Richard Kiley

Richard Paul Kiley (March 31, 1922 – March 5, 1999) was an American stage, television, and film actor. He is best known for his distinguished theatrical career in which he twice won the Tony Award for Best Actor In A Musical.[1] Kiley created the role of Don Quixote in the original 1965 production of the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha and was the first to sing and record "The Impossible Dream", the hit song from the show. In the 1953 hit musical Kismet, he played the Caliph and was one of the quartet introducing the song "And This Is My Beloved". Additionally, he won three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards during his 50-year career[2] and his "sonorous baritone"[3] was also featured in the narration of a number of documentaries and other films. At the time of his death, Kiley was described as "one of theater's most distinguished and versatile actors" and as "an indispensable actor, the kind of performer who could be called on to play kings and commoners and a diversity of characters in between."[2]

Richard Kiley
Kiley in 1960.
Richard Paul Kiley

(1922-03-31)March 31, 1922
DiedMarch 5, 1999(1999-03-05) (aged 76)
Years active1950–1999
Mary Bell Wood
(m. 1948; div. 1967)

Patricia Ferrier
(m. 1968)

Early life

Kiley was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised Roman Catholic. He graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in 1939, and after a year at Loyola University Chicago[4] he left to study acting at Chicago's Barnum Dramatic School. In the late 40s, he performed in Chicago-area summer stock theaters with actors such as Alan Furlan.[5] Following his service in the United States Navy in World War II, he returned to Chicago working as an actor and announcer on radio before moving to New York City. In New York he studied singing with Ray Smolover.[6]


Kiley's work on stage included Kismet, No Strings (which was Richard Rodgers's first stage musical after the death of Oscar Hammerstein II) in which Rodgers wrote both music and lyrics, the Buddy Hackett vehicle I Had a Ball, and the lead roles in Redhead, Man of La Mancha, and the play The Incomparable Max.

Kiley later starred in the television play Patterns, which aired live on January 12, 1955. It caused a sensation and won an Emmy for its writer, Rod Serling. He played the role of John Malcolm Patterson, future Attorney General of Alabama (and later Governor of Alabama), in the 1955 film The Phenix City Story. Kiley also portrayed math teacher Joshua Edwards, whose phonograph records were smashed by delinquents in Blackboard Jungle in 1955.

Kiley won Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Musical for Redhead in 1959 and Man of La Mancha in 1966. The dual role of middle-aged author Cervantes and his fictional creation Quixote is one of the few musical roles that requires the talents of both leading man and character actor. Kiley said while La Mancha was on Broadway that despite the fact he had grown tired of playing leading men, he would always be grateful for having been given the chance to perform in La Mancha.

Later years

Kiley won three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards for his work in television. He won both an Emmy and Golden Globe awards for The Thorn Birds (as Paddy, Rachel Ward's father) (1983) and A Year in the Life (1986, 1987–1988). His third Emmy win was for Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for an episode of Picket Fences.

Other television work included as the murderous police commissioner on Columbo (1974, the episode "A Friend In Deed"), his appearance as Gideon Seyetik in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Second Sight", as well as guest roles on Ally McBeal, Hawaii Five-O and Gunsmoke. He narrated the award-winning seven-part 1986 PBS documentary Planet Earth.

Kiley's baritone made him a favorite to narrate documentaries for television. In Jurassic Park, Kiley's voice is used to narrate the park's vehicle tour. Kiley was introduced as the narrator for the tour first in the novel by Michael Crichton, and later in the film adaptation by Steven Spielberg where the owner of the park said he "spared no expense" hiring Kiley. Visitors to Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida, and Universal Studios in Hollywood hear Kiley as the narrator of the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride.

In 1993, Christian filmmakers set out to make a film which would be a Word-for-Word of the Gospel. Kiley was chosen to do a narration style film as the Apostle Matthew in his latter days. He is seen doing many flashbacks as Matthew in the days when Jesus walked the Earth.

From 1994 until 1998, Kiley narrated the A&E documentary television series Mysteries of the Bible. His final acting role was in the 1999 TV movie Blue Moon, which debuted the month after his death.[7][8]


Kiley died of an unspecified bone marrow disease at Horton Hospital in Middletown, New York, on March 5, 1999, less than a month before his 77th birthday. He was survived by his wife and six children, sons David and Michael Kiley and daughters Kathleen, Dorothea, Erin and Deirdre. His remains were interred in Warwick. Broadway's lights went dark in his honor.



