Howard Keel

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Howard Keel
Howard Keel in Annie Get Your Gun trailer 2.jpg
from the trailer for Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Harry Clifford Keel

(1919-04-13)April 13, 1919
DiedNovember 7, 2004(2004-11-07) (aged 85)
Palm Desert, California, United States
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1943–2002
  • Rosemary Cooper(m. 19431948)
  • Helen Anderson(m. 19491970)
  • Judy Keel(m. 1970)
12th President of the Screen Actors Guild
In office
Preceded by Leon Ames
Succeeded by Ronald Reagan

Harry Clifford Keel (April 13, 1919 November 7, 2004), known professionally as Howard Keel, was an American actor and singer with a rich bass-baritone singing voice. He starred in a number of MGM musicals in the 1950s and in the CBS television series Dallas from 1981–1991.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

CBS is an American English language commercial broadcast television and radio network that is a flagship property of CBS Corporation. The company is headquartered at the CBS Building in New York City with major production facilities and operations in New York City and Los Angeles.

<i>Dallas</i> (1978 TV series) American television series

Dallas is an American prime time television soap opera that aired on CBS from April 2, 1978 to May 3, 1991. The series revolves around a wealthy and feuding Texas family, the Ewings, who own the independent oil company Ewing Oil and the cattle-ranching land of Southfork. The series originally focused on the marriage of Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes, whose families were sworn enemies with each other. As the series progressed, Bobby's older brother, oil tycoon J.R. Ewing, became the show's breakout character, whose schemes and dirty business became the show's trademark. When the show ended in May 1991, J.R. was the only character to have appeared in every episode.


Early life

Harry Clifford Keel [1] was born in Gillespie, Illinois, to Navyman-turned-coalminer Homer Keel (1885-1930), and his wife, Grace Margaret (née Osterkamp) Keel (1887-1971). It was falsely stated—by the MGM publicity department of the 1950s—that Keel's birth name was Harold Leek. Harry had an elder brother, Frederick William Keel (1913-1982); the brothers spent their childhood in poverty. One of his teachers, Miss Rosa Burke, noticed one day that Harry had no lunch. From that day forward, Miss Burke would pack two lunches – one for herself and one for Harry. When he became famous and would perform near Gillespie, Burke always received tickets to attend his performances. After his father's death in 1930, Keel and his mother moved to California, where he graduated from Fallbrook High School at age 17. He worked various odd jobs until settling at Douglas Aircraft Company as a traveling representative.

Gillespie, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

Gillespie is a city in Macoupin County, Illinois, United States. The population was 3,412 at the 2000 census.

Douglas Aircraft Company 1921-1967 aerospace manufacturer in the United States

The Douglas Aircraft Company was an American aerospace manufacturer based in Southern California. It was founded in 1921 by Donald Wills Douglas Sr. and later merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas, when it then operated as a division of McDonnell Douglas. McDonnell Douglas later merged with Boeing in 1997.


At age 20, Keel was overheard singing by his landlady, Mom Rider, and was encouraged to take vocal lessons. One of his music heroes was the great baritone Lawrence Tibbett. Keel later remarked that learning that his own voice was a basso cantante was one of the greatest disappointments of his life. Nevertheless, his first public performance occurred in the summer of 1941, when he played the role of Samuel the Prophet in Handel's oratorio Saul (singing a duet with bass-baritone George London).

Lawrence Tibbett American opera singer

Lawrence Mervil Tibbett was a famous American opera singer and recording artist who also performed as a film actor and radio personality. A baritone, he sang leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera in New York more than 600 times from 1923 to 1950. He performed diverse musical theatre roles, including Captain Hook in Peter Pan in a touring show.

George Frideric Handel 18th-century German, later British, Baroque composer

George FridericHandel was a German, later British, Baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well-known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. Handel received important training in Halle-upon-Saale and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712; he became a naturalised British subject in 1727. He was strongly influenced both by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and by the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition.

<i>Saul</i> (Handel) oratorio by Georg Friedrich Händel

Saul is a dramatic oratorio in three acts written by George Frideric Handel with a libretto by Charles Jennens. Taken from the First Book of Samuel, the story of Saul focuses on the first king of Israel's relationship with his eventual successor, David; one which turns from admiration to envy and hatred, ultimately leading to the downfall of the eponymous monarch. The work, which Handel composed in 1738, includes the famous "Dead March", a funeral anthem for Saul and his son Jonathan, and some of the composer's most dramatic choral pieces. Saul was first performed at the King's Theatre in London on 16 January 1739. The work was a success at its London premiere and was revived by Handel in subsequent seasons. Notable modern-day performances of Saul include that at Glyndebourne in 2015.

