Kennedy (right) in Stage 67 (1966)
John Arthur Kennedy
February 17, 1914
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||January 5, 1990 (aged 75)|
Branford, Connecticut, U.S.
|Education||Carnegie Mellon University (BFA)|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Cheffey (1938–1975)|
John Arthur Kennedy (February 17, 1914 – January 5, 1990) was an American stage and film actor known for his versatility in supporting film roles and his ability to create "an exceptional honesty and naturalness on stage", especially in the original casts of Arthur Miller plays on Broadway. He won the 1949 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for Miller's Death of a Salesman. He also won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for the 1955 film Trial, and was a five-time Academy Award nominee.
Early life and education
Kennedy was born on February 17, 1914, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Helen (née Thompson) and John Timothy "J.T." Kennedy, a dentist. He attended South High School, Worcester and Worcester Academy. He studied drama at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, graduating with a B.A. in 1934.
Kennedy moved to New York City and, billed as John Kennedy, joined the Group Theatre. He then toured with a classical repertory company. In September 1937, he made his Broadway debut as Bushy in Maurice Evans' Richard II at the St. James Theatre. In 1939 he played Sir Richard Vernon in Evans' Henry IV, Part 1.
Kennedy made his entry into films when he was discovered by James Cagney. His first film role was of Cagney's younger brother in City for Conquest in 1940. He was equally adept as hero or villain, and was noted for his mastery of complex, multifaceted roles. He appeared in many Western films and police dramas.
During World War II, Kennedy served from 1943 to 1945 in the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) making aviation training films, both as a narrator and an actor. Many of those films serve as historical records of how aviators were trained and flight equipment was operated.
Kennedy appeared in many notable films from the early 1940s through mid-1960s, including High Sierra, Champion, They Died with Their Boots On, The Glass Menagerie, The Desperate Hours, Trial, Peyton Place, Some Came Running, Elmer Gantry, The Man from Laramie, Barabbas, Lawrence of Arabia, Nevada Smith and Fantastic Voyage.
Of Kennedy's film work, he is perhaps best-remembered for his collaborations with director Anthony Mann and co-star James Stewart on Bend of the River (1952) and The Man from Laramie (1955), in both of which he played sympathetic villains.
He also enjoyed a distinguished stage career over the same period, receiving a Tony Award for his role of Biff Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (1949). He inaugurated three other major characters in Miller plays: Chris Keller in All My Sons (1947), John Proctor in The Crucible (1953) and Walter Franz in The Price (1968). In 1961 he played the title role in Becket, opposite Laurence Olivier as Henry II.
Waning interest, ill-health, then comeback
With the death of his wife in 1975, failing eyesight, alcoholism, and thyroid cancer, Kennedy was reported as having lost interest in filmmaking. After Covert Action (1978), his next films were The Humanoid (1979) and Signs of Life (1989).
Awards and honors
Kennedy, Claude Rains and Robert Duvall share the record of four losing nominations for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, although Duvall won for Best Actor in 1983. Kennedy also received a nomination for Best Actor for his performance in Bright Victory (1951).
During the last years of his life, Kennedy suffered from thyroid cancer and eye disease. He spent much of his later life in Savannah, Georgia, out of the public eye. He died in 1990 in Branford, Connecticut of a brain tumor. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, near his home at Lequille, Nova Scotia, Canada; his wife Mary is also buried there.
