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Burt Kennedy
Born(1922-09-03)September 3, 1922
Muskegon, Michigan, United States
DiedFebruary 15, 2001(2001-02-15) (aged 78)
Sherman Oaks, California, United States
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Occupation(s)Film director, writer, producer
Years active1955–2000

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."[1]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Burt Kennedy’s THE LADIES FROM LONESOME Part 1 World Premiere Western! Live, on stage reading! AWOW
  • Tease for THE LADIES FROM LONESOME by Burt Kennedy April 21st A WORD ON WESTERNS Live Presentation!
  • Famous Faces We Lost in 2001 | Obituary in 2001
  • Western Movie Finale! Burt Kennedy’s THE LADIES FROM LONESOME Part 3 Live Reading On Stage!
  • Randolph Scott's classic westerns w/Budd Boetticher & Burt Kennedy! Guest is Emmy Winner Kirk Ellis!



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.[2] 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.[3] He received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster.[2]

Early writing work

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."[3]

Kennedy found work writing for radio in 1948.[2] 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."[3]

Kennedy used his training as a cavalry officer to secure a job as a fencing trainer and fencing stunt double in films.


Kennedy wrote 13 episodes for a proposed TV series about a Mexican, which John Wayne read and tried to get financed as a vehicle for Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez through Wayne's Batjac Productions.[3]

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".

Also for Batjac, Kennedy wrote Gun the Man Down (1956) starring James Arness, and Man in the Vault (1956), a contemporary thriller. Both were directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.

Kennedy also wrote The Tall T for Batjac, based on a story by Elmore Leonard.[2] When Wayne broke up with his partner Robert Fellows, Fellows took The Tall T script and made it with Scott and Boetticher.[3] Boetticher, Kennedy, and Scott were reteamed on Buchanan Rides Alone (1958).

Warner Bros.

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.[3]

Then for Boetticher and Scott again, he wrote Ride Lonesome (1959) and Comanche Station (1960).[2] He did some uncredited work on The Alamo (1960).


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.[2] He began directing episodic TV, including Lawman, The Virginian, and Combat!. Kennedy often wrote the episodes he directed, and he also served as a producer on Combat.[2] 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.[2] He followed it with comedy Western The Rounders (1965), starring Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda, which Kennedy also wrote and produced.[2] It was a sleeper hit[2] and led to a TV series, for 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 had a huge success directing the comedy Western Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) starring James Garner, though Kennedy did not write the script.

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.


Kennedy directed Richard Crenna in The Devil's Backbone (1970), after which Garner and he tried to repeat the success of Support Your Local Sheriff with Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971).

Kennedy made Hannie Caulder (1971) with Raquel Welch and was reunited with John Wayne in The Train Robbers (1973).

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).

Final years

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).

In 1996, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[4]

Kennedy died of cancer at home on February 15, 2001, in Sherman Oaks, California.[2] He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on March 2, 2001.

His companion was Nancy Pendleton and he had two daughters.[2] A documentary was made about the suspicious circumstances of his death, which included interviews with his children and details allegations that Nancy Pendleton and Orange County Police Chief David Snowden were involved in Burt’s death and the appropriation of his estate after his death.[5]



Year Title Director Writer Producer
1956 Seven Men From Now Yes
Gun the Man Down Yes
Man in the Vault Yes
1957 The Tall T Yes
1959 Ride Lonesome Yes
1960 Comanche Station Yes
1961 The Canadians Yes Yes
1962 Six Black Horses Yes
1964 Mail Order Bride Yes Yes
1965 The Rounders 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
The Deserter Yes
1971 Support Your Local Gunfighter Yes Executive
Hannie Caulder Yes Yes
1973 The Train Robbers Yes Yes
1976 The Killer Inside Me Yes
1977 Escape from the Dark Yes
1980 Wolf Lake Yes
1987 The Trouble with Spies Yes Yes Yes
1990 Big Bad John Yes Yes
White Hunter Black Heart Yes
1991 Suburban Commando Yes
2000 Comanche Yes Yes


TV movies

Year Title Director Producer Writer
1974 Shootout in a One-Dog Town Yes
Sidekicks Yes Yes
All the Kind Strangers Yes
1978 Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid Yes
1979 The Wild Wild West Revisited Yes
1980 More Wild Wild West Yes
1986 Louis L'Amour's Down the Long Hills Yes
1987 The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory Yes
1988 Once Upon a Texas Train Yes Yes Yes
Where the Hell's That Gold? Yes Yes Yes


  1. ^ ""Don't Do Things You Don't Know About": An Interview With Budd Boetticher". Senses of Cinema. June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Galloway, Doug (February 20, 2001). "Writer-helmer Burt Kennedy dies". Variety. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Burt Kennedy: Writing Broadway in Arizona". Parallax View. November 6, 2008.
  4. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  5. ^ "The Burt Kennedy Story - Euthanasia and Estate Plundering". YouTube.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 June 2024, at 07:38
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