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Howard Keel

Actor/singer Howard Keel was born Harry Clifford Keel on April 13 in Gillespie, IL, to a coal miner and his wife.

In high school, Keel, who was nearly his current height of six feet four inches, lettered in several sports. After completing his education, he went to work as a representative for the Douglas Aircraft Corporation in Southern California. While traveling for the company, Keel, an untrained baritone who had always enjoyed singing, entered and won first prize singing at the Mississippi Valley Festival. Soon he repeated his prize-winning ways by capturing the top prize at the esteemed Chicago Music Festival. The successive wins led to numerous concert engagements and forced Keel to give up his day job to devote full time to his singing career.

Keel next embarked upon New York and promptly landed a job on the Broadway stage as a replacement in Carousel, and then proceeded to take over the starring role of Curley in Oklahoma! Next, in London, reprising the role of Curley he garnered rave reviews and ovations for his performance in this classic American theatre original. His success while in England led to his first feature film role as a secondary character in a minor British film, The Small Voice/Hideout, in 1948.

The same year he was signed to a long-term contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer where he made his Hollywood screen debut opposite Betty Hutton in Irving Berlin's Wild West stage musical Annie Get Your Gun. At MGM, and later at other studios, Keel starred in numerous musical and straight dramatic films, including Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Kismet, Showboat, Kiss Me Kate, Rose Marie, Three Guys Named Mike, Ride, Vaquero, Calamity Jane, The Big Fisherman, Floods of Fear, Day Of The Triffids, The War Wagon, Waco and Tomahawk."

Although Keel first became known for his singing talents on stage and screen, which produced several million-selling cast albums, it was not until 1983 that he went into the recording studio to lay tracks for his first solo album. The album, And I Love You So, was recorded and released in England, where it skyrocketed to achieve gold status within one week of its release. At one point Keel's album reached the number three slot on the British pop charts - surrounded by such current musical luminaries as Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, Queen, Duran Duran, Marvin Gaye and Billy Joel. The LP was subsequently released in the United States and Canada under the title "With Love, Howard Keel - For Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Keel's other stage credits include: Sunrise at Campobello, The Rainmaker, Mr. Roberts, South Pacific, The Man of LaMancha, Camelot, Kismet, Paint Your Wagon and The Most Happy Fella." During his spring, 1984, tour of the British Isles, Keel performed to capacity houses in 30 cities in the course of 40 days.

An avid golfer, Keel is the head of the greens committee at the prestigious Bel Air Country Club, where he has maintained membership for over 32 years. Keel, his wife Judy and their daughter live in Sherman Oaks, CA. He has three children from a former marriage.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2003.

Howard Keel Facts

Birth NameHarry Clifford Leek
BirthdayApril 13, 1919
BirthplaceGillespie, Illinois, USA
Date of deathNovember 7, 2004 (age 85)
Height6' 4" (1m93)  How tall is Howard Keel compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Broadway Musicals
Three Guys Named Mike
The War Wagon
Calamity Jane
TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Doris Day
Kiss Me Kate
Show Boat
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