Great talents have rocked Hollywood and George Kennedy was one of them. The thespian whose name sounds like that of a big shot in Washington and he was a big shot in Hollywood where he portrayed powerful and inspiring characters.
Here is everything you need to know about his birth, the family he left behind, and the cause of his death.
George Kennedy: Birth and Early Life
George Kennedy was born in New York City on February 18, 1925, George Harris Kennedy Sr, a musician and orchestra leader and mother, Helen A. (née Kieselbach), a ballet dancer. Unfortunately, George lost his father when he was four years of age and was largely raised by her mother.
At age 2, he made his stage debut in a touring company of “Bringing Up Father”, and by seven of age, he had already become a New York City radio DJ. However, the show business did not snatch away the need to acquire an education. He first attended WC Mepham High School in Bellmore, New York before moving to Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York, where he graduated in 1943.
He then enrolled at the John Tarleton Agricultural College under the Army Specialized Training Program. The school is now known as Tarleton State University Stephenville, Texas following the cancellation of the program in 1944 when the units were called for military service.
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George Kennedy joined the U.S Army and fought in World War II. While in service, he was among the founders of the first Army Information Office, which provides technical assistance to films and television shows. After 16 years in active military service of which he earned the rank of a Captain, he was discharged in the early 1950s following a back injury.
He launched his acting career he served as a technical advisor for The Phil Silvers Show.
George Kennedy: Career
George Kennedy made his acting debut in 1956 on the CBS sitcom “The Phil Silvers Show”. First, he was supposed to be a technical and military advisor of the casting crew. However, the person who was supposed to play the character of MP Sergeant Kennedy couldn’t make it; Kennedy landed the role he referred to as “a great training ground”, appearing in 14 episodes.
He then kick-started his acting career appearing in episodes of various television series including the radio-television western drama series “Gunsmoke”. He portrayed the character of Nathan Dillon in the 1961 DeLuxe Color production film “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come”.
His role as Dragline, a chain-gang convict in the prison drama film “Cool Hand Luke” won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He continued to appear in other films, which must have felt like a homecoming for someone who was born in the show business.
He played mostly villain roles in films which made people love and hate him. In 1971, he portrayed the character of Samuel Patrick Cavanaugh, a San Diego police detective sergeant, in the ‘NBC’ crime drama “Sarge.” He was in the commercials of Breathasure tablets on TV.
George also appeared in the Korean movie “Mayumi” as a Bahraini investigator. His final film appearance was in the2014 crime drama film “The Gambler” where his scene lasted for just two minutes.
He wrote three books in his lifetime. He wrote the murder mystery; Murder On Location. His second novel was titled Murder on High, which was released in 1984. In 2011, he wrote his autobiography, titled Trust Me.
George Kennedy had a large family when he was alive because of his several marriages. His first marriage was in the early 1940s to Dorothy Gillooly who was serving in the Women’s Army Corps during the period. The union produced a son named Kevin Kennedy. A divorce followed up soon and Dorothy took her son to Buffalo New York and raise him.
George Kennedy married Norma Wurman in 1959. The union was blessed with two kids a son, Christopher, and a daughter, Karianna. It ended in divorce in 1971, however, George remarried Norma in 1973 and finally divorced her in 1978.
His third marriage was with Joan McCarthy whom he married in 1978 shortly after his divorce. He remained married to Joan until death snatched her away from him in September 2015. He adopted three children of which one is in the show business as an actor (Betty Kennedy).
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One of his adopted daughters Shaunna Kennedy was a drug addict. She was declared unfit to raise her daughter Taylor. Following this, George and Joan waded in and adopted Shaunna’s daughter legally.
George Kennedy: Cause of death, net worth
George Kennedy has had a long history of heart problems. In 2002, he underwent triple bypass surgery. He died at an assisted living facility in Middleton Idaho on February 28, 2016. the day of the 88th Academy Awards Ceremony. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Oscar winner in the Best Supporting Actor category. His death passed this record to Martin Landau.
Many attribute his death to his heart problems. However, sources close to his family revealed that George was devastated and died inside after the death of his wife Joan who had died six months earlier. And remained dead on the inside until he joined her in the hereafter.
George Kennedy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6352 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California for his contribution to motion pictures.
At the time of his death, he left a net worth of 5 million dollars
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