John Arthur Kennedy was born on February 17, 1914 in Worcester, Massachusetts. The son of Helen and J.T. Kennedy, a dentist. He attended South High School, Worcester and Worcester Academy. At Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh he studied drama being graduated B.A. in 1934.
Kennedy moved to New York and, billed as John Kennedy, joined the Group Theatre. He then toured with a classical repertory company. In September 1937, he made his Broadway debut as Bushy in Maurice Evans' “Richard II” at the St. James Theatre. In 1939 he played Sir Richard Vernon in Evans' “Henry IV, Part 1”.
Kennedy got his big break when he was discovered by James Cagney. His first film role was of Cagney's younger brother in “City for Conquest” in 1940. He was equally adept as hero or villain, and was noted for his mastery of complex, multi-faceted roles. He appeared in many Western films and police dramas.
From 1943 to 1945, Kennedy served in the military making aviation training films, both as a narrator and an actor. Many of those films today serve as an historical record of not only how aviators were trained but also how the equipment was operated.
He appeared in many notable films from the early 1940s through to the mid-1960s, including “High Sierra” (1941), “Champion” (1949), “They Died with Their Boots On” (1941), “The Glass Menagerie” (1950), “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Peyton Place” (1957), “Some Came Running” (1958), “Elmer Gantry” (1960), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), and “Fantastic Voyage” (1966).
He also enjoyed a distinguished stage career over the same period, receiving a Tony Award for the role of Biff Loman in Arthur Miller's “Death of a Salesman” (1949).
Arthur Kennedy appeared in two Euro-westerns: “Murieta” (1963) as Captain Harry Love along with Jeffrey Hunter and “A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die” (1967) as Marshal Roy W. Colby along with Robert Ryan and Alex Cord.
After his wife Mary’s death in 1975 he lost interest in acting and appeared only sporadically until his death in Branford Connecticut of a brain tumor on January 5, 1990.