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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 09:47 GMT
US actor Howard Keel dies at 85
Howard Keel in London in 1985
Keel's career was revived by the 1980s TV series Dallas
US actor Howard Keel - who starred in TV drama Dallas and a string of hit musicals - has died aged 85.

Keel died on Sunday morning at his home in Palm Springs, California, his son Gunnar said.

He starred in Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals on the New York stage before turning to movies after World War II.

His hits included Kiss Me Kate, Annie Get Your Gun and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. His career was revived in 1981 when he joined the cast of Dallas.

"The show was enormous," he said in 1995. "I couldn't believe it. My life changed again.

"From being out of it, I was suddenly a star, known to more people than ever before."

He played Clayton Farlow, the second husband of "Miss Ellie" Ewing, until the show ended in 1991.

Singing waiter

Howard Keel
Keel in a Los Angeles production of Man of La Mancha in 1970
Born Harold Clifford Leek in Gillespie, Illinois, Keel was inspired to become a performer after being taken to see the baritone Lawrence Tibbett in concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

His first job was as a singing waiter in Los Angeles, earning $15 a week with two meals a day.

Eventually he was summoned to an audition with Oscar Hammerstein II, who was looking for young singers to play Curly in touring productions of Oklahoma!.

He was soon taken on to appear in the New York production, while he also played in Carousel in both New York and London.

But it was signing a contract with the MGM studio which turned him into a major star, beginning with his role opposite Betty Hutton in Annie Get Your Gun.

His favourite film, however, was Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.

"It was a fine cast and lots of fun to make, but they did the damn thing on the cheap," he recalled in 1993.

"The backdrops had holes in them, and it was shot on the worst film stock. The miracle worker was the cinematographer - he took that junk and made it look like a Grandma Moses painting."

'Rotten childhood'

Howard Keel
Singing star: Keel performing on a BBC TV special in 1987
When MGM disbanded its musical production unit, he returned to stage shows, before he joined Dallas at the height of its popularity.

Keel once described how his father drank and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbade her two sons from having any entertainment.

"I had a terrible, rotten childhood," he reflected in 1995. "My father made away with himself when I was 11. I had no guidance, my mom was six feet (1.8 metres) tall, bucktoothed and very tough.

"I was mean and rebellious and had a terrible temper. I got a job as an auto mechanic, and I would have stayed in that narrow kind of life if I hadn't discovered art. Music changed me completely."

Obituary: Howard Keel
08 Nov 04 |  Entertainment


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