'Airport' star George Kennedy dies at 91

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George Kennedy, who won a supporting actor Oscar for his role alongside Paul Newman in the beloved film "Cool Hand Luke," and was also a fixture of 1970s disaster movies including the "Airport" franchise and "Earthquake," died Sunday in Boise, Idaho. He was 91. His grandson Cory Schenkel reported the death on his Facebook page.

While Kennedy largely played gruff, blue-collar characters in dramas and genre films, he allowed a comedic side to emerge in the deadpan "The Naked Gun" movies.

Kennedy appeared in all four of the "Airport" movies of the 1970s as Joe Patroni, the reluctant, cigar-chomping but highly effective chief mechanic who could be counted upon when the chips were down and supreme expertise was required. He also turned in a powerful performance in 1975's "Earthquake" as the hearty, sentimental police sergeant Slade, who helps where he can in the wake of the devastating temblor.

Kennedy toiled in the TV trenches for much of the 1960s, especially guesting on Westerns — and occasionally appearing in supporting roles in high-profile films such as "In Harm's Way," "The Sons of Katie Elder," "The Flight of the Phoenix" and "The Dirty Dozen."

See photos of George Kennedy from his long career:

13 PHOTOS
George Kennedy
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'Airport' star George Kennedy dies at 91
GEORGE KENNEDY COOL HAND LUKE (1967)
GEORGE KENNEDY DENNIS THE MENACE STRIKES AGAIN! (1998)
GEORGE KENNEDY & BURT LANCASTER AIRPORT (1970)
SCENE WITH GEORGE KENNEDY BRASS TARGET (1978)
GEORGE KENNEDY ACTOR (1978)
SCENE WITH GEORGE KENNEDY HURRY SUNDOWN (1967)
GEORGE KENNEDY & FRANK SINATRA DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE (1970)
GEORGE KENNEDY FUKKATSU NO HI; VIRUS (1980)
O.J. SIMPSON LESLIE NIELSEN & GEORGE KENNEDY NAKED GUN 33 1/3: THE FINAL INSULT (1994)
JAMES STEWART DAN DURYEA ALEX MONTOYA GEORGE KENNEDY WILLIAM ALDRICH PETER FINCH & RONALD FRASER THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX
EVA RENZI GEORGE KENNEDY & JAMES GARNER THE PINK JUNGLE (1968)
JEFF BRIDGES GEORGE KENNEDY CLINT EASTWOOD & GEOFFREY LEWIS THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (1974)
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He finally burst into the public consciousness with his 1967 role as Dragline in "Cool Hand Luke," in which he was second-billed and held his own alongside star Paul Newman. The New York Times said: "George Kennedy is powerfully obsessive as the top-dog who handles things his way as effectively and finally as destructively as does the warden or the guards."

During the 1970s he made two attempts at starring in his own television series: 1971's brief "Sarge," in which he played a priest with a police background, and 1975's "The Blue Knight," an adaptation of the Joseph Wambaugh novel and subsequent TV movie in which he played a Los Angeles beat cop.

Other notable film credits during the 1970s included Michael Cimino's "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot"; "The Eiger Sanction"; and Agatha Christie period mystery "Death on the Nile," in which he was gruff as always but in this case exceptionally well groomed. He worked steadily in the 1980s but made an impression only in the 1988 deadpan police comedy "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" and its sequels.

He recurred on primetime soap "Dallas" as rancher Carter McKay from 1988-91 and appeared in the reunion telepics "Dallas: J.R. Returns" (1996) and "Dallas: War of the Ewings" (1998).

Most recently he appeared in the 2014 crime drama remake "The Gambler," starring Mark Wahlberg.

Kennedy was born in New York City to parents in show business. He first appeared onstage at the age of two, but later he would spend 16 years in the U.S. Army, ultimately working for Armed Forces Radio. He participated in the opening of the Army Information Office, which provided technical advice to the entertainment industry. A role as technical adviser to "The Phil Silvers Show" led to his early career in television.

The actor also wrote books: murder mysteries "Murder on Location," published in 1983, and "Murder on High, released in 1984. His autobiography, "Trust Me," was published in 2011.

Kennedy was married four times, the first time to Dorothy Gillooly in the 1940s, the second (and third) time to Norma Wurman.

He is survived by fourth wife Joan McCarthy and two children from Wurman.

RELATED: See photos from inside this year's 2016 Oscars:

15 PHOTOS
Inside the 2016 Oscars
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'Airport' star George Kennedy dies at 91
Actor Ryan Gosling (L) and Actor Russell Crowe present on stage at the 88th Oscars on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON / AFP / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Charles Randolph (L) and Adam McKay accep their awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, The Big Short on stage at the 88th Oscars on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON / AFP / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: David White (L) and Mark A. Mangini win the Best Sound Editing award for 'Mad Max: Fury Road' onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Members of Ex-Machina visual effects team accept their award for visual effects on stage at the 88th Oscars on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON / AFP / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
THE OSCARS(r) - THEATRE - The 88th Oscars, held on Sunday, February 28, at the Dolby Theatre(r) at Hollywood & Highland Center(r) in Hollywood, are televised live by the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images) CATE BLANCHETT
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Mark A. Mangini (L) and David White accept the Best Sound Editing award for 'Mad Max: Fury Road' onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Musicians Verdine White (L) and Philip Bailey (R) of Earth, Wind & Fire and Beck attend the 24th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation's Oscar Viewing Party at The City of West Hollywood Park on February 28, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for EJAF)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Actors Daisy Ridley (L) and Dev Patel speak onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Director Asif Kapadia (L) and James Gay-Rees (R) accept the award for Best Documentary Feature, Amy, on stage at the 88th Oscars on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON / AFP / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Actress Rachel McAdams (C) attends the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Musician Dave Grohl performs onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs speaks onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Actor Jacob Tremblay (L) and Actor Abraham Attah present on stage at the 88th Oscars on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON / AFP / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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