Learning a love of life from the movies
Since I’ve always been comfortable with my masculinity, I can honestly say I loved the man.Even though I’d never met him, and actually knew almost nothing of his personal life, what he brought to his job – which was acting – and the roles he portrayed had an immense impact on my life.Howard Keel, stage, screen and television actor died several weeks ago at the age of 85. Most people remember Keel, who was born Harold Clifford Leek, as Clayton Farlow, the romantic interest of Miss Ellie and the only man big enough to stand up to J.R. Ewing Jr. on the hit ’80s television show “Dallas.” This is the role that Keel joked made him more money than he’d ever made in his entire lifetime, although he often only worked 45 minutes a day.
I, however, remember Keel from his first period of success. To me he will always be the characters he played in the heyday of the MGM musicals. Any of which I wanted to be when I grew up.I always wanted to be Keel. I wanted to grow up to look like him, and to act like the characters he played. The man was 6 foot 4 inches tall, with a big barrel chest, black wavy hair, dark, swarthy beard and mustache and a rich baritone voice. In the looks department, however, I missed the mark. Actually I hit the tree behind the target.I made it to 5 foot 6 inches tall, no hair and even though I can pull off a beard and mustache when the idea suits me, it just doesn’t look as good as it did on Keel.
So since I couldn’t look like Keel, then at least I’ve always felt I could retain the attitude of his characters.Maybe because of his looks, maybe because of his deep, strong voice, Keel was always cast as men who laughed deeply, loved strongly and did things that made you want to get out and sing. My favorite role of his was Hajj the beggar in the 1955 movie “Kismet.”In the movie Keel plays a poor poet who accidentally sits in the spot reserved for Hajj the beggar and because of this mistake – and a twist of fate – he ends up rich, powerful and in love. And along the way, through the ups and downs that happen just about every other minute, he seems to not only take what comes in stride, but to also enjoy the ride.
Over the years I’ve tried to live that kind of life and having experienced numerous twists of fate myself that have led me to some hard times, but also to my wife, my daughters and my life in the Colorado Rockies, I have to say that in the end I sort of subscribe to the philosophy of the movie.The day Keel died I mentioned to my wife that when I was young I wanted to grow up to look like him, and in my wife’s endearing way, she looked at me and then back to the image of Keel on the television and she said that she also wished that had happened.Oh, well, she’s stuck with me the way I am, but deep inside the memory of Keel and his pack of characters will hang out and laugh with me until the day I’m gone.Andrew Gmerek writes a Friday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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