- City for Conquest (1940) as Eddie Kenny
- High Sierra (1941) as 'Red'
- Knockout (1941) as Johnny Rocket
- Strange Alibi (1941) as Joe Geary
- Bad Men of Missouri (1941) as Jim Younger
- Highway West (1941) as George Foster
- They Died with Their Boots On (1941) as Ned Sharp
- Desperate Journey (1942) as Flying Officer Jed Forrest
- Air Force (1943) as Bombardier
- Reconnaissance Pilot (1943, documentary short) as Decoration Announcer (voice, uncredited)
- Resisting Enemy Interrogation (1944) as Sgt. Alfred Mason (uncredited)
- Ditch and Live (1944, Short) as Captain Scott H. Reynolds (uncredited)
- Time to Kill (1945, Short) as Narrator (uncredited)
- Target - Invisible (1945, documentary short) as Narrator (uncredited)
- Devotion (1946) as Branwell Brontë
- It's Your America (1946, Short) as Soldier (uncredited)
- Boomerang (1947) as John Waldron
- Cheyenne (1947) as Chalk
- The Walking Hills (1949) as Chalk
- Champion (1949) as Connie
- The Window (1949) as Ed Woodry
- Too Late for Tears (1949) as Alan Palmer
- Chicago Deadline (1949) as Tommy Ditman
- The Glass Menagerie (1950) as Tom Wingfield
- Bright Victory (1951) as Larry Nevins
- Red Mountain (1951) as Lane Waldron
- Bend of the River (1952) as Emerson Cole
- Rancho Notorious (1952) as Vern Haskell
- The Girl in White (1952) as Dr. Ben Barringer
- The Lusty Men (1952) as Wes Merritt
- Impulse (1954) as Alan Curtis
- Crashout (1955) as Joe Quinn
- The Man From Laramie (1955) as Vic Hansbro
- The Desperate Hours (1955) as Deputy Sheriff Jesse Bard
- Trial (1955) as Barney
- The Naked Dawn (1955) as Santiago
- The Rawhide Years (1956) as Rick Harper
- Peyton Place (1957) as Lucas Cross
- Twilight for the Gods (1958) as First Mate Ramsay
- Some Came Running (1958) as Frank Hirsh
- The Ten Commandments (1959, TV Movie)
- Home Is the Hero (1959) as Willie O'Reilly
- A Summer Place (1959) as Bart Hunter
- Elmer Gantry (1960) as Jim Lefferts
- Claudelle Inglish (1961) as Clyde Inglish
- Murder, She Said (1961) as Dr. Quimper
- Barabbas (1961) as Pontius Pilate
- Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962) as Dr. Adams
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962) as Jackson Bentley
- Attack and Retreat (1964) as Ferro Maria Ferri
- Cheyenne Autumn (1964) as Doc Holliday
- Murieta (1965) as Capt. Love
- Joy in the Morning (1965) as Patrick Brown
- Nevada Smith (1966) as Bill Bowdre
- Fantastic Voyage (1966) as Dr. Duval
- Monday's Child (1967) as Peter Richardson
- Day of the Evil Gun (1968) as Owen Forbes
- A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die (1968) as Tuscosa Marshal Roy W. Colby
- Anzio (1968) as Maj. Gen. Jack Lesley
- Hail, Hero! (1969) as Albert Dixon
- Shark! (1969) as Doc
- The Movie Murderer (1970, TV Movie) as Angus MacGregor
- My Old Man's Place (1971) as Walter Pell
- A Death of Innocence (1971, TV Movie) as Mark Hirsch
- Crawlspace (1972, TV Movie) as Albert Graves
- I Kiss the Hand (1973) as Don Angelino Ferrante
- Ricco the Mean Machine (1973) as Don Vito
- The President's Plane Is Missing (1973, TV Movie) as Gunther Damon
- The Man from Independence (1974) as Tom Pendergast
- Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) as The Inspector
- The Antichrist (1974) as Bishop Ascanio Oderisi
- Killer Cop (1975) as Armando Di Federico
- Rome Armed to the Teeth (1976) as Ruini
- Ab morgen sind wir reich und ehrlich (1976) as Mike Jannacone
- La spiaggia del desiderio (1976) as Antonio
- The Sentinel (1977) as Monsignor Franchino
- Nine Guests for a Crime (1977) as Uberto
- Gli ultimi angeli (1978) as Il nonno
- Bermuda: Cave of the Sharks (1978) as Mr. Jackson
- Cyclone (1978) as The Priest
- Porco mondo (1978) as Senator Merelli
- Covert Action (1978) as CIA Chief of Station, Athens
- The Humanoid (1979) as Dr. Kraspin
- Signs of Life (1989) as Owen Coughlin
- I figli del vento (1989, TV Movie)
- Grandpa (1990) (final film role)
- James C. McKinley Jr., "Arthur Kennedy, Actor, 75, Dies; Was Versatile in Supporting Roles", The New York Times, 7 Jan 1990, p 30, via ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007) accessed 13 November 2011.
- Melissa Vickery-Bareford, "Kennedy, John Arthur", American National Biography Online, (Feb. 2000), accessed 13 Nov 13 2011.
- "Zane Grey Theatre: "Make It Look Good", February 5, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Glenn Collins, "Arthur Kennedy: Comeback for a Curmudgeon", The New York Times, 30 Apr 1989, p H24, via ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007) accessed 13 November 2011.
- Arthur Kennedy on IMDb
- "Arthur Kennedy Biography (1914-1990)". Film Reference, Theatre, Film, and Television Biographies. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "Mary Cheffey". IMDB. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- Macksoud, Meredith C.; Smith, Craig R.; Lohrke, Jackie (25 November 2002). Arthur Kennedy, Man of Characters: A Stage and Cinema Biography. McFarland. p. 142 – via Internet Archive.
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