Actor George Kennedy recently passed away on February 28, 2016 at the age of 91. Kennedy turned in many great roles in movies like Airport and the Naked Gun films. But for my money, I will always first associate him with his wonderful role as Dragline in the classic film Cool Hand Luke (1967), which has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
While Paul Newman played one of his greatest roles and one of the great cool characters of all time, George Kennedy made us see the main character through the admiring eyes of his hot-tempered character. It is the pairing of the two actors, laying the foundation for the future of buddy movies, along with a fine supporting cast, that elevates the movie from good to great.
Kennedy’s portrayal of Dragline gave us a movie character for the ages. He even received the honor of uttering the movie’s title in response to Luke’s great line that “sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.” Check out the poker scene from Cool Hand Luke.
It would be too long before Paul Newman finally received a Best Acting Oscar, but Cool Hand Luke gave George Kennedy an honor he deserved with the Best Supporting Actor statue. And he gave a touching and exceptionally short speech.
Interestingly, Kennedy had a different impression than Newman of his Cool Hand Luke character’s motivation in the church scene near the end of the film. In a 1968 interview with Roger Ebert, Kennedy explained that Newman saw Dragline’s acts leading the authorities to Luke as a form of betrayal, while Kennedy saw the act as one of stupidity. I tend to agree with Kennedy’s interpretation, perhaps because his great acting gives the viewer the sense of the character’s simple sincerity.
What is your favorite George Kennedy movie? Leave your two cents in the comments.
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