In 1945, he briefly understudied for John Raitt in the Broadway hit Carousel before being assigned to Oklahoma! , both written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. While performing in Oklahoma, Keel accomplished a feat that has never been duplicated on Broadway; he once performed the leads in both shows on the same day. In 1947, Oklahoma! became the first American postwar musical to travel to London, England, and Keel joined the production. On April 30, 1947, at the Drury Lane Theatre, the capacity audience (which included the future Queen Elizabeth II) demanded fourteen encores. Keel was hailed as the next great star, becoming the toast of London's West End.

John Raitt American singer and actor

John Emmet Raitt was an American actor and singer best known for his performances in musical theater.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, commonly known as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

<i>Carousel</i> (musical) musical

Carousel is the second musical by the team of Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II. The 1945 work was adapted from Ferenc Molnár's 1909 play Liliom, transplanting its Budapest setting to the Maine coastline. The story revolves around carousel barker Billy Bigelow, whose romance with millworker Julie Jordan comes at the price of both their jobs. He participates in a robbery to provide for Julie and their unborn child; after it goes tragically wrong, he is given a chance to make things right. A secondary plot line deals with millworker Carrie Pipperidge and her romance with ambitious fisherman Enoch Snow. The show includes the well-known songs "If I Loved You", "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone". Richard Rodgers later wrote that Carousel was his favorite of all his musicals.

Keel made his film debut as Harold [2] Keel at the British Lion studio in Elstree, in The Small Voice (1948), released in the United States as The Hideout. He played an escaped convict holding a playwright and his wife hostage in their English country cottage. [3] Additional Broadway credits include Saratoga , No Strings , and Ambassador . He appeared at The Muny in St. Louis as Adam in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1978); Emile de Becque in South Pacific (1992); Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (1996); and as General Waverly in White Christmas (2000).

British Lion Films

British Lion Films is a film production and distribution company active under several forms since 1919. Originally known as British Lion Film Corporation Ltd, it went into receivership of 1 June 1954. From 29 January 1955 to 1976 the company was known as British Lion Films Ltd, and was a pure distribution company with a filmography of 232 films. As a production company, they are still active and have produced over 170 films.

Elstree village in the Hertsmere borough of Hertfordshire, England

Elstree is a village in the Hertsmere borough of Hertfordshire, England. It is about 13 miles northwest of central London on the former A5 road, that follows the course of Watling Street. In 2011, its population was 5,110. It forms part of the civil parish of Elstree and Borehamwood, originally known simply as Elstree.

<i>The Small Voice</i> 1948 film by Fergus McDonell

The Small Voice is a 1948 British thriller film directed by Fergus McDonell and starring Valerie Hobson, James Donald and Howard Keel. It is about an escaped convict who takes a married couple hostage. The film is part of a group of British film noir produced around this time.

He returned to his first love, the stage. In 1957, he was in a short-lived revival of Carousel. [4] Keel's next film was made in Britain, the thriller Floods of Fear (1959). He returned to Hollywood to play Simon-Peter in a Biblical epic, The Big Fisherman (1960). In 1959-60 he was in a short-lived Broadway musical Saratoga. [5] Keel went to Europe to make a low budget war film, Armored Command (1961). In England, he starred in The Day of the Triffids (1962). As America's taste in entertainment changed, finding jobs became more difficult for Keel. The 1960s held limited prospects for career advancement and consisted primarily of nightclub work, B-Westerns and summer stock. He did Carousel in 1962 and 1966. He replaced Richard Kiley on Broadway in No Strings (1962). Keel starred in Westerns for A. C. Lyles, Waco (1966), Red Tomahawk (1966) and Arizona Bushwhackers (1968). He had a support part in a John Wayne Western, The War Wagon (1967).

<i>Floods of Fear</i> 1959 film by Charles Crichton

Floods of Fear is a 1959 British thriller film directed by Charles Crichton and starring Howard Keel, Anne Heywood and Harry H. Corbett.

<i>The Big Fisherman</i> 1959 film by Frank Borzage

The Big Fisherman is a 1959 American historical drama film directed by Frank Borzage about the life of Simon Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus. Starring Howard Keel, Susan Kohner and John Saxon, the production is adapted from the 1948 novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, which is closely related to Douglas' previous book, 1942's The Robe which, six years earlier, in 1953, had also been adapted for the screen under the same title, The Robe. The film was shot at Universal-International studios but released by Buena Vista, the film releasing company of Walt Disney Productions.

