In Lonely are the Brave (1962)
Scott Rollins’ Obit and Photoessay.]
Re-posted by Nicholas Stix
George Kennedy was, by all accounts, one of the nice guys of Hollywood. However, he was a rough-looking, massive man—about 6’4” and at least 220 lbs. when he was trim—so he paid his dues playing brutal bullies, whether as a jailer, in Lonely are the Brave (1962), a killer, in Charade (1964), or a convict, in Cool Hand Luke (1967).
Early in Kennedy’s career, the brutes he played often got theirs. But that changed with Cool Hand Luke, in which he gave one of the greatest supporting performances ever. Kennedy’s earlier roles were brief, but as Dragline, the brutal, stupid, top dog in a Southern penitentiary, Kennedy had a role that was rich in screen time, dialogue, and emotional depth. As the movie begins, Dragline appears emotionally and morally barren—just dumb and violent. His growing relationship with the “fresh meat” Luke (Paul Newman) changes everything, and in a role reversal, eventually, Dragline derives all of his life’s meaning from Luke. (The story has been described as a religious allegory, with Luke as Jesus.)
It’s extremely difficult to credibly depict a strong character who changes for the better. And yet, while the picture is seemingly dominated by Paul Newman’s virtuoso turn as Luke, much of its emotional power derives from the duet between Newman and Kennedy. If Kennedy had failed to hold his own, Newman would also have failed, and with him, the picture, which I have always found to be an overwhelming experience.
Luke made Kennedy a star, and he went on to give over 180 performances, mostly in movies and TV shows that I’ve never even heard of. Obituaries claim that his fame derived from the Airport and Naked Gun movies. Ridic.
Some of the obituaries say that his health fell apart when his wife, Joan McCarthy, died a year or so ago. IMDB claims that she is still alive. Owner Jeff Bezos has really let the site go to hell over the past few years, while milking it for every dollar he can make off of it.
It would be sweet to be able to say that George Kennedy loved his wife so much that he couldn’t live without her, but I need some clarity here.
George Kennedy Winning Best Supporting Actor (1968 Oscars), Delivers One of the Shortest Acceptance Speeches Ever
New York Daily News Obit
The Boxing Scene from Cool Hand Luke
The Poker Scene from Cool Hand Luke