Canadian-American actor Robert Goulet began his career on stage, enjoying steady work in theater productions in Canada. In 1959, as a virtual newcomer, Goulet was signed to play the part of Lancelot in the stage production Camelot opposite Richard Burton and Julie Andrews. His performance opened doors to film and television roles, including Brigadoon and Kiss Me, Kate.
Singer and actor Robert Goulet died October 30, 2007. He had been awaiting a lung transplant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after being found last month to have a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis, said Goulet spokesman Norm Johnson.He was born November 26, 1933, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Robert was the only son born to working class parents, Joseph and Jeanette Goulet. From an early age, Joseph Goulet encouraged his son to sing in the local church choir. In 1947, Joseph died and the family moved to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. A devastated 14-year-old Robert vowed to fulfill his dying father’s wish, and began to wholeheartedly pursue music. After a brief stint as a radio disc jockey, Goulet won a scholarship to Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, where he studied acting and singing.
In 1954, he prematurely traveled to New York in hopes of making it on Broadway. However, the only work Goulet found was as a stationary salesman in Gimbel’s department store. Somewhat disillusioned, he returned to Toronto, where the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation cast him in a leading role in the TV production Little Women. Goulet maintained his small screen success with a three year run as host of the variety series General Electric’s Showtime. Throughout the late 1950s, he enjoyed steady work in theater productions, and was befittingly labeled ‘Canada’s first matinee idol’ by the age of 24.
In 1959, Goulet was introduced to librettist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, who were having difficulty casting the role of Lancelot in their stage production Camelot. Lerner and Loewe, impressed by Goulet’s work, signed the virtual newcomer to play the part, opposite Richard Burton’s King Arthur and Julie Andrews’ Queen Guenevere.
In October of 1960,Camelot opened in Toronto, briefly ran for a four-week engagement in Boston, and finally opened on Broadway in December of that year. Goulet elicited favorable reviews, most notably for his rendition of the plays heartfelt ballad If Ever I Would Leave You.After Camelot’s run, Goulet was booked on The Danny Thomas Show andThe Ed Sullivan Show, which made him a household name among American audiences. Shortly after, he embarked on a series of nightclub engagements, making his debut at New York’s famous The Persian Room.
Goulet segued onto the silver screen when he provided the character voice in the animated feature Gay Purr-ee(1962), with Judy Garland. Two years later, he was featured in his first film Honeymoon Hotel, and headlined his first TV special An Hour with Robert Goulet. He remained a great success throughout the 1960s, making a number of TV specials, including Brigadoon (1966),Carousel (1967), and Kiss Me, Kate (1968). In 1968 he received a Best Actor Tony Award for his performance as a French photographer in the musicalHappy Time.In the 1970s, Goulet became a regular fixture in Las Vegas. During this period he developed a growing dependency on alcohol. He quit drinking in 1979, although there was an isolated incident in 1983, when he was arrested for drunk driving.In 1986, Goulet toured in a U.S. production of South Pacific. Six years later, Goulet commenced a two-year, 50-city national tour of Camelot. This time, in the role of King Arthur, he played to packed houses, earning $80,000 a week. In 1996, his performance in Man of La Mancha introduced him to a whole new generation of theatergoers. Goulet’s most recent project was a small part in 2000’s The Last Producer, which starred Benjamin Bratt and Burt Reynolds. He was also signed to play the devil in Christopher Coppola’s G-Men from Hell, which was still in production at the time of his death.