Arthur Kennedy

Active - 1918 - 2017  |   Born - Feb 17, 1914   |   Died - Jan 5, 1990   |   Genres - Drama, Adventure, Action

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Biography by AllMovie

American actor Arthur Kennedy was usually cast in western or contemporary roles in his films; on stage, it was another matter. A graduate of the Carnegie-Mellon drama department, Kennedy's first professional work was with the Globe Theatre Company touring the midwest in abbreviated versions of Shakespearian plays. From here he moved into the American company of British stage star Maurice Evans, who cast Kennedy in his Broadway production of Richard III. Kennedy continued doing Shakespeare for Evans and agit-prop social dramas for the Federal Theatre, but when time came for his first film, City for Conquest (1940), he found himself in the very ordinary role of James Cagney's musician brother. Throughout his first Warner Bros. contract, Kennedy showed promise as a young character lead, but films like Bad Men of Missouri (1941), They Died with Their Boots On (1942) and Air Force (1943) did little to tap the actor's classical training. After World War II service, Kennedy returned to Broadway, creating the role of Chris Keller in Arthur Miller's All My Sons (1947). This led to an even more prestigious Miller play, the Pulitzer Prize winning Death of a Salesman (1948), in which Kennedy played Biff. Sadly, Kennedy was not permitted to repeat these plum roles in the film versions of these plays, but the close association with Miller continued on stage; Kennedy would play John Proctor in The Crucible (1957) and the doctor brother in The Price (1965). While his film work during this era resulted in several Academy Award nominations, Kennedy never won; he was honored, however, with the New York Film Critics award for his on-target portrayal of a newly blinded war veteran battling not only his handicap but also his inbred racism in Bright Victory (1951). The biggest box office success with which Kennedy was associated was Lawrence of Arabia (1962), wherein he replaced the ailing Edmund O'Brien in the role of the Lowell Thomas character. Working continually in film and TV projects of wildly varying quality, Kennedy quit the business cold in the mid-1980s, retiring to live with family members in a small eastern town. Kennedy was so far out of the Hollywood mainstream in the years before his death that, when plans were made to restore the fading Lawrence of Arabia prints and Kennedy was needed to re-record his dialogue, the restorers were unable to locate the actor through Screen Actor's Guild channels -- and finally had to trace him through his hometown telephone directory.

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