Howard Keel

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Howard Keel

from the trailer for Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
BornHarold Clifford Keel
(1919-04-13)April 13, 1919
Gillespie, Illinois, U.S.
DiedNovember 7, 2004(2004-11-07) (aged 85)
Palm Desert, California, U.S.
Years active1943–2002
Notable work(s)Show Boat, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Dallas

Rosemary Cooper (m. 1943–1948) «start: (1943)–end+1: (1949)»"Marriage: Rosemary Cooper to Howard Keel" Location: (linkback:// (divorced)
Helen Anderson (m. 1949–1970) «start: (1949)–end+1: (1971)»"Marriage: Helen Anderson to Howard Keel" Location: (linkback:// (divorced)

Judy Keel (m. 1970–2004) «start: (1970)–end+1: (2005)»"Marriage: Judy Keel to Howard Keel" Location: (linkback:// (his death)
ChildrenKaija Keel
Leslie Keel
Gunnar Keel
Kirstine Keel
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Howard Keel

from the trailer for Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
BornHarold Clifford Keel
(1919-04-13)April 13, 1919
Gillespie, Illinois, U.S.
DiedNovember 7, 2004(2004-11-07) (aged 85)
Palm Desert, California, U.S.
Years active1943–2002
Notable work(s)Show Boat, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Dallas

Rosemary Cooper (m. 1943–1948) «start: (1943)–end+1: (1949)»"Marriage: Rosemary Cooper to Howard Keel" Location: (linkback:// (divorced)
Helen Anderson (m. 1949–1970) «start: (1949)–end+1: (1971)»"Marriage: Helen Anderson to Howard Keel" Location: (linkback:// (divorced)

Judy Keel (m. 1970–2004) «start: (1970)–end+1: (2005)»"Marriage: Judy Keel to Howard Keel" Location: (linkback:// (his death)
ChildrenKaija Keel
Leslie Keel
Gunnar Keel
Kirstine Keel

Harold Clifford Keel (April 13, 1919 – November 7, 2004), known professionally as Howard Keel, was an American actor and singer. He starred in many film musicals of the 1950s. He is best known to modern audiences for his starring role in the CBS television series Dallas from 1981 to 1991, as Clayton Farlow, opposite Barbara Bel Geddes's character, but to an earlier generation, he was known as the star of some of the most famous MGM film musicals ever made, with a rich bass-baritone singing voice.


Early life

Keel was born Harold Clifford Keel in Gillespie, Illinois, to Navyman-turned-coalminer Homer Keel and his wife, Grace Osterkamp Keel. (It is often erroneously stated—by the MGM publicity department of the 1950s—that Keel's birth name was Harold Leek). Young Harold spent his childhood in poverty. One of his teachers, Miss Rosa Burke, noticed one day that he was not eating his lunch. From that day forward, Miss Burke would pack two lunches - one for herself and one for Harold. 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.

Career and personal life

At the age of 20, Keel was overheard singing by his landlady, Mom Rider, and was encouraged to take vocal lessons. One of his musical 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).

In 1943, Keel met and married his first wife, actress Rosemary Cooper. In 1945, he briefly understudied for John Raitt in the Broadway hit Carousel before being assigned to Oklahoma!, written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. When performing this play during this period, Keel accomplished a feat that has never been duplicated; he 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 the opening night, April 30, 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. During the London run, his marriage to Rosemary ended in divorce, and Keel fell in love with a young member of the show's chorus, dancer Helen Anderson. They married in January 1949 and, a year later, Harold - now called Howard - celebrated the birth of his daughter, Kaija. While living in London, Keel made his film debut as Howard Keel at the British Lion studio in Elstree, in The Small Voice (1948), released in the US as Hideout. He played an escaped convict holding a playwright and his wife hostage in their English country cottage.

Additional Broadway credits include Saratoga, No Strings, and Ambassador. He appeared at The Muny in St. Louis, MO as General Waverly in White Christmas (2000), Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (1996); Emile de Becque in South Pacific (1992), and Adam in Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954). Keel was a devout Methodist.[1]

MGM years

From London's West End, Keel ended up at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, making his film musical debut as Frank Butler in the movie version of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun (1950).

