -- including Hardy Kruger's condescending engineer -- decide to build a new plane out of the wreckage and fly out of the desert. Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Peter Finch, Ian Bannen, Ronald Fraser, Ernest Borgnine, Dan Duryea, Christian Marquand and Kennedy play the survivors, battling hellish conditions as well as each other in this survival story from director Robert Aldrich.
Tick...Tick...Tick (1970): An underrated film released at the height of the civil rights movement. Former NFL star Jim Brown plays a recently elected sheriff in a Southern town, arriving to replace outgoing sheriff Kennedy. Ahead of its time in the same vein of In the Heat of the Night, it's a well-told story without being heavy-handed in dealing with race issues. Deserves more of a positive reputation and/or following.
Bandolero! (1969): Not a western that's hugely remembered by fans, but I've always liked it a lot. Dean Martin and Jimmy Stewart play brothers long since separated now reunited and on the run with Martin's gang into Mexico. Pursuing them is an obsessed sheriff -- played by Kennedy -- who wants nothing more than to bring them in....while also rescuing the lovely and very kidnapped Raquel Welch. Good action, better cast and a great score from Jerry Goldsmith with filming done at Alamo Village in Bracketville, Texas.
The Human Factor (1975): Like many other American actors, Kennedy headed to Europe for several roles in the late 1960s and 1970s. Here, he gets a leading part as an American scientist working in Italy seeking revenge for the brutal murder of his wife and three children. Not hugely well known, but it's solid throughout with a few nods to Death Wish. It certainly belongs in the conversation of really good vigilante movies that flooded theaters in the 1970s.
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969): A pairing of two of my favorites, Kennedy and Robert Mitchum. A marshal (Mitchum) must team with an infamous bandit (Kennedy) to handle the upstart outlaw (David Carradine) who took over Kennedy's gang. Goofy at times, it has a good cast and the chemistry between the two Hollywood legends carries the flick through some of its slower moments.
Charade (1963): Kennedy's first significant part in a film, and it's a doozy...in a good way. Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Coburn, Walter Matthau and Kennedy star in this Stanley Donen-directed thriller set in Paris. A good mix of some dark humor, mystery and tension, it's a very stylish, very enjoyable movie. Kennedy plays Scobie, a bear of a man with a hook for a hand searching for answers from Hepburn.
Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969): Kennedy takes over in a part made famous by Yul Brynner as Chris Adams, a drifting gunfighter who this time assembles a group of gunfighters and specialists to rescue a Mexican revolutionary from a heavily guarded prison. My personal favorite of the Magnificent Seven sequels, it doesn't have the star power of the other films, but Kennedy, James Whitmore, Reni Santoni, Bernie Casey, Scott Thomas, Monte Markham and Joe Don Baker form this flick's seven. The darkest of the movies, it was filmed in Almeria and again features Elmer Bernstein's famous, instantly recognizable theme and score.