HOWARD KEEL Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Born in Illinois, Howard Keel was raised in California by his widowed mother. Here he supported himself with odd jobs after high-school graduation, vaguely holding out hopes of becoming a professional singer. His first gig was as a singing busboy at a Los Angeles cafe for the princely wage of $15 per week. Temporarily discouraged, Keel took a job at Douglas Aircraft; the executive staff, impressed by Keel’s movie-star looks and pleasant baritone, sent the young man out on a tour of Douglas’ other plants, where as a “manufacturing representative” he entertained the workers while they hastened to meet their wartime quotas. After winning several singing contests, Keel was hired by Rodgers and Hammerstein; he replaced John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel and played Curley in the London staging of Oklahoma. It was while in England that Keel, billed as Harold Keel, made his film debut in a villainous role in The Small Voice (1949). He was brought back to Hollywood to play Frank Butler in MGM’s filmization of Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. This led to leading roles in such subsequent big-budget MGM musicals as Showboat (1951), Lovely to Look At (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Rose Marie (1954), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Kismet (1955) and Jupiter’s Darling (1955). Ever on the lookout for a straight, nonsinging role, Keel was occasionally satisfied with such films as Callaway Went Thataway (1951) (in which he essayed a dual role), Desperate Search (1953) and The Big Fisherman (1959). After parting company with MGM, Keel appeared in nightclub and touring companies, often in the company of his frequent MGM co-star Kathryn Grayson, and also starred in several medium-budget westerns; he also was cast in the British sci-fi classic Day of the Triffids (1963). Howard Keel’s most recent on-camera credit was the sizeable supporting role of Clayton Farrow on the TV series Dallas. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide