Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and Frederick Hecht, M.D.
November 8, 2004 -- Howard Keel, the singing star of stage, screen and television, was once quoted as saying, "I'm just having too much fun. As long as I can sing well, I'll keep at it. The minute I feel that the voice is getting down, the minute I feel that I can't cut the mustard, I'll quit."
Unfortunately, in the end, Mr. Keel didn't stop singing because his voice failed him but because he was struck down by colon cancer. Howard Keel died this week in California.
From Oklahoma to Dallas
Howard Keel was born in 1917. He started taking vocal lessons in his 20s and continued singing while he worked at Douglas Aircraft during WW II. After the war was over, he made his stage debut singing in Carousel and Oklahoma. Mr. Keel then appeared in a series of movie musicals including Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. To everyone's surprise (including his own), he then remade his screen career in the 1980's by appearing on the television series, Dallas.
To those who can recall the various roles played by Howard Keel, he will be remembered as often being "preposterously manly," especially when he squeezed his 6 foot, 3-inch frame into buckskins. And yes, he often played parts, especially during the 50s and 60s, which would be described today as being a "male chauvinist" and "politically incorrect." But it was all in the spirit of those times.
During his long life, Howard Keel was not without health problems. He was quoted as saying (about his choice to go ahead with open heart surgery in January 1986, despite the risk of losing his job on Dallas), "There is always another part. But there is only one life!"
Deciding to undergo open heart surgery at that time may have bought him another 18 years. We are very sad that there will finally be no more parts ahead for Howard Keel. It is also sad because death from colon cancer today is largely preventable.
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