Armored Command is a 1961 American war drama film directed by Byron Haskin filmed in Hohenfels, Bavaria but takes place in the Vosges Mountains during the Southern France campaign. It stars Howard Keel and Tina Louise.

In early 1970, Keel met Judy Magamoll, who was twenty five years his junior and knew nothing about his stardom. Years later, Keel called the relationship love at first sight, but the age difference bothered him tremendously. For Judy, however, it was not a problem, and with the aid of Robert Frost's poem "What Fifty Said," she convinced him to proceed with their relationship. He resumed his routine of nightclub, cabaret and summer stock jobs with his new wife at his side. From 1971 to 1972, Keel appeared briefly in the West End and Broadway productions of the musical Ambassador, which flopped. In 1974, Keel became a father for the fourth time with the birth of his daughter, Leslie Grace. In January 1986, he underwent double heart bypass surgery.


From London's West End, Keel went to Hollywood in 1949 where he was engaged by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio. He made his musical film debut as Frank Butler in the film version of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun (1950), co-starring with Betty Hutton. The film was a big hit and established Keel as a star. [6]

MGM put him opposite Esther Williams in Pagan Love Song (1950) which was successful, although not as profitable as most Esther William films because it went over budget. [6] Keel had a third hit in a row with the comedy Three Guys Named Mike (1951), supporting Van Johnson and Jane Wyman.

Even more popular was Show Boat (1951), where Keel played the male lead opposite Kathryn Grayson and Ava Gardner. It remains arguably his best known movie.

Keel was reunited with Williams in Texas Carnival (1952). He had his first flop at MGM with the comedy Callaway Went Thataway (1952) co-starring Fred MacMurray and Dorothy McGuire. [6] A reunion with Grayson, Lovely to Look At (1952), based on the stage musical Roberta was popular but lost money. [6]

MGM tried him in an adventure film, Desperate Search (1953) which was poorly received. So too was the comedy Fast Company (1953). More popular was a Western with Gardner and Robert Taylor, Ride, Vaquero! (1953).

Warner Bros borrowed Keel to play Wild Bill Hickock opposite Doris Day in Calamity Jane (1953), another hit. Back at MGM he and Grayson made a third musical together, Kiss Me Kate (1953), which again was liked by the public but unprofitable. The same went for Rose Marie (1954) which Keel made with Ann Blyth. However Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) with Jane Powell was a huge success and made MGM over $3 million in profit. [6]

Keel was one of many guest stars in Deep in My Heart (1954). He and Williams made a third film together, Jupiter's Darling (1955) which lost MGM over $2 million - the first Williams movie to lose money. Kismet (1955) with Blyth also lost over two million dollars, and Keel was released from his MGM contract.


Keel continued to tour, with his wife and daughter in tow, but by 1980 had decided to make his life change. He moved his family to Oklahoma with the intention of joining an oil company. The family had barely settled down when Keel was called back to California to appear with Jane Powell on an episode of The Love Boat . While there, he was told that the producers of the television series Dallas wanted to speak with him. In 1981, after several cameo appearances, Keel joined the show permanently as the dignified and hot-tempered oil baron Clayton Farlow. Starting with an appearance on the fourth season, the character had been meant as a semi-replacement patriarch from the series' Jock Ewing played by Jim Davis, who had recently died. However, Clayton was such a hit among viewers that he was made a series regular and stayed on until its end in 1991. Dallas did more than just help his acting career become highly successful once again and also renewed his recording career.

Recording career

With renewed fame, Keel commenced his first solo recording career, at age 64, as well as a successful concert career in the UK. He released an album in 1984, With Love, which sold poorly. However, his album And I Love You So reached #6 in the UK Albums Chart in 1984. [7] The follow up album, Reminiscing – The Howard Keel Collection peaked at #20 in the UK chart, spending twelve weeks in that listing in 1985 and 1986. [7]

In 1988, the album Just for You reached #51 in the UK Albums Chart. [7] In 1994, Keel and Judy moved to Palm Desert, California. The Keels were active in community charity events, and attended the annual Howard Keel Golf Classic at Mere Golf Club in Cheshire, England, which raised money for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Keel attended the event for many years until 2004.


He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 8 February 1960. It is located at 6253 Hollywood Boulevard.

A Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him in 1996. [8]

He was a member of the Grand Order of Water Rats.

