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Burton Raphael Kennedy (September 3, 1922 – February 15, 2001) was an American screenwriter and director known mainly for directing Westerns. Budd Boetticher called him "the best Western writer ever."
|Born||September 3, 1922|
Muskegon, Michigan, United States
|Died||February 15, 2001 (aged 78)|
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Occupation||Film director, writer, producer|
Kennedy was born in 1922 in Muskegon, Michigan. His parents were dancers in vaudeville and he joined their act, the Dancing Kennedys, when he was 4 years old. They moved to Michigan, where Kennedy attended high school. He graduated school in 1941 and enlisted in the army the following year. Kennedy was commissioned and saw World War II service in the 1st Cavalry Division during the Liberation of the Philippines as a first lieutenant. He received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster.
Early writing workEdit
Kennedy studied at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he did some acting. "I'd walk out on stage and it felt like I'd been there my whole life," he recalled, but he found acting unsatisfactory. "I could see that you could be around this town for a long time before you could be a success as an actor, but writing, no one could stop you from writing. You're never out of work if you're a writer, you could just sit down and write."
Kennedy found work writing for radio in 1948. He began to specialise in Westerns, in part due to the advice of James Edward Grant, who told him, "Why compete with all the big writers when there are hardly any good Western writers as such?" Some good writers have written Westerns, but there were very few genuine Western writers in this town that were really good writers. He said that the competition was easier that way, and if you write a good Western, you're apt to go further faster. And it turned out, he was right. Because I never stopped, from 1953-54 up until the mid 70s, I never stopped working at all."
Although the TV program was never produced, it led Kennedy to write Seven Men from Now (1956) for Batjac. It was written for Wayne, but having just completed John Ford's The Searchers, he wanted to take a break from Westerns, so it was made with Randolph Scott; Wayne later expressed regret over having passed on the film. It was directed by Budd Boetticher and was the first of what became known as the "Ranown Cycle".
Kennedy also wrote The Tall T for Batjac, based on a story by Elmore Leonard. When Wayne broke up with his partner Robert Fellows, Fellows took The Tall T script and made it with Scott and Boetticher. Boetticher, Kennedy and Scott were reteamed on Buchanan Rides Alone (1958).
Kennedy was put under contract by Warner Bros., for whom he wrote Fort Dobbs (1958) and Yellowstone Kelly (1959). He wrote two other scripts, including an adaptation of A Distant Trumpet that was not used.
Kennedy made his directorial debut with the Western The Canadians (1961) with Robert Ryan, which he also wrote, but it did poorly at the box office. He began directing episode TV, including Lawman, The Virginian, and Combat!. Kennedy often wrote the episodes he directed and he also served as a producer on Combat. He wrote but did not direct the Audie Murphy Western Six Black Horses (1962).
Kennedy returned to features as director with the Western comedy Mail Order Bride (1964) with Buddy Ebsen. He followed it with comedy Western The Rounders (1965), starring Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda, which Kennedy also wrote and produced. It was a sleeper hit and led to a TV series, which Kennedy produced and directed some episodes.
Kennedy directed a contemporary film The Money Trap (1966), starring Ford and Rita Hayworth, then returned to Westerns with Return of the Seven (1966), a sequel to The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner returning and Robert Fuller replacing Steve McQueen as Vin Tanner.
Kennedy directed The War Wagon (1967) with John Wayne and Kirk Douglas and Welcome to Hard Times (1967) with Henry Fonda. His story formed the basis of Return of the Gunfighter (1967), though he did not direct it and he did some work on the script of Stay Away, Joe (1968).
Kennedy directed two films with Robert Mitchum, Young Billy Young (1969) and The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969), then directed Frank Sinatra in another comedy Western Dirty Dingus Magee (1970), co-written by Joseph Heller.
He turned to television for Shootout in a One Dog Town (1974) with Crenna, and Sidekicks (1974), the pilot for a TV series based on the film Skin Game (1971). He also directed a contemporary thriller, All the Kind Strangers (1974).
Kennedy started directing Drum (1976), but was replaced by producer Dino De Laurentiis with Steve Carver during the shoot. He directed The Killer Inside Me (1976), based on the Jim Thompson (writer) novel. His story provided the basis for Escape from the Dark (1976).
Kennedy returned to television doing episodes of Big Hawaii, How the West Was Won, The Rhinemann Exchange, and Concrete Cowboys. He also did the TV movies Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid (1978), The Wild Wild West Revisited (1979), and More Wild Wild West (1980).
Kennedy wrote and directed Wolf Lake (1980) with Rod Steiger and directed more episodic television: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Magnum, P.I., The Yellow Rose, Simon and Simon, Rowdies, and Snoops.
He did a feature with Donald Sutherland, The Trouble with Spies (shot 1984 released 1987), the TV movies Louis L'Amour's Down the Long Hills, The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory (1987), Once Upon a Texas Train (1988), Where the Hell's That Gold? (1989), and Big Bad John (1990).
Kennedy's last credits as director were the Hulk Hogan comedy Suburban Commando (1991) and the TV movie Comanche (2000). He also worked on the script for the Clint Eastwood movie White Hunter Black Heart (1990).
|1956||Seven Men From Now||Yes|
|Gun the Man Down||Yes|
|Man in the Vault||Yes|
|1957||The Tall T||Yes|
|1962||Six Black Horses||Yes|
|1964||Mail Order Bride||Yes||Yes|
|The Money Trap||Yes|
|1966||Return of the Seven||Yes|
|1967||Return of the Gunfighter||Yes|
|Welcome to Hard Times||Yes||Yes|
|The War Wagon||Yes|
|1969||Support Your Local Sheriff!||Yes|
|Young Billy Young||Yes||Yes|
|The Good Guys and the Bad Guys||Yes|
|1970||Dirty Dingus Magee||Yes||Yes|
|Support Your Local Gunfighter||Yes||Yes||Executive producer|
|1973||The Train Robbers||Yes||Yes|
|1976||The Killer Inside Me||Yes|
|1977||Escape from the Dark||Yes|
|1987||The Trouble with Spies||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1990||Big Bad John||Yes||Yes|
|White Hunter Black Heart||Yes|
|1974||Shootout in a One-Dog Town||Director|
|All the Kind Strangers||Director|
|1977||The Rhinemann Exchange||Director|
|1978||Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid||Director|
|1979||The Wild Wild West Revisited||Director|
|1980||More Wild Wild West||Director|
|1986||Louis L'Amour's Down the Long Hills||Director|
|1987||The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory||Director|
|1988||Once Upon a Texas Train||Director/Producer/Writer|
|Where the Hell's That Gold?||Director/Producer/Writer|
- ""Don't Do Things You Don't Know About": An Interview With Budd Boetticher". Senses of Cinema. June 2017.
- Galloway, Doug (February 20, 2001). "Writer-helmer Burt Kennedy dies". Variety. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
- "Burt Kennedy: Writing Broadway in Arizona". Parallax View. November 6, 2008.
- Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
- Burt Kennedy at Find a Grave