A participant in one of the most famous classical music recordings of all time, American baritone Richard Hale made a considerable reputation in opera, recital, and concert work. Well-schooled as both singer and actor, he was involved in the American premieres of several important works before devoting himself increasingly to the legitimate stage. In later life, he became a respected motion picture actor.
As a student at Columbia University, Hale pursued musical training along with his academic studies. In 1921, he made a successful concert debut at Aeolian Hall, attracting the attention of critics and managers alike. Admired for "the exceptional volume and richness" of his voice, he embarked on an equally fruitful recital tour of the United States. On the concert stage, he won further praise for his interpretive skills and "winning stage presence."
Hale's histrionic gifts brought engagements for a series of American premieres, including Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and Stravinsky's Les Noces. Opera appearances in New York and Cincinnati included the title role in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. In 1927-1928, Hale participated in a touring production of Deems Taylor's The King's Henchman, then a popular before its fall into obscurity. During the early stages of his career, Hale was a charismatic presence with many leading orchestras in America and Western Europe.
During the 1930s, Hale turned increasingly to appearances as a straight actor, joining the casts of such productions as Green Grow the Lilacs and Goin' Home. As his singing career drew to a close, Hale turned to the Hollywood movie studios and, later, television work, where he enjoyed a new career as a character actor. Among his most notable roles in film were Nathan Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, Purdy in Friendly Persuasion, Perigore in Scaramouche, and Tamanny in Knickerbocker Holiday. In the field of television, Hale is remembered for multiple appearances on such series programs as Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Tales of Wells Fargo, Maverick, Perry Mason, and Rawhide. Hale's appearance as narrator in the legendary Koussevitzky/Boston Symphony Orchestra recording of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf made his a familiar voice in thousands of American households.