November 9, 2004 by

Howard Keel


Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Musicians

hkeel.jpgHoward Keel, an actor who starred in MGM musicals and on the TV soap opera “Dallas,” died on Nov. 7 of colon cancer. He was 85.
Born Harold Clifford Leek in Gillespie, Ill., Keel was raised by a religious mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. His parents banned entertainment of any kind so he left home in his late teens and moved to California.
At 20, Keel attended a concert at the Hollywood Bowl featuring famed baritone Lawrence Tibbett. The performance inspired Keel to take voice lessons and enter local talent shows. During World War II, he worked as a mechanic at the Douglas Aircraft Company. He also sang for his supper at the Paris Inn Restaurant in Los Angeles.
After the war ended, Keel auditioned for Oscar Hammerstein II and landed understudy roles in two Broadway musicals. He became the darling of the British theatre in 1947 when he starred as Curly in the London production of “Oklahoma!” On opening night, Keel received 14 encores.
In an effort to lift the country’s spirits, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer ramped up its musical factory in the 1950s. The studio signed Keel to a seven-year contract and repeatedly cast him as a leading man. With his ruggedly handsome face, broad shoulders and booming bass-baritone, Keel added masculine appeal to movies like “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Kismet,” “Calamity Jane,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Show Boat” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” He later performed in stage versions of his musical standards and in several action films and westerns.
In 1981, the producers of the hugely popular CBS soap “Dallas” offered Keel the patriarchal role of Clayton Farlow, “Miss Ellie” Ewing’s husband and stepfather to Bobby, Gary and J.R. Ewing. He worked on the show until it ended in 1991.
Keel married and divorced actress Rosemary Cooper and dancer Helen Anderson. He is survived by his third wife, former airline stewardess Judy Magamoll, and his four children.
Howard Keel Download MP3s of Keel’s Music

12 Responses to Howard Keel

  1. Lambert L. Russell

    I first became familiar with Howard Keel at the age of seventeen when I saw his movie “Showboat” with beautiful Kathryn Grayson in 1951. I loved musicals, and I saw many of them, especially those that he was featured. He was a role model for me and I looked up to him with great respect.
    I offer my sympathies to his beloved wife and family.
    Because of his kind nature and friendly disposition, which helped in making him a popular star, he will be missed.
    I appreciate this opportunity to offer my condolences.

  2. Terri Miller

    I was so sadden by the death of mr. Keel he was a good actor and had a voice like an angel, i watch him on Dallas and thought he was suited for that part. My sympathy goes to his family. He is in Heaven and what a wonderful place to be.
    Terri Miller

  3. Wesley Baker

    Howard was a special person, a great actor and singer and inspired me personally many times. The last an dfinal time I saw Howard was in Margate, England in a small theatre, where he gave a great show to only a few people and it was wonderful to actually experience his life.
    Rest in peace Howard you will be missed.

  4. Joanna Lester

    I was so sad to hear of Howard’s death. I had the great priviledge of working with him in the 60’s doing Nellie in “South Pacific” and Carrie in “Carousel” when he was the leading man. He was so wonderful to work with. He watched all of the performances and gave the performers who were less experienced tips. He was always so positive and supportive and fun to be with.
    He will be very much missed, but his legacy will remain forever as a great stage presence, a fine teacher, and a great human being.
    My prayers are with him, and also to his family. Joanna Lester

  5. Robert Fleming

    Howard Keel was a great performer and a really nice guy. I met him in 1979 when my girlfrind was babysitting for his daughter, his wife Judy was a charm and their daughter was adorable. I remember one of his daughters married edward olmos, and they lived in a nice house in laural canyon. His wife Judy started a gift shop called the “idea factory” in thousand oaks around 1979. The house was decorated with movie posters from Howard’s films and was very warm and confortable. We will miss him. My prayers are with im and his beautiful family.

  6. Victoria

    I first saw Howard Keel in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I fell in love with this man’s voice. What a powerhouse singer…Last night I just found out he passed away. I was very shocked and sad. My daughter called me immediately because we both admired this man and his talents. Of course, I was thrilled when he started his role as Clayton Farlow on Dallas. I wish that I could have been one of the lucky ones to have seen him perform live. Indeed his passing is a great loss to the entertainment world. I extend a moment of silence for his family.

  7. emily s.

    i think howard keel was a fantastic actor and singing and i have always loved his films. i never met him but my heart goes out to him and his family. i hope that he will never be forgotten.

  8. A.Anderson

    many many years ago,was lucky enough to win the actual green shirt that Howard wore in” Seven Brides” for my young sister Betty.The shirt was presented to Betty by Howard personally,at the old Glasgow Empire Theatre.Sadly the shirt was stolen some years ago,causing anguish to my sister,who remained an ardent fan until Howard`s death,and remains a fan to this day.Betty,sadly, is now herself facing terminal cancer,and playing records and videos of her beloved Howard Keel brings great comfort to her.He was a lovely person ,viewed by us all as one of the family
    Thanks to his real family for sharing him with us.—- A.Anderson

  9. brian unsworth

    What a tremendous singer and no bad actor Howard Keele was.Iast saw him perform live in Blackpool UK when he was then in his early seventies and he sang brilliantly as good as in his prime.Thank goodness for recordings which will keep his memory going.

  10. Pamela Covilli Heinbecker

    i grew up in Gillespie, Illinois and my father after returning from the 2ND World War operated the local movie theatre. It was there that a Premier was held for a movie being released with Howard Keel as its star. My father knew Howards family and was present for the opening night premier of Howard’s movie. It was a big deal for everyone in Gillespie and everyone was excited. I was a little
    girl at the time and was caught up in the excietment. We all wanted Howard Keel to have a great and successful life and he obviously did. We followed him throughout his career. Somewhere in our families archives is a photo of my father, Art Covilli, and Howard Keel at this movie premier in Gillespie Illinois. We, my father, and our family eventually moved to St. Charles Missouri and all my family lives there still. Art Covilli died in July of 1980.

  11. marie

    What a wonderful entertainer. I just loved his voice. he seemed to be a kind man as well.
    He was also very handsome. In South Africa, we don’t hear enough news about the older moviestars, therefor I only discoverd today that he passed away a while back. I wish I could have known him. God bless.

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