George Kennedy, From the Files of Patroni!
By Phillip Nicholson
George Harris Kennedy Jr was born on February 18th 1925 into an entertainment background, his father being a musician and orchestra leader and his mother a ballet dancer, being in his genes it was natural that he was to follow their lead into the world of show business. George had many great film and television roles throughout his illustrious 60-year career, but, he is most famous for the all action, straight to the point character Joe Patroni. George was the only actor/character that would appear in all four of the movies Airport movie franchise, in variant degrees of screen time.
In the first film Airport, he sprung to action when a dreadful snowstorm at fictional Lincoln International trapped a Boeing 707, releasing it just in time for the bomb-crippled Trans Global “Golden Argosy” 707 to land. After the success of the first film, George later appeared in Airport 1975, but, was promoted to Columbia Airlines VP of Operations. There, he was pushed to the limit trying to save his wife and son and the other passengers and crew aboard Flight 409, a crippled Columbia 747 which had been involved in a mid-air collision with a Beechcraft Baron. In the third movie Airport 1977, all his aviation expertise once again is tested to the max when he is called upon to help locate the hijacked, off course private Steven’s International 747 that has landed on an underwater shelf. In Airport 1979-The Concorde, the fourth and final movie of the franchise, he now held the very prestigious role of a Concorde Captain for Federation World Airlines and with the help of Captain Paul Metrand they save the supersonic airliner from a potentially impossible position while it is operating a goodwill flight to Moscow for the Olympic Games. One of the passengers, journalist, Maggie Whelan, holds a secret that will bring and destroy a billion-dollar corporation.
Throughout his career, there was a reoccurring pattern with his roles as many others featured an airline theme. In 1985 he appeared in the made for TV movie International Airport, which sees Buck Rogers AKA Gil Gerard managing a large metropolitan airport, in this feature George stars as passenger Rudy van Leuven aboard a Conwest Airlines DC10 bound for Hawaii which is found to have a bomb onboard. In 1986 George would star in The Delta Force an action thriller directed by Menahem Golan based on the real-life hijacking of TWA Flight 847, in the movie he played Father William O’Malley a passenger aboard American Travel Ways Flight 282 hijacked shortly after it departs Athens seen as the voice of reason to the hijackers in the film he in a way mirrored his role of Joe Patroni as a figurehead in a dramatic unknowing situation.
In 1988 he went on to star as Captain Ed Hocken in the very comedic Naked Gun movie based on the famous 6 part Police Squad TV series, in the movie his colleague the clumsy Frank Drebin returns from vacation in Beirut on an Overseas International L-1011, and there is a blink and you’ll miss the moment in this scene, the aircraft was only painted up at the front and for a very brief second you see its real owner’s TWA logo on the tail the popularity of these movies spawned two sequels.
Featuring in many more films throughout his career it wouldn’t be until 2003 that he made his final aviation-themed role. He starred in Gwyneth Paltrow movie View From The Top as “Passenger Requesting Vodka” the film featured all around a young woman wanting to better her life who applies for Royalty Airlines as a flight attendant but after a mixup in her training scores she finds herself at the bottom of the ladder still. When it’s rectified and she’s placed on International First Class routes George is one of her passengers when she asks him if he’d like champagne he replies “No but I would like a vodka straight up!”
He always be remembered for his famous roles some of my personal favourites are the Airport franchise, I laughed out loud every time I watch the Naked Gun films and I especially like the explosive action he featured around in The Delta Force and Earthquake. A TRUE Hollywood iconic legend! George Kennedy 1925-2016