Keene Curtis

b. Keene Holbrook Curtis, 15 February 1923, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, d. 13 October 2002, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. After studying at the University of Utah, Curtis served in the US Navy as a lieutenant…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography

b. Keene Holbrook Curtis, 15 February 1923, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, d. 13 October 2002, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. After studying at the University of Utah, Curtis served in the US Navy as a lieutenant during World War II. He returned to university for his masters degree in Dramatic Arts. During this period, he met Orson Welles who directed a university production of Macbeth. From the mid-50s he was active on Broadway, mainly as stage manager in productions such as The Dark Is Light Enough (1955), The Desk Set (1956) and Four Winds (1957). In a similar capacity he worked on Noël Coward’s Nude With Violin (1957) and Present Laughter (1958). Other 50s productions were The Firstborn (1958), Look After Lulu, Much Ado About Nothing and Silent Night, Holy Night (all 1959). In the mid-60s Curtis appeared on stage in revivals of You Can’t Take It With You (1965), The School For Scandal and Right You Are If You Think You Are (both 1966), The Wild Duck, War And Peace and Pantagleize (all 1967), The Cherry Orchard, The Cocktail Party and The Misanthrope (all 1968), Hamlet and A Patriot For Me (both 1969).

After these straight dramatic productions, Curtis made a striking change with appearances in musicals, starting with Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s The Rothschilds (1970) for which he won a Tony Award as Best Featured Actor In A Musical. He was also in Via Galactica (1972), was a replacement cast member as Daddy Warbucks in Annie (1977), and was also in La Cage Aux Folles (1983), as Albin. Curtis also appeared in films and on television. His many films, both theatrical and for television, included The Missiles Of October (1974), American Hot Wax (1978), Modesty Blaise (1982), Lambada (1990) and Mother Teresa: In The Name Of God’s Poor (1997). He also appeared in individual episodes of television series and situation comedies, among them Hawaii Five-O (1968), M*A*S*H (1972), Quincy (1976), Benson (1979), Cheers (1982-93, as Carla’s unlikely lover, John Allen Hill, in the last three seasons of the show), Ally McBeal (1997), and in 1998 he was in some episodes of the second and third series of The Pretender (1996-2000). Also in the 90s he made further stage appearances including White Liars & Black Comedy, Gypsy (both 1993) and Rosebud (1994). The onset of Alzheimer’s Disease drove him into retirement in Bountiful, Utah, the town in which he was raised.