Howard Keel, star of MGM musicals and 'Dallas', dies aged 85

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The Independent US

Howard Keel, one of the last stalwarts of the golden age of MGM musicals who later shone as one of the stars of Dallas on television, died yesterday at the age of 85.

Howard Keel, one of the last stalwarts of the golden age of MGM musicals who later shone as one of the stars of Dallas on television, died yesterday at the age of 85.

Known for his imposing presence and strong baritone voice, he appeared in a string of musicals including Annie Get You Gun, Kiss Me Kate, Show Boat, Calamity Jane and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

The latter was his favourite film. He told an interviewer in 1993: "It was a fine cast and lots of fun to make, but they did the damn thing on the cheap. The backdrops had holes in them, and it was shot on the worst film stock. As it turned out, the miracle worker was George Foley, the cinematographer. He took that junk and made it look like a Grandma Moses painting."

After MGMs musical division fell into a slump, he continued to appear in stage musicals around the United States, then switched to film westerns. In 1962, he took the lead role of Bill Mason in Day of the Triffids. Finally, he took on the part of Clayton Farlow on Dallas, three years into the hit series about conniving Texas oilmen and their glamourous womenfolk. He stayed with the programme for another 10 years until it finally wound up in 1991.

"My life changed again," Keel said later. "From being out of it, I was suddenly a star, known to more people than ever before. Wherever I went, crowds appeared again, and I started making solo albums for the first time in my career."

Keel was born in rural Illinois with the name Harold Clifford Leek. The son of a coal miner, he made his showbusiness debut as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles café and also worked in an aircraft factory. He was discovered by Oscar Hammerstein II, who signed him up for the stage show of Oklahoma! and soon had him working in Hollywood. He was married and divorced twice.

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