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Arthur Kennedy (actor)

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Title: Arthur Kennedy (actor)  
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Subject: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Trial (1955 film), Bend of the River, The Man from Laramie, City for Conquest
Collection: 1914 Births, 1990 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, American Male Film Actors, American Male Stage Actors, American Military Personnel of World War II, Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe (Film) Winners, Cancer Deaths in Connecticut, Carnegie Mellon University College of Fine Arts Alumni, Deaths from Brain Tumor, Donaldson Award Winners, First Motion Picture Unit Personnel, Male Western (Genre) Film Actors, People from Worcester, Massachusetts, Tony Award Winners, United States Army Air Forces Soldiers, Worcester Academy Alumni
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Arthur Kennedy (actor)

Arthur Kennedy
Kennedy in Champion (1949)
Born John Arthur Kennedy
(1914-02-17)February 17, 1914
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died January 5, 1990(1990-01-05) (aged 75)
Branford, Connecticut, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1940–90
Spouse(s) Mary Cheffrey (1938-75; her death)

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.[1]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
    • Waning interest, ill-health then comeback 2.1
  • Awards and honors 3
    • Oscar nominations 3.1
  • Personal life 4
  • Death 5
  • Partial filmography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life and education

Kennedy was born John Arthur Kennedy on 17 February 1914 in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Helen (née Thompson) and J.T. Kennedy, a dentist. He attended South High School, Worcester and Worcester Academy. At Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh he studied drama being graduated B.A. in 1934.[2]


Kennedy moved to New York 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.[2]

Kennedy got his break 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, multi-faceted 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 today serve as an historical record of not only how aviators were trained but also how the equipment was operated.

He appeared in many notable films from the early 1940s through to the mid-1960s, including High Sierra, Champion, They Died with Their Boots On, The Glass Menagerie, Lawrence of Arabia, Peyton Place, Some Came Running, Elmer Gantry 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 films he played sympathetic villains.

He also enjoyed a distinguished stage career over the same period, receiving a Tony Award for the role of Biff Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (1949). Kennedy also 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.

On February 5, 1959, Kennedy appeared on the episode "Make It Look Good" of CBS's Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre. Kennedy plays Sam Carter, a former Confederate hired as a bank teller in an otherwise all-Union community by the banker Clem Doud, portrayed by Parley Baer. It is revealed that Carter, widely disliked in the town, had for a time been a prisoner of war at Elmira, New York. Carter becomes the inside partner to two brothers, played by Ed Nelson and Richard Rust, who rob the bank, but he changes his mind and does not take part in the splitting of the $30,000 loot. Carter must confront Russ Bowen, one of the brothers who had vowed to harm Carter's wife, Jenny, portrayed by Jacqueline Scott. Robert F. Simon plays Sheriff John Hanley.[3]

In 1974, Kennedy was a regular in the cast of the short-lived ABC police drama Nakia, portraying Sheriff Sam Jericho.

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 film-making. After Covert Action (1978), his next film was Signs of Life (1989).[4]

Awards and honors

In 1949, Kennedy won an Tony Award for best supporting actor as Biff in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman at the Morosco Theatre.[2]

The New York Film Critics named him best actor for Bright Victory (1951).[2]

His performance in Trial won him a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor.[2]

His portrayal of the newspaper reporter in Elmer Gantry (1960) gained him a Film Daily Award and a Limelight Award.[2]

Oscar nominations

Kennedy and Claude Rains share the record of four losing nominations for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[5] He also received a nomination for Best Actor, in Bright Victory (1951).
Year Award Film Winner
1949 Best Supporting Actor Champion Dean JaggerTwelve O'Clock High
1951 Best Actor Bright Victory Humphrey BogartThe African Queen
1955 Best Supporting Actor Trial Jack LemmonMister Roberts
1957 Best Supporting Actor Peyton Place Red ButtonsSayonara
1958 Best Supporting Actor Some Came Running Burl IvesThe Big Country

Personal life

Kennedy married Mary Cheffey (1915–1975) in March 1938. They had two children: actress Laurie Kennedy and Terence.[2][6][7]


The last years of his life Kennedy suffered with thyroid cancer and eye disease. 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.

Partial filmography


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Melissa Vickery-Bareford, "Kennedy, John Arthur", American National Biography Online, (Feb. 2000), accessed 13 Nov 13 2011.
  3. ^
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Arthur Kennedy at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^
  7. ^

External links

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