Personal life and death

In 1943, Keel met and married actress Rosemary Cooper. They were divorced in 1948, during the London run. Keel met Helen Anderson, a member of the show's chorus, and they married in January 1949. Keel and Helen were separated in 1969 and divorced in 1970. Keel married airline flight attendant Judy Magamoll in December 1970. Keel had four children: three with second wife, Helen Anderson (two daughters, Katija Liane (born 1950) and Kirstine Elizabeth (born 1952)), and a son, (Gunnar Louis (born 1955)); one by his third wife of 34 years, Judy (a daughter, Leslie Grace (born 1974)); and ten grandchildren, including actor Bodie Olmos.

Keel died at his Palm Desert home on November 7, 2004, six weeks after a bout with colon cancer. He was cremated and his ashes scattered at three favorite places: Mere Golf Club, Cheshire, England; John Lennon Airport, Liverpool, England; and Tuscany, Italy.



1948 The Small Voice BokeAlternate title: The Hideout
1950 Annie Get Your Gun Frank Butler
1950 Pagan Love Song Hazard Endicott
1951 Three Guys Named Mike Mike Jamison
1951 Show Boat Gaylord Ravenal
1951 Across the Wide Missouri Narrator (voice)Uncredited
1951 Texas Carnival Slim Shelby
1951 Callaway Went Thataway Stretch Barnes / Smoky CallawayAlternate title: The Star Said No
1952 Lovely to Look At Tony Naylor
1952 Desperate Search Vince Heldon
1952 The Hoaxters NarratorDocumentary
1953 Fast Company Rick Grayton
1953 Ride, Vaquero! King Cameron
1953 Calamity Jane Wild Bill Hickok
1953 Kiss Me Kate Fred Graham / "Petruchio"
1954 Rose Marie Capt. Mike Malone
1954 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Adam Pontipee
1954 Deep in My Heart Specialty in 'My Maryland'
1955 Jupiter's Darling Hannibal
1955 Kismet The Poet
1959 Floods of Fear Donovan
1959 The Big Fisherman Simon Peter
1961 Armored Command Col. Devlin
1962 The Day of the Triffids Bill Masen
1965 The Man from Button Willow Vocalist (opening and closing credits)Uncredited
1966 Waco Waco
1967 Red Tomahawk Capt. Tom York
1967 The War Wagon Levi Walking Bear
1968 Arizona Bushwhackers Lee Travis
1994 That's Entertainment! III Himself
2002My Father's HouseRoy MardisFinal film role


1957 Zane Grey Theater Will GormanEpisode: "Gift from a Gunman"
1957 The Polly Bergen Show HimselfEpisode: "December 7, 1957"
1958 Roberta John Kent Television film
1961 Tales of Wells Fargo Justin BroxEpisode: "Casket 7.3"
1963 Death Valley Days Diamond Jim BradyEpisode: "Diamond Jim Brady"
1965 Run for Your Life Hardie RankinEpisode: "The Time of the Sharks"
1967 The Red Skelton Show Police Officer McGoogleEpisode: "A Christmas Urchin"
1969 Here's Lucy Mr. LivingstonEpisode: "Lucy's Safari"
1969 Insight HimselfEpisode: "Is the 11:59 Late This Year?"
1976 The Quest Shanghai PierceEpisode: "Seventy-Two Hours"
1981 The Love Boat Duncan HarlowEpisode: "Maid for Each Other/Lost and Found/Then There Were Two"
1981–1991 Dallas Clayton Farlow 234 episodes
1982 Fantasy Island ColonelEpisode: "The Big Bet/Nancy and the Thunderbirds"
1983 The Love Boat Kyle CummingsEpisode: "Long Time No See/The Bear Essence/Kisses and Makeup"
1984Entertainment ExpressHimselfEpisode: "Episode #2.2"
1984 Live from Her Majesty's HimselfEpisode: "April 15, 1984"
1986 Great Performances HimselfEpisode: "Irving Berlin's America"
1991 Good Sports Sonny GordonEpisode: "The Return of Nick"
1991 Murder, She Wrote Larry ThorsonEpisode: "A Killing in Vegas"
1994 Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Hart Is Captain Quentin "Jack" JacksonTelevision film
1995 Walker, Texas Ranger D.L. DadeEpisode: "Blue Movies"

Stage work

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  1. Keel himself said that his original name was Harry, not Harold.[ citation needed ]
  2. film credit - The Small Voice
  3. "Annie's Handsome Man". The Sunday Herald . Sydney. 18 June 1950. p. 4 Supplement: Features. Retrieved 17 July 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  7. 1 2 3 Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 297. ISBN   1-904994-10-5.
  8. Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated