Richard Kiley

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A respected actor and singer who has appeared on stage, screen and television.
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b. 31 March 1922, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 5 March 1998, Warwick, New York, USA. Actor and singer Kiley studied at Loyala University and spent more than three years in the US Navy, before moving to New York in 1947. Although he appeared out of town with Nancy Walker in the musical A Month Of Sundays, during the late 40s and early 50s Kiley worked mostly in dramatic parts off-Broadway and in first-class televisions productions such as Patterns (Kraft Television Theatre) and P.O.W. (United States Steel Hour). His career in the musical theatre really began in 1953 when he created the role of Caliph in Kismet, in which he introduced, with others, several memorable numbers, including ‘Stranger In Paradise’ and ‘And This Is My Beloved’. Following a gap of six years, Kiley returned to Broadway in the murder mystery musical Redhead (1959), for which he and his co-star Gwen Verdon won Tony Awards. No Strings followed in 1962, and with Diahann Carroll he sang the lovely ‘The Sweetest Sounds’. After taking over from Craig Stevens in Meredith Willson’s Here’s Love, Kiley played pitchman Sam the Shpieler in I Had A Ball (1964) - and then came the role of a lifetime. Kiley won a second Tony Award for his memorable portrayal of Don Quixote in Man Of La Mancha (1965), and introduced Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion’s ‘The Impossible Dream’, a song with which he is always identified. He reprised the part on several occasions, including the 1969 London revival, two further New York productions, and on tour. Since his triumph in Man Of La Mancha, Kiley’s appearances in musical productions have been limited. He played Julius Caesar in Her First Roman (1968), an adaptation of Bernard Shaw’s Caesar And Cleopatra; took part in the one-night tribute, A Celebration Of Richard Rodgers (1972); played an aviator in Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s poorly received fantasy movie, The Little Prince (1974); appeared in a brief revival of Knickerbocker Holiday (1977) at Town Hall, New York; and starred out of town in a musical version of A Christmas Carol (1981), with music and lyrics by Michel Legrand and Sheldon Harnick. However, he continued to appear in dramatic roles in films, the theatre, and on television. He won an Emmy in 1984 for his performance as Paddy Cleary in The Thorn Birds, and in 1999 was inducted into The Theatre Hall of Fame.