Date of Birth:
3 September 1922, Muskegon, Michigan, USA
Date of Death:
15 February 2001, Sherman Oaks, California, USA (cancer)
American screenwriter and director--particularly of westerns--Burt Kennedy was the son of performers. He was part of their act, "The Dancing Kennedys", from infancy. He served in World War II as a cavalry officer and was highly decorated. After the war he joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse, but was ousted after one play as an actor for missing rehearsal. He found a job writing radio programs such as "Hash Knife Hartley" and "The Used Story Lot", then used his army fencing training to land work as a stunt fencer in films. Kennedy was hired to write 13 scripts for a proposed television program, "Juan and Diablo", with plans for John Wayne's Batjac Co. contract player Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez to star. The show was never produced, but Kennedy was kept on at Batjac to write films for producer Wayne. His initial effort, Seven Men from Now (1956), was a superb western, the first of the esteemed collaboration between director Budd Boetticher and star Randolph Scott. Kennedy wrote most of that series, as well as a number of others for Batjac, although it would be nearly 20 years before Wayne actually appeared in the film of a Kennedy script. In 1960 Kennedy got his first job as director on a western, The Canadians (1961), but it was a critical failure. He turned to television where he wrote and directed episodes of Lawman (1958), The Virginian (1962) and most notably Combat! (1962). He returned to films in 1965 with the successful The Rounders (1965), later producing and directing the pilot for the TV series of the same name.
His output since then has consisted of a number of popular Westerns, both theatrical and for television, as well as an occasional non-Western, but always with his trademark humor and stylish dialogue.