Monday, May 28, 2007

The Life of Reilly

Such sad news! Felt Up fave of faves Charles Nelson Reilly has passed away. From his obituary in the NY Times:
Charles Nelson Reilly, who acted and directed on Broadway but came to be best known for his campy television appearances on talk shows and “Match Game,” died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 76 and lived in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, said his partner, Patrick Hughes, who is his only immediate survivor. Mr. Reilly had been ill for more than a year, he said.

Long before moving west to become what he somewhat ruefully described as a “game show fixture,” Mr. Reilly was an actor and an acting teacher in New York City. In 1962, he won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Bud Frump in the original Broadway production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

But he was proudest of “The Belle of Amherst,” a one-woman play starring Julie Harris based on the life of Emily Dickinson, which he directed on Broadway at the Longacre Theater in 1976, said Timothy Helgeson, who collaborated with him on the show. Two decades later, Mr. Reilly directed Ms. Harris and Charles Durning in a revival of “The Gin Game” at the Lyceum Theater. He was nominated for a Tony for best director in 1997, and Ms. Harris was nominated for best actress...

In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Reilly, with his ascots, oversize spectacles and over-the-top penchant for double-entendres, was a regular on television. He appeared more than 95 times on the “Tonight” show with Johnny Carson and was a panelist on game shows like “Match Game” and “Hollywood Squares.”

In a 2001 interview with The Advocate, the national gay magazine, Mr. Reilly reflected on the effect those shows had on his professional prospects. “You can’t do anything else once you do game shows,” he said. “You have no career.”

Mr. Reilly’s openly gay persona was many years ahead of its time on television, and it had its risks. He recalled being dismissed early in his career by a network executive, who told him that “they don’t let queers on television.” Paul Linke, who directed the one-man show, said Mr. Reilly later had the last laugh when he would page through TV Guide and count how many times he was on the air that week.

Charles Nelson Reilly was such a huge part of my childhood, which was largely spent glued to the television watching game shows like "Match Game." And, of course, his persona was brilliantly (and, I think, lovingly) spoofed by comedy genius Alec Baldwin, on "Saturday Night Live," which I hope Mr. Reilly enjoyed as much as I did.

You shall be missed, Mr. Reilly!

Will Ferrell as James Lipton and Alec Baldwin as Charles Nelson Reilly in their "Inside The Actor's Studio" sketch on SNL.

UPDATE: Huzzah! See the video, via The WOW Report:

SNL - Inside Actors Studio

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I still can't believe it's true...Charles!

Also: I think Alec Baldwin's CNR impersonation might be my favorite SNL bit he's ever done, and that's saying a lot.

Terri R.