George Harris Kennedy, Jr. is an American actor who has appeared in over 200 film and television productions. He is perhaps most familiar as the convict Dragline in Cool Hand Luke, airline troubleshooter Joe Patroni in the Airport series of disaster movies from the 1970s and as Captain Ed Hocken in the Naked Gun series of comedy films.
Kennedy was born in New York City into a show business family. His father, George Harris Kennedy, a musician and orchestra leader, died when Kennedy was four years old. He was raised by his mother, Helen A., a ballet dancer. He made his stage debut at the age of two, later becoming a radio performer. Kennedy put aside show business during World War II and spent sixteen years in the United States Army, seeing combat and working in the Armed Forces radio. He was involved with the opening of the first Army Information Office, which provided technical assistance to films and TV shows. After retiring from the military, Kennedy found his way back to the entertainment industry.
Kennedy became a technical advisor for the television series Sergeant Bilko, where his acting career began with a few one-line parts. After a very brief appearance in the 1960 blockbuster Spartacus, his film career began in 1961 in The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. He then appeared in several prominent Hollywood movies, including Charade opposite Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, and James Coburn; 1964’s Hush. Hush, Sweet Charlotte, opposite Bette Davis, and in such popular 1965 films as the crash-survivor drama The Flight of the Phoenix with James Stewart and the war story In Harm’s Way with John Wayne.
He made numerous television appearances on shows like The Andy Griffith Show, Perry Mason, Bonanza, McHale’s Navy and Gunsmoke. He portrayed the character “Blodgett” in a 1966 episode “Return to Lawrence” of the ABC western series The Legend of Jesse James, starring Christopher Jones in the title role.