As a small kid in the seventies who loved movies that appealed to a young boy, George Kennedy became instantly recognizable.

He was in two films that I repeatedly watched on TV growing up. The Dirty Dozen and Cool Hand Luke. Both made in 1967 and the latter netting him his only Oscar opposite Paul Newman’s iconic role.

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Drowning myself in westerns on the couch with dad, we’d spot him playing nasty in titles like The Sons of Katie Elder and Lonely Are the Brave. And how about the man with the claw in Charade. The best Hitchcock film that Hitch never made. Once he had his Oscar, the roles got bigger and he took the lead in the third Magnificent 7 film. Bandolero was another title that I watched constantly growing up as was Thunderbolt and Lightfoot with Clint Eastwood. Check out Fool’s Parade if you get the chance. A little on the rare side as he plays nasty hounding James Stewart. As he was a big man he made a good foil for Duke in Cahill : U.S. Marshall.

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I saw Earthquake at the theater when I was quite young and Kennedy impressed as the mountainous officer of the law one could count on.

He could always be counted on to help save the day in the four Airport movies as the character Joe Patroni. Too this day, I refer to that name when watching a plane film that may involve drama or disaster. “We should call in Joe Patroni.” I’ll say to no one in particular.

I remember either seeing or reading him talk of working on Bolero with a pretty much naked Bo Derek for an entire shoot and making light of it. Not sure of his exact quote but it was something to the effect it’s “Nice work when you can get it.”

It was nice to see him turn up for the Naked Gun series with Leslie Neilsen as Ed. It’s an easy reference point when trying to get someone who may not know his older films to help them put a face to the name.

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I even featured George in April of 2015 as part of my April Fool’s day post with my head matted on to Paul Newman’s body with the written story/joke to follow.

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Here’s a role I really wish had worked out by my temper got the better of me. After landing the role of Luke we filmed the boxing scene on the first day of shooting. Me against the mountainous George Kennedy. The testosterone was flying and while Kennedy was knocking me silly the other actors were having a lot of fun at my expense egging me on to land some shots of my own. My blood pressure was rising and when Kennedy missed his mark landing a solid shot to my jaw I was not happy. With the peer pressure of my fellow inmates and my competitive nature I was ready on the next take. Kennedy threw the uppercut, I stepped to the side and landed a thunderous left hook to his own jaw knocking him cold for a solid two minutes. All hell broke loose and the director Stuart Rosenberg promptly had me fired as an onset troublemaker and took on the producers second choice Paul Newman. I was happy for Paul as he always seemed like a nice guy. Wished I could have worked with him along the way.

I guess I’ll have to watch my copy of his 1970 flick Zig Zag I have been meaning to feature out here. For one reason or another I keep pushing it back a day as well as what I guess might be his final film appearance in last year’s The Gambler where he made a cameo.

At any moment now I suspect my phone will ring. It’ll be my Mom telling me of his death. She too was a Kennedy fan.