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Kennedy, Arthur

KENNEDY, Arthur



Nationality: American. Born: John Arthur Kennedy in Worcester, Massachusetts, 17 February 1914. Education: Attended Worcester Academy; studied acting at Carnegie Technical Institute, Pittsburgh. Military Service: Served in U.S. Air Force, 1943–45; made training films. Family: Married actress Mary Cheffey, 1938, children: Terence and Laurie. Career: 1936—toured with Globe Theater; 1937—Broadway debut in Richard III with Maurice Evans's company; 1939—appeared with Evans company in Henry IV, Part I; in Federal Theater production Life and Death of an American; 1940—film debut in City for Conquest opposite James Cagney: contract with Warners; 1947—appeared as Chris Keller in Miller's All My Sons on Broadway (also originated roles of Biff in Death of a Salesman, 1947, John Proctor in The Crucible, 1954, and the doctor brother in The Price, 1968); 1954—first TV appearance; 1961—replaced Laurence Olivier in title role of Becket on Broadway; 1974—in TV series Nakia. Awards: Best Actor, New York Film Critics, for Bright Victory, 1951. Died: From a brain tumor, in Branford, Connecticut, 5 January 1990.


Films as Actor:

1940

City for Conquest (Litvak); Santa Fe Trail (Curtiz)

1941

High Sierra (Walsh) (as Red); Knockout (Clemens); Strange Alibi (Lederman); Highway West (McCann); Bad Men of Missouri (Enright) (as Jim Younger); They Died with Their Boots On (Walsh)

1942

Desperate Journey (Walsh)

1943

Air Force (Hawks)

1946

Devotion (Bernhardt—produced 1943) (as Branwell Brontë)

1947

Cheyenne (Walsh) (as The Sundance Kid); Boomerang! (Kazan)

1949

Champion (Robson); The Window (Tetzlaff); Too Late for Tears (Haskin); Chicago Deadline (Allen); The Walking Hills (Sturges)

1950

The Glass Menagerie (Rapper) (as Tom Wingfield)

1951

Red Mountain (Dieterle); Bright Victory (Lights Out) (Robson)

1952

Bend of the River (Where the River Bends) (Anthony Mann); Rancho Notorious (Lang); The Girl in White (So Bright the Flame) (Sturges); The Lusty Men (Ray)

1954

Impulse (de Lautour)

1955

Crashout (Foster); The Naked Dawn (Ulmer); The Man from Laramie (Anthony Mann); Trial (Robson); The Desperate Hours (Wyler)

1956

The Rawhide Years (Maté)

1957

Peyton Place (Robson) (as Lucas Cross)

1958

Twilight for the Gods (Pevney); Some Came Running (Minnelli)

1959

Home Is the Hero (Cook); A Summer Place (Daves)

1960

Elmer Gantry (Brooks)

1961

Murder She Said (Pollock); Claudelle Inglish (Young and Eager) (Douglas)

1962

Adventures of a Young Man (Ritt) (as Doc Adams); Barabbas (Fleischer) (as Pontius Pilate); Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)

1964

Cheyenne Autumn (Ford) (as Doc Holliday); Italiani brava gente (Attack and Retreat) (De Santis); Joaquin Murieta (Vendetta) (Sherman); Joy in the Morning (Segal)

1966

Il chica del Lunes (Monday's Child) (Torre-Nilsson); Nevada Smith (Hathaway); Fantastic Voyage (Fleischer); The Brave Rifles (as narrator)

1968

Day of the Evil Gun (Thorpe); Lo sbarco di Anzio (Anzio; The Battle for Anzio) (Dmytryk); Un minuto per pregare, un instante per morire (Escondido; A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die; Dead or Alive) (Giraldi)

1969

Hail Hero (Miller)

1970

Shark! (Fuller—produced 1967); The Movie Murderer (Sagal—for TV)

1971

My Old Man's Place (Glory Boy) (Sherin); A Death of Innocence (Wendkos—for TV); The President's Plane Is Missing (Duke—for TV); Crawlspace (Newland—for TV)

