Larry Riley (actor)

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Larry Riley
Born(1953-06-20)June 20, 1953
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedJune 6, 1992(1992-06-06) (aged 38)
Burbank, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, musician
Years active1971–1992
Spouse(s)Nina Girvetz (m. 1991–92)
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Larry Riley
Born(1953-06-20)June 20, 1953
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedJune 6, 1992(1992-06-06) (aged 38)
Burbank, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, musician
Years active1971–1992
Spouse(s)Nina Girvetz (m. 1991–92)

Larry Riley (June 20, 1953 – June 6, 1992) was an American actor and musician, best known for his role as C.J. Memphis in the film A Soldier's Story (1984) and as Frank Williams in the prime-time TV soap opera Knots Landing.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Riley began acting in high school before studying drama at Memphis State University.[1] He made his professional stage debut in 1971, and went on to appear in various stage productions on and off-Broadway including A Broadway Musical, Shakespeare's Cabaret, I Love My Wife, and Big River, a musical based on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In 1982, Riley won a Clarence Derwent and Obie Award for his performance in A Soldier's Play. He later reprised the role in the 1984 film based on the play.[2] From 1984 to 1985, Riley portrayed the role of Curtis Taylor, Jr. in the national touring company of Dreamgirls. He also appeared as the leading player in the U.S. touring company of Pippin.[3]

From 1980 to 1982, Riley portrayed Calvin Barnes in the NBC daytime soap opera The Doctors. He later had guest roles on Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice, and appeared in Louis Malle's 1984 film Crackers. In 1985, Riley starred in the short-lived sitcom Stir Crazy, based on the 1980 film of the same name.[3] In 1988, he won the role of Frank Williams on the long-running nighttime soap Knots Landing, becoming the series' first regular African American cast member.[1] The role garnered Riley a Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Actor in a Primetime Supporting Role in 1991. Riley also created a musical tribute to Louis Jordan entitled "Let The Good Times Roll", which enjoyed success at the Cinegrill of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1988.[4] He has also voiced the arch villain Dumping Jack Trash in the children's animated series Fantastic Max.

In addition to acting, Riley was also a musician and singer. He sang in several episodes of Knots Landing and also composed the score for several episodes.[5]

Illness and death[edit]

In May 1989, Riley entered rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. The following year, he discovered he was HIV positive. According to his wife Nina, Riley "was not gay. He was not bisexual. He did not use needles at all. He speculated it was from a woman. Because he was quite the womanizer."[1] Fearful that news of his diagnosis would ruin his career, Riley did not disclose his illness to anyone except his wife and continued working on Knots Landing. To explain his dramatic weight loss, Riley claimed that he was suffering from kidney failure due to high blood pressure. Riley's true illness was revealed by his wife and doctor after his death.[1]

On June 6, 1992, Riley died of AIDS-related renal failure in Burbank, California, only fourteen days short of his 39th birthday. He was survived by his second wife Nina and a son, Larry, Jr.[6][7]


1980–1982The DoctorsCalvin BarnesUnknown episodes
1982Muggable Mary, Street CopSteve KelseyTelevision movie
1982Hill Street BluesVernon TuckerEpisode: "Little Boil Blue"
1984A Soldier's StoryC.J. Memphis
1984Miami ViceBobby PriceEpisode: "Cool Runnin'"
1985Stir CrazyHarry Fletcher9 episodes
1985Badge of the AssassinHerman BellTelevision movie
1986The Twilight ZoneJoshuaEpisode: "Quarantine"
1986The Fall GuyCleveland TudorEpisode: "Two on a Skip"
1986One Police PlazaDetective StarlingTelevision movie
1987Spenser: For HireBo BraxtonEpisode: "One for My Daughter"
1987Long GoneJoe Louis BrownTelevision movie
1988–1992Knots LandingFrank Williams111 episodes
1988Dead Solid PerfectSpecTelevision movie
1988Fantastic MaxDumping Jack Trash (voice)3 episodes
1989UnconqueredDr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Television movie
1989PollyReverend GillisTelevision movie
1990Polly: Comin' Home!Reverend GillisTelevision movie

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards and nominations
YearAwardCategoryTitle of workResult
1982Clarence Derwent AwardsMost Promising MaleA Soldier's PlayWon
1982Drama Desk AwardOutstanding Featured Actor in a PlayA Soldier's PlayNominated
1990Soap Opera Digest AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actor: Prime TimeKnots LandingNominated
1991Soap Opera Digest AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actor: Prime TimeKnots LandingWon
1992Soap Opera Digest AwardsOutstanding Actor: Prime TimeKnots LandingNominated


  1. ^ a b c d Gliatto, Tom (June 22, 1992). "Death in Knots Landing". People 37 (24). ISSN 0093-7673. 
  2. ^ "Larry Riley, 39, Actor On 'Knots Landing'". The New York Times. June 10, 1992. Retrieved December 1, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Larry Riley Biography (1952–1992)". Retrieved December 1, 2009. 
  4. ^ Heckman, Don (November 3, 1988). "CABARET REVIEW : Riley's Tribute to Louis Jordan". Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ "Actor Larry Riley, 39, Dies of AIDS in Burbank, Calif.". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 82 (10): 62. June 29, 1992. ISSN 0021-5996. 
  6. ^ Theatre World 1991–1992, Volume 48. Hal Leonard Corporation. 2000. p. 240. ISBN 1-55783-142-4. 
  7. ^ "Late Actor Larry Riley Of 'Knots Landing' Leaves $200,000 Estate To Widow". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 83 (22): 51. March 29, 1993. ISSN 0021-5996. 

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