1922 - 1999
Richard Kiley was on tour in his famous Tony winning role of Cervantes/Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, thrilling sold out audiences at Toronto's O'Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts. In his spare time he was autographing the cast album at Eaton's Department Store, telling amusing show business anecdotes and shaking hands. I was working downtown at one of my first secretarial jobs and happily spent my lunch hour with the crowd at Eaton's. Next in line for an autograph I couldn't believe I was that close to Richard Kiley. Everyone was saying how much they enjoyed Man of La Mancha or how much they were looking forward to it. I had enjoyed the show as well, but when I handed my album to Mr. Kiley I told him how much I enjoyed all his guest appearances on Gunsmoke. Well, it was different anyway. Kiley looked up from the album with a bemused smile on his face and sat back. I don't think a theatre buff/western fan is such a rare creature, but maybe on that day I was. "Thank you" he said. "I always enjoyed working on that show. Great people."
An actor never really knows what sort of an impact they are making on an audience, do they? Acclaim and awards are a good indication. Fans at the stage door. Or it could be a week's work on episodic television.
Richard Kiley on Gunsmoke
Stark, Season 16, 1970
Written by Don Sanford
Directed by Robert Totten
Richard Kiley plays Lewis Stark, a cold and calculating bounty hunter. Shelly Novak is the wild son of a rich, stubborn rancher beautifully played by Henry Wilcoxon. Stark captures the young man, who has escaped prison, and holds him for ransom. The plan to make some fast money is complicated by Suzanne Pleshette as the rancher's very modern daughter, and Wilcoxon's failing health. A brutal beating and the torn open heart of a dysfunctional family feature in this engrossing drama with excellent performances.
Lynott, Season 17, 1971
Written by Ron Bishop
Directed by Gunnar Hellstrom
This time out Kiley is Tom Lynott, a lawman between jobs who takes over in Dodge while Matt is recovering from a shooting. Lynott is a garrulous soul with his own way of doing things which is more suited to the rough cow town Dodge used to be. His loving wife played perfectly (what else?) by Peggy McCay is the rock for the rambling interim marshal. He has a wee bit of a liking for the drink and is perhaps too close in temperment to the outlaws he should be policing. What cost will come with Lynott's new found respect for his position? Great dialogue and memorable characterizations from bad guys Anthony Caruso and Jonathan Lippe (currently the World's Most Interesting Man).
Bohannan, Season 18, 1972
Written by William Kelley
Directed by Alf Kjellin
Doc Adams is determined to prove the flamboyant faith healer Bohannan a charleton. Bohannan himself is in a crisis of faith that is heightened by his relationship with a terminal ill youngster played by Vincent Van Patten and his mother, Linda Marsh. A touching and thought-provoking episode.
Kitty's Love Affair, Season 19, 1973
Written by Paul Savage from a story by Susan Kotar and Joan E. Gessler
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Well, the title just about says it all. How could Kitty not be impressed with the attentions of reformed gunfighter Will Stambridge who comes to her aid against outlaws? After all, it's Richard Kiley.
Kiley's future work with producer John Mantley and actor James Arness includes 1976s The Macahans as Timothy Macahan, father of a family relocating to the west in the Civil War era. Also, the second made-for-TV Gunsmoke movie 1990s The Last Apache.
Richard Kiley's television work garnered him 9 Emmy nominations including 3 wins. A 1983 win as Paddy Cleary in The Thorn Birds, in 1988 as Joe Gardner in the well-remembered A Year in the Life and a Guest Performance Emmy in 1993 for Picket Fences as Jill's father, Hayden Langston. He also won Golden Globes for The Thorn Birds and A Year in the Life, plus a nomination for 1991s Separate But Equal.
Richard Kiley, Peter Falk
Police Commissioner Mark Halperin's byzantine murder plan is doomed to failure when Lt. Columbo is on the case in 1974s A Friend in Deed. When "Lt." arrests the culprit, the look of pure hatred on Kiley's face is chilling.
National Geographic specials were more special when narrated by Richard Kiley. That voice! Mellifluous, commanding and sexy. High on my list of favourite Kiley TV appearances is on American Playhouse in 1993, Verse Person Singular. Kiley wrote the narration and the music for this one man show with poems by Poe, Lewis Carroll, Kipling and others. My favourite was T.S. Eliot's Gus the Theatre Cat. After all, that's what Richard Kiley was - a theatre cat.
Along with touring, Richard Kiley appeared in 17 Broadway plays between 1953 and 1987. He won 2 Tony Awards for Man of La Mancha in 1966 and Redhead in 1959. He was nominated in 1962 for No Strings and in 1987 for All My Sons.
Let's not forget the movies. The pilot in 1974s The Little Prince. Narrating 1993s Jurassic Park. Heading a Board of Inquiry in 1998s Patch Adams. The crusading lawyer in 1955s The Phenix City Story. The murderous communist agent in 1953s Pickup on South Street. The naive high school teacher in 1955s The Blackboard Jungle. The fate of Josh Edward's jazz records breaks my heart.
Speaking of record albums, when my husband and I became a couple we faced the chore of combining our record collections. Not surprisingly, since we met doing community theatre, the only doubles were the Original Show Cast Albums. It is my copy of Man of La Mancha that has the autograph and is wrapped up with the memory of a bemused smile and a warm handshake.