1973

Bacciamo le mani (Ferrente; Kiss My Hand; Mafia War) (Schiraldi); Ricco (De Micheli)

1974

Nakia (Horn—for TV); Fin de semana para los muertos (The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue; Don't Open the Window) (Grau); L'anticristo (The Antichrist; The Tempter) (De Martino) (as the Bishop); La polizia ha le mani legate (The Police Can't Move; Killer Cop) (Ercoli)

1976

Roma a mano armato (Rome Armed to the Teeth; Brutal Justice) (Lenzi); La spiaggia del desiderio (Emmanuelle on Taboo Island) (D'Ambrosio); Nove ospiti per un delitto (Nine Guests for a Crime) (Baldi); The Sentinel (Winner)

1977

Ab Morgen sind wir reich und ehrlich (Rich and Respectable) (Antel); Gli ultimi angeli (L'avventurosa fuga; Last Angels) (Doria); Ciclon (Cyclone) (Cardona)

1978

Sono stato un'agente CIA (Covert Action) (Guerrieri); Bermuda: la fossa maledetta (La cueva de los tiburones; Cave of Sharks; The Sharks' Cave) (Richmond); Porco mondo (Porno) (Bergonzelli)

1979

L'unanoide (The Humanoid) (Lewis)

1980

Movies Murderer (Sagal—for TV)

1989

Signs of Life (for TV)



Publications


On KENNEDY: articles—

Marill, Alvin H., "Arthur Kennedy," in Films in Review (New York), March 1974.

Buckley, Michael, "Arthur Kennedy," in Films in Review (New York), December 1988 and January 1989; see also issues for August/September 1989 and January/February 1990.

Obituary, in Variety (New York), 10 January 1990.

Cieutat, Michel, "Arthur Kennedy (1925–1990): Le desperado de l'ombre," in Positif (Paris), April 1990.


* * *

Arthur Kennedy's acting career represents one of solid, mainstream performance. In the 1940s he moved from minor roles in Warner Brothers staples (High Sierra, Air Force) to starring in "social problem" films such as Champion. The 1950s and 1960s saw Kennedy reach the peak of his movie career with appearances in a number of highly regarded Westerns (The Man from Laramie, Bend of the River) plus several money-making spectacles (Elmer Gantry, Lawrence of Arabia).

Kennedy, like many character actors of Hollywood's Golden Age, aspired to the stage. He received classical acting training at Carnegie Institute of Technology and in the mid-1930s moved to New York to "make it" on Broadway. At this point in his career he never did. There were occasional triumphs, including, for example, a Broadway debut in Richard III with Maurice Evans's company. But with his "discovery" by a Warner Brothers' talent scout, Kennedy, like many before him, moved to Hollywood. Success on Broadway (in Death of a Salesman) came only after he became a name in the movies.

Kennedy's best film work came in a series of Westerns in the 1950s. In one brief span at the beginning of that decade he worked with Nicholas Ray, Fritz Lang, and Anthony Mann in three of the best Westerns ever made: The Lusty Men, Rancho Notorious, and Bend of the River. Later in the 1950s came yet another solid performance in Anthony Mann's The Man from Laramie.

For a time in the mid-1950s it seemed Kennedy might even become a movie star. He received Academy Award nominations for best supporting actor in 1955, 1957, and 1958, the last for the box office smash Peyton Place. But it was not to be. Rather than leading to major roles this succession of nominations (with no win) only permanently established him as an ever-reliable character actor.

Kennedy's career after 1960 produced few artistic triumphs. In part this is because he rarely worked for top-flight directors. Exceptions include John Ford (Cheyenne Autumn) and Sam Fuller (Shark). Like many a character actor of his generation, Kennedy turned more and more to television work. Although his lone attempt at a weekly series (Nakia) lasted for only 15 episodes, he achieved a degree of fame as a guest star in such anthology programs as General Electric Theater and Playhouse 90, and later in a number of movies made for television.

—Douglas Gomery

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