On this day, February 15, 2001, American screenwriter and director–particularly of westerns–Burt Kennedy died in his home in Sherman Oaks, California at the age of 78.
Born in Muskegon, Michigan, September 3, 1922, he was the son of performers, part of their act, “The Dancing Kennedys”, from infancy.
Kennedy served in World War II as a cavalry officer and was highly decorated. After the war he used his training as a cavalry officer to secure a job as a fencing trainer and fencing stunt double in films. That led to Kennedy being hired to write for a television program with a fencing theme for John Wayne’s Batjac Productions.
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 TV program was never produced. Kennedy went on to write screenplays for a number of Batjac films starting with the 1956 western Seven Men from Now starring Randolph Scott. It would be nearly 20 years before Wayne actually appeared in the film Kennedy wrote.
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.
In 1996, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
For his service during WWII, Kennedy received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart, Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.