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Howard Keel, Musical Star, Is Dead at 85

 
 
caramel
 
Reply Sun 7 Nov, 2004 07:38 pm
Howard Keel, Musical Star, Is Dead at 85
Sun Nov 7, 2004 07:55 PM ET

By Duane Byrge

CHICAGO (Hollywood Reporter) - Howard Keel, who sang and danced to stardom in the heyday of MGM musicals, died Sunday of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 85.

With his full-throated baritone and 6-foot-4-inch frame, Keel was a romantic figure in such classic musicals as "Annie Get Your Gun," "Showboat," "Kiss Me Kate," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Kismet." He was paired with the most glamorous of leading ladies: Esther Williams, Doris Day, Kathryn Grayson and Jane Powell.

When the studios veered away from musicals in the late 1950s, he picked up in action pictures and dramas, including "The Big Fisherman" and "The War Wagon" with John Wayne. More recently, he co-starred for 11 years as Clayton Farlow, husband of "Miss Ellie" Ewing, on the hit show "Dallas."

Keel was 66 and presumably nearing the end of his career when "Dallas" made him a television star.

Harry Clifford Leek was born April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Ill. His father, once a naval captain, became a coal miner and drank to soothe his bitterness. During drunken rages, he beat his children. His mother, a strict Methodist, forbade her two sons from having any entertainment.

After his father died, his mother moved the family to California. Keel's first job after high school was as a singing busboy, but later he took a job at Douglas Aircraft, where his handsome looks and affable personality fitted well with his job as a "manufacturing representative."

SINGING LESSONS

At 20, he was befriended by a woman who took him to a Hollywood Bowl concert featuring baritone Lawrence Tibbett. Keel was inspired, and he started taking vocal lessons at 25 cents an hour.

He won several singing contests, and his talent caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein. Keel was signed to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of "Carousel."

With his surname now Keel -- he reversed the spelling of Leek -- he excelled on the stage, which led to movie roles, beginning with "The Small Voice" (1948).

Keel achieved stardom in 1950 with his second film, "Annie Get Your Gun," in which he played a singing cowboy who was Betty Hutton's love interest. His stunning turn in "Annie" vaulted him to stardom at a time when MGM boasted of having "more stars than there are in the heavens."

From 1951-55, Keel starred in the top MGM musicals: "Show Boat," "Lovely to Look At," "Kiss Me Kate," "Rose Marie," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, "Kismet" and "Jupiter's Darling," in which he played Hannibal invading Rome.

After his musical run, Keel often performed with touring companies and in nightclubs, where he was a popular figure. He also took sporadic movie roles, including a turn as a seaman battling a carnivorous plant monster in the British sci-fi film "The Day of the Triffids" (1962).

During the '70s, Keel appeared frequently as a TV guest star on series including "The Love Boat," "Here's Lucy," "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," "Murder, She Wrote" and "Walker, Texas Ranger."

Keel was married three times and divorced twice, first to actress Rosemary Cooper (1943-48), then to dancer Helen Anderson (1950-70). He and Anderson had three children: Kaija, Kristina and Gunnar.

In 1970 he married former flight attendant Judy Magamoll. They had one daughter, Leslie.

He also is survived by 10 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

The funeral will be private, with a memorial service to follow.

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=peopleNews&storyID=6737680
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 2,386 • Replies: 17
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Nov, 2004 07:58 pm
Apart from his stint on Dallas I remeber him from childhood in a musical or two.
0 Replies
 
Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Nov, 2004 09:00 pm
Keel had a big, full baritone that never failed to please -- "Annie Get Your Gun" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" are my two favorites with "Calamity Jane" a close third.
0 Replies
 
Don1
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Nov, 2004 11:20 pm
I read somewhere once that his real name was Harold Leek a very unglamorous name, so they changed the Harold to Howard, and turned the Leek around to Keel to make a real film star name of Howard Keel.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Nov, 2004 11:22 pm
I remember Seven Brides for Seven Brothers like it were yesterday.
0 Replies
 
Thok
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Nov, 2004 11:41 pm
caramel

Why do you post mainly about people [actors,film maker etc] who died?

--

RIP
0 Replies
 
Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Nov, 2004 11:48 pm
Because I long ago inferred the duty of the obits to caramel.
0 Replies
 
Magus
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 02:33 am
I recently was cajoled into accepting the Howard Keel role ("Frank Butler") in "Annie Get Your Gun".
The local non-profit Arts Council is sponsoring this production as its first foray into the realm of Musical Theater... we open this Thursday for a 7 performance/2 weekend run.
(It has been some years since my last theatrical participation... just long enough to have forgotten what a pain-in-the-posterior Community theater can be. I have now been duly reminded.)

Keel's role was written sort of like Ralph Kramden morphed with "Curly" from "Oklahoma", and with a dash of James Bond the roué.

Keel was in the MGM movie of "Annie GYG", but filming of his scenes was delayed for about six weeks for him to recover when his horse fell on him and broke his ankle.

Please don't wish me to break a leg...
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 03:49 am
I'm so glad that Caramel posts the Hollywood obits. I most likely might have missed this one in the Boston Globe or the NY Times. Keel -- though his output wasn't great -- was the quintessential leading man in musicals. He had a rich baritone voice and a towering romantic presence. While, generally speaking, only a so-so dancer, his athleticism was put to full use in some of the ballet sequences in Seven Brides, which probably contains the most uninhibited, athletic dances of any musical I've ever seen. Amazing stuff. And, boy, could that puppy warble!
0 Replies
 
Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 06:25 am
I can remember him well. He really was one of the bright lights of the great Hollywood movie musicals!
0 Replies
 
eoe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 08:02 am
Watching him on Dallas, I never connected him to his musical characters until much later. There was such a span between that show and "Seven Brides..." it took a while to realize that he was one and the same.
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 08:51 am
"... Once you have found her, never let her go."

Was that one of the lyrics to one his show tune songs?
0 Replies
 
flyboy804
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 09:28 am
"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" was also my favorite, primarily for the dancing although the "Lysistrata" story was also excellently presented. Keel's dancing limitations were more than covered by the exceptional dancing of Jaques D'Amboise, Tony Rall, Russ Tamblyn, et al.
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 10:09 am
Oops...that lyric was sung by the character Emile in South Pacific, "Some Enchanted Evening".
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 10:41 am
The Chicago Tribune headline said: "Dallas Star Dies." Really, if I hadn't read that story, I wouldn't have even known that Howard Keel was on "Dallas" (I never watched that program). On the other hand, I've seen "Kiss Me Kate," "Showboat," and other movies in which he appeared. He will be sorely missed.
0 Replies
 
eoe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 10:50 am
Joe, as a born and bred Chicagoan, may I ask why you're using Daley Sr. as your avatar?
0 Replies
 
mac11
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 10:55 am
Thanks for posting this, caramel. I'll have to listen to some of his songs this evening. I do love that voice...

Magus, break something! Okay, okay, good luck with your Annie Get Your Gun production. Very Happy
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 12:27 pm
eoe wrote:
Joe, as a born and bred Chicagoan, may I ask why you're using Daley Sr. as your avatar?

Because I couldn't find a picture of Al Capone?

No, seriously, I've used it in the past. I try to use avatars that have some connection with Chicago. And since we were being very political this month, what better than to use the last of the big city political bosses, Hizzoner himself?
0 Replies
 
 

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