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AîAîiie9^ Handsome Man

By MARGARET

WHITFELD

COME years ago Howard

Keel serviced Betty Hut ton's car at the Paramount lot, where he worked as a parking

attendant.

Now he is associated again with Miss Hutton, this time as her co star in M.G.M.'s Technicolor musical, "Annie, Get Your Gun."

Altjiough his acting experience was limited to two stage shows and one English film, Keel was chosen for the much-coveted role of Frank Butler, dashing westerner with a golden voice..

Just how he managed to escape talent scouts for so long is another Hollywood unsolved mystery. Apparently he's got everything. He's six feet four of handsome athletic male, with brown hair and serious blue eyes. He has a mellow baritone voice and a talent for act- ing.

Now he has a long-term con- tract with M.G.M. and a beautiful wife.

Yet, though he lived within walking distance of the Hollywood studios, it was not until he was singing and acting in London that American movies caught up with

him.

T7" EEL'S story is that of the local * *. boy who makes good with an almost fairy-tale ending. Originally he was called Harry Keel. He was born in Gillespie, Illinois, and attended grammar and high school there until his father died. Then he moved to California and com- pleted his education.

His first job was in Hollywood as a quick-fry artist in a small res- taurant opposite Paramount studios. When this ran its course, he be- came an attendant in a nearby parking lot.

But the sleek streamlined vehicles of film stars bored him. He left and became a singing waiter at a down-town Los Angeles restaurant.

His stay there was brief. He broke three pitchers and left hur- riedly-in a shower of water and

ice cubes.

Though he enjoyed singing for his own amusement, the possibility of making use of his baritone voice for a professional career never occurred to him. The day a friend dared him to sing in a competition for the George Walker Personal Scholarship marked the opening chapter of his success story. Keel accepted the dare and won the com- petition.

He became an aircraft factory worker and rehearsed at night for shows at the Pasadena auditorium. With growing confidence, he en- tered competitions in the Missis

sippi and Chicago Music Festivals.

He won them both.

Then came an audition before Oscar Hammerstein II, who was looking for a replacement for a principal in the stage show "Carou- sel." Keel won the part. It led him to the leading male role of "Curley" in the Broadway hit,

"Oklahoma!".

Those were busy days. At one time Keel was doing both shows

on the same day, a matinee of "Carousel" and an evening per-

formance of "Oklahoma!"

In 1947 Keel travelled to Eng- land with the "Oklahoma!" com- pany. London loved him. The show ran for record time and as the unsophisticated singing cowboy who wooed the farmer's daughter, Keel was a tremendous success.

In London K^el had his first experience in films. He was given a part opposite Valerie Hobson in "The Small Voice." It was an un- pretentious film, small from a financial point of view, but critics praised it warmly.

Keel played an escaped convict wrestling with "the still small voice" of his conscience. He played the part with considerable finesse and ga"?e some form and character to what might have been just a con-

ventional thriller.

But having overlooked Keel as a Broadway star, Hollywood overtook him in London. A travelling talent scout spotted him on the Oklahoma stage, gave him a screen test, and shipped him back to Metro Goldwyn-Mayer.

The studio wanted to test him for the lead in "Annie Get Your Gun."

It was literally Keel's big "break." With his handsome six feet four done up in flashy western regalia he rode resplendent before the camera. Suddenly his snow white steed slipped and fell, pinning Keel beneath him. When every- thing was disentangled Keel was carried off to the nearest hospital nursing a broken leg.

TT seemed that he had missed his * chance of a lifetime. "Short but exciting" was the way he described his career. No assurance from the studio could convince him that the film could wait for his recovery. "No one is that good," he reasoned. But M.G.M.

felt otherwise.

They gave him a shotgun and fold him to leam to shoot. From the hospital Keel paid daily visits to the Santa Monica Gun Club. He broke records there.

In 1949 Keel married lovely

1 * i

blonde Helen Anderson, former f dancer in the "Oklahoma!" com- | pany. |

Keel is a great admirer of Eng- i lish actors, Laurence Olivier and | Alec Guinness. If there is any time I

left over from musical studies and C

dramatic lessons he likes to paint t and play golf. r

Keel next is likely to play the I lead in "Showboat." He will also E

go to Honolulu to make "Pagan | Love Song," in which he will co- I star with Esther Williams. |

His success may be only a flash k in the pan. Yet apart Irom the f happy-go-lucky singing roles for $ which he is so admirably suited, T Keel has that English film to prove S him capable of more subtle and U dramatic acting. The chances are j* that he will amount to someihing i more than the average Holhuood "pin-up" boy of to-day.

HOWARD KEEL with BETTY HUTTON in "Annie Ger Your -jfc- Gun."

I

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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