Family & Companions
Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1999.
A legendary stage actor and musical star who has also won Emmy awards for his TV work, Richard Kiley had one of the best "voices" in the business--mellifluous and warmly authoritarian--which complemented his wide acting range. He began his career in his native Chicago, performing juvenile role on radio soap operas such as the famed "Ma Perkins" and "The Guiding Light." After military service, Kiley settled in NYC to pursue a stage career. His first break came when he was tapped to replace Anthony Quinn as Stanley Kowalski in the road company of "A Streetcar Named Desire." In 1953, Kiley made his Broadway debut in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's "Misalliance," for which he received a Theatre World Award. Turning to musicals, the actor displayed his vocal abilities as the Caliph in "Kismet" (introducing songs such as "Stranger in Paradise"), earned his first Tony Award co-starring with Gwen Verdon in the musical thriller "Redhead" (1959) and went on to alternate in dramas (e.g., "Advise and Consent") and musicals (i.e., Richard Rodgers' "No Strings"). But it was in the 1965 production of "Man of La Mancha," in which Kiley played the dual roles of Cervantes and Don Quixote, that solidified his theatrical stardom and provided him with a signature role. He introduced "The Impossible Dream" not only on the New York stage but also in London in 1969, and on numerous TV variety shows, including "The Ed Sullivan Show." Kiley would later also star on Broadway in the comedy "Absurd Person Singular" and in a revival of "All My Sons," but he would periodically return to "Man of La Mancha."
As with most NYC-based actors in the 50s, Kiley began his small screen career in live productions, but it was not until he had reached middle-age that his TV work increased momentum. He won his first Emmy for his portrayal of the patriarch of an Australian family in the ABC miniseries "The Thorn Birds" in 1983. Kiley went on to earn raves as the husband of a woman (Joanne Woodward) diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in "Do You Remember Love?" (CBS, 1985). He was another patriarch a widower coping with life alone and helping his children stabilize their own lives, in the award-winning miniseries "A Year on the Life" (NBC, 1986) and its spin-off (NBC, 1987-88), which earned him a second Emmy. After making recurring appearances on NBC's "The Cosby Mysteries" (1994-95), Kiley earned a third Emmy for his turn as the irascible father of Jill Brock (Kathy Baker) in an episode of the CBS drama "Picket Fences."
Kiley's film work was more sporadic. He made his debut in 1951 in "The Mob," was a supporting player to Richard Widmark in the excellent spy thriller "Pickup on South Street" (1953) and as the member of the faculty who thinks he can reason with the hoodlums in "The Blackboard Jungle" (1955). After the 50s, his film appearances became infrequent. Among his more notable later roles were the pilot in the screen musical version of "The Little Prince" (1974), Diane Keaton's ill-tempered father in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" (1977) and a doctor in "Patch Adams" (1998, his final film).
Often, the actor could be heard rather than seen, employing his sonorous baritone as a narrator. For instance. Kiley could be heard as the tour voice in "Jurassic Park" (1993) and in numerous TV commercials. He also provided the narration for documentary programming, including "National Geographic Specials," "Nova," "Planet Earth" as well as hundreds of nature, historical, and informative specials and reality shows on public television, broadcast networks, and cable channels (e.g., The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel).
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Played juvenile in radio soap operas, "Ma Perkins" and "The Guiding Light"
Off-Broadway debut, "The Trojan Women"
Film debut, "The Mob"
Broadway debut, "Misalliance"
First musical role, "Kismet"
TV debut, "U.S. Steel Hour"
Starred as Tom Baxter in "Redhead" on Broadway; won Tony Award
Created signature role as Don Quixote/Miguel Cervantes in "Man of La Mancha" on Broadway; won second Tony Award; appeared with the show for its five year run, playing over 2,000 performances in the role
Headlined a revival of "Man of La Mancha"
Played the Pilot in the film musical "The Little Prince"
Co-starred as Mr. Dunn, Diane Keaton's father, in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar"
Once again played his signature role in yet another revival of "Man of La Mancha"
Appeared as Martin Hewitt's father in "Endless Love"
Portrayed the patriarch of the Cleary family in the ABC miniseries "The Thorn Birds"; earned an Emmy Award
Portrayed the husband of Joanne Woodward in "Do You Remember Love?", a drama about a married couple facing Alzheimer's disease
Created role of widower patriarch Joe Gardner in the NBC miniseries "A Year in the Life"
Portrayed lead role of Joe Keller in Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons"; marked final Broadway appearance
First played role of Hayden Langston, father of Jill Brock (Kathy Baker) in "Picket Fences" (CBS), teleplay by David E Kelley
Provided the voice of the tour guide in "Jurassic Park"
Reprised guest role as Hayden Langston in an episode of "Picket Fences" scripted by Kelley; received Emmy Award
Final film appearance, as a doctor in the hit "Patch Adams"
Last TV acting role before his death, portrayed a painter in an episode of "Ally McBeal" (Fox), written by David E Kelley
Final acting role, as Sharon Lawrence's restarauteur father in the CBS movie "Blue Moon"
Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1999.