His career at MGM resulted in plum film roles in Show Boat (1951), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). He also made a series of unremarkable musicals and B-films. On loan at Warner Brothers, he played Wild Bill Hickok in Calamity Jane (1953), a highly popular Oscar-winning musical starring Doris Day in one of her most famous screen roles. The film was Warner Brothers' answer to Annie Get Your Gun, and included the smash hit song "Secret Love". There were two more children born to Howard and Helen, daughter Kirstine in 1952, and son Gunnar in 1955. Soon after, Keel was released from his contract and returned to his first love: the stage.


As America's taste in entertainment evolved, 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. Due to his declining career, Keel began to drink heavily, and his marriage to Helen crumbled. They separated in 1969 and divorced in 1970.

In early 1970, Keel went on a blind date with airline stewardess Judy Magamoll, who was 25 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. They married in December 1970, and Keel's drinking problem soon ceased thereafter. He resumed his routine of nightclub, cabaret and summer stock jobs with his new wife at his side. In 1971-72, 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.


Keel continued to tour, with his wife and daughter in tow, but by 1980 had decided to make a career/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. It 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.[2] 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.[2]

In 1988 the album Just for You reached #51 in the UK Albums Chart.[2] 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 up until the year of his death.


In 1996, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[3]

Family and death

Keel had four children: three with second wife Helen Anderson – two daughters, Kaija 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. 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; Liverpool, England's John Lennon Airport; and Tuscany, Italy.


1948The Small VoiceBokeas Harold Keel
1950Annie Get Your GunFrank Butler
Pagan Love SongHazard Endicott
1951Three Guys Named MikeMike Jamison
Show BoatGaylord Ravenal
Across the Wide MissouriNarrator
Texas CarnivalSlim Shelby
Callaway Went ThatawayStretch Barnes/ Smoky CallawayAlternate title: The Star Said No
1952Desperate SearchVince Heldon
Lovely to Look AtTony Naylor
The HoaxtersNarratorShort Subject
1953Fast CompanyRick Grayton
Ride, Vaquero!King Cameron
Calamity JaneWild Bill Hickok
Kiss Me KateFred Graham / 'Petruchio'
1954Rose MarieCapt. Mike Malone
Seven Brides for Seven BrothersAdam Pontipee
Deep in My HeartSpecialty in 'My Maryland'
1955Jupiter's DarlingHannibal
KismetThe Poet
1959Floods of FearDonovan
The Big FishermanSimon Peter
1961Armored CommandCol. Devlin
1962The Day of the TriffidsBill Masen
1967Red TomahawkCapt. Tom York
The War WagonLevi Walking Bear
1968Arizona BushwhackersLee Travis
1994That's Entertainment! IIIHimself
2002My Father's HouseRoy Mardis
1957Zane Grey TheaterWill Gorman1 episode - Gift from a Gunman
1957The Polly Bergen ShowHimself1 episode - December 7, 1957
1958RobertaJohn KentTV Movie
1961Tales of Wells FargoJustin Brox1 episode - Casket 7.3
1963Death Valley DaysDiamond Jim Brady1 episode - Diamond Jim Brady
1964Kiss Me KateFred GrahamTV Movie
1965Run for Your LifeHardie Rankin1 episode - The Time of the Sharks
1967The Red Skelton ShowPolice Officer McGoogle1 episode - A Christmas Urchin
1969Here's Lucy1 episode - Lucy's Safari
Insight1 episode - Is the 11:59 Late This Year?
1976The QuestShanghai Pierce1 episode - Seventy-Two Hours
1981–1983The Love BoatDuncan Harlow2 episodes
Long Time No See/The Bear Essence/Kisses and Makeup
Maid for Each Other/Lost and Found/Then There Were Two
1981–1991DallasClayton Farlow234 episodes
1982Fantasy IslandGuest Star1 episode - The Big Bet/Nancy and the Thunderbirds
1984Entertainment Express1 episode - Episode #2.2
1991Good SportsSonny Gordon1 episode - The Return of Nick
Murder, She WroteLarry Thorson1 episode - A Killing in Vegas
1994Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Hart IsCapt. Quentin "Jack" JacksonTV Movie
1995Walker Texas RangerDaniel Lamont1 episode - Blue Movies


  1. ^ The Religious Affiliation of Actor Howard Keel
  2. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 297. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated

External links