Year Title Role Notes
1951 The Mob Thomas Clancy
1952 The Sniper Dr. James G. Kent
1952 Eight Iron Men Private Coke
1953 Pickup on South Street Joey
1955 Blackboard Jungle Joshua Y. Edwards
1955 The Phenix City Story John Patterson
1957 Spanish Affair Merritt Blake
1958 The Power of the Resurrection Peter
1969 Pendulum Woodrow Wilson King
1970 a.k.a. Cassius Clay Narrator
1974 The Little Prince The Pilot
1977 Looking for Mr. Goodbar Mr. Dunn
1981 Endless Love Arthur Axelrod
1986 Howard the Duck The Cosmos Voice
1989 To the Limit Narrator
1989 Miami Cops
1993 Jurassic Park Jurassic Park Tour Voice Voice
1993 The Gospel According to St. Matthew Old Matthew
1996 Phenomenon Dr. Wellin
1997 Time to Say Goodbye? Dr. Gerald Klooster
1998 Patch Adams Dr. Titan
2002 Jesus the Christ Matthew (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1954 Justice Unknown 2 episodes
1956 Studio One Mr. Dean Episode: "The Landlady's Daughter"
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Harry Adams Episode: "Crooked Road"
1969 Night Gallery Joseph Strobe Television film ("The Escape Route" segment)
1970 Gunsmoke Lewis Stark Episode: "Stark"
1970 Bonanza Gideon Yates Episode: Gideon the Good
1970 The Ceremony of Innocence King Ethelred II Television film
1971 Murder Once Removed Frank Manning Television film
1971 Gunsmoke Tom Lynott Episode: "Lynott"
1972 Gunsmoke Bohannon Episode: "Bohannon"
1973 Gunsmoke Will Stambridge Episode: "Kitty's Love Affair"
1974 Columbo: A Friend in Deed Mark Halperin
1975 Friendly Persuasion Jess Birdwell Television film
1980 Angel on My Shoulder Nick Television film
1981 Isabel's Choice Lyman Jones Television film
1981 Golden Gate Thomas J. Kingsley Television film
1983 The Thorn Birds Paddy Cleary 2 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1984 George Washington George Mason Television film
1985 A.D. Claudius Television film
1985 The Canterville Ghost Sir Simon de Canterville Television film
1985 Do You Remember Love George Hollis Television film
1986 Planet Earth Narrator 7 episodes
1986 The Twilight Zone (1985 TV series) Lancelot Episode: "The Last Defender of Camelot (The Twilight Zone)"
1986 If Tomorrow Comes Gunther Hartog 3 episodes
1986–1988 A Year in the Life Joe Gardner 22 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
1988 My First Love Sam Morrissey Television film
1991 Absolute Strangers Dr. R.J. Cannon Television film
1991 Separate But Equal Chief Justice Earl Warren Television film
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1992–1994 Picket Fences Hayden Langston 2 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Dr. Gideon Seyetik Episode: "Second Sight" (Season 2 Episode 9)
1994–1998 Mysteries of the Bible Narrator
1995 The Great Defender Joe Dewitt 8 episodes
1996 Mary & Tim Ron Melville Television film
1997 Time to Say Goodbye? Dr. Gerald Klooster Television film
1997 Tigers of the Show Narrator
1998 Ally McBeal Seymore Little Episode: "Once in a Lifetime"
1998 Blue Moon Jimmy Keating Television film


Year Title Role Notes
1953 Misalliance Joey Percival
1953–1955 Kismet The Caliph
1956 Time Limit Major Harry Cargill
1959–1960 Redhead Tom Baxter Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical
1960–1961 Advise and Consent Brig Anderson
1962–1963 No Strings David Jordan Nominated—Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical
1963–1964 Here's Love Fred Gaily
1964–1965 I Had a Ball Stan the Shpieler
1965–1971 Man of La Mancha Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical
1968 Her First Roman Caesar
1971 The Incomparable Max Enoch Soames
1972 Voices Robert
1972 Man of La Mancha Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote
1974–1976 Absurd Person Singular Ronald
1975 "Ah, Wilderness!" Nat Miller Academy Festival Theatre, Drake Theatre at Barat College, Lake Forest, Illinois
1976 The Heiress Dr. Austin Sloper Nominated—Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play
1977 Man of La Mancha Don Quixote Nominated—Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical
1987 All My Sons Joe Keller Nominated—Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play


  1. Tom Vallance (1999-03-11). "Obituary: Richard Kiley – Arts & Entertainment". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  2. MEL GUSSOWPublished: March 06, 1999 (1999-03-06). "Richard Kiley, the Man of La Mancha, Is Dead at 76 – New York Times". Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  3. "Overview for Richard Kiley". Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  4. Obituary: Richard Kiley from The Independent (London) March 11, 1999
  5. "The Milwaukee Journal". July 30, 1985.
  6. "Earl Wilson". Toledo Blade. September 22, 1977.
  7. "Blue Moon" TV movie at IMDB
  8. Yahoo TV bio of Richard Kiley


  • Man of La Mancha – original theatrical program, for Kiley's personal comments on playing Don Quixote
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