George Kennedy, the Oscar-winning actor who starred in one of the most iconic poker scenes of all time, has passed away at the age of 91.
Kennedy, who will be best known to poker fans as Dragline from the movie Cool Hand Luke, passed away at his home in Boise, Idaho on Sunday, following some minor age-related health issues.
After spending 16 years in the Army, Kennedy became an advisor on The Phil Silvers Show in the fifties, (where he also played the role of Sgt. Kennedy alongside Silver’s Sgt. Bilko) before landing his first major TV role in 1959 as Hank in Colt .45.
After working on multiple TV shows in the early sixties, Kennedy landed a part in his first movie in 1961.
Playing the part of Nathan Dillon in The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (a movie about the Civil War), Kennedy proved he could do it on the big screen and went on to act in more than ten movies, before taking a part in Cool Hand Luke in 1967.
Working alongside Paul Newman (who played Luke) as the man who refused to conform to prison life, Kennedy was an instrumental part in what players still see as one of the best poker scenes in movie history.
Acting as an advisor to Koko, the only player left in the round of five card stud, Kennedy’s Dragline reads Luke’s bluff, and tells his friend to “raise his head off,” but soon backs down when he notices the stakes.
The action continues, and Koko eventually folds to Luke’s bluff before the room erupts. Sitting as cold as ice after the hand, Luke remarks that sometimes “nothing can be a real cool hand” to which Dragline replies: “cool hand Luke.”
To this day, many still list this scene as one of the most riveting in poker movie history, and that’s why the passing of Kennedy will strike a somber chord with many in the industry.
The poker scene in Cool Hand Luke might be remembered as one of the most iconic in history, but it’s far from the only one. Over the years, there have been many memorable scenes starring actors who have sadly since left us, including:
Starring Steve McQueen and Karl Malden, The Cincinnati Kid contains a number of poker scenes, but it’s the one titled “whipped from both sides” that shows hustling at its finest. McQueen passed in 1980, while Karl Malden went to movie heaven in 2009, just three years short of 100.
One of the most jovial poker scenes in movie history, John Candy’s character Stripes manages to look at his opponent’s cards and convince him to bluff him. As you can expect, hilarity ensues and Stripes gets his way. Candy passed away in 1994.
A classic tale of con men taking on con men, the iconic poker scene featuring Paul Newman (who passed away in 2008) is just another step in his grand plan to swindle the Irish mob boss Doyle Lonnegan. Although he almost gets called out for his ruse, Newman manages to take the pot, annoy the mob boss, and live to fight another day.