Canada’s First Matinee Idol

“If ever I would leave you, it wouldn’t be in autumn,” sang Robert Goulet, but in the end, that’s just what he did.

Robert Goulet, who marshalled his dark good looks and thundering baritone voice to play a dashing Lancelot in the original Camelot in 1960, then went on to a wide-ranging career as a singer and actor, winning a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy, died today. He was 73.

After the Camelot triumph, Mr. Goulet was called the next great matinee idol. Judy Garland described him as a living 8-by-10 glossy. He was swamped with offers to do movies, television shows and nightclub engagements. Few articles failed to mention his bedroom blue eyes, and many female fans tossed him room keys during performances. His hit song from the show, “If Ever I Would Leave You,” remains a romantic standard.

“Something in his voice evokes old times and romance,” Alex Witchel wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 1993. “He makes you remember corsages.”

His more than 60 albums, travels with touring theatrical revivals and many Las Vegas gigs were enough to ensure nearly a half-century of popularity.

Mr. Goulet’s rise after Camelot was swift. In 1962, he won a Grammy award as best new artist for his first two albums, “Always You” and “Two of Us,” and his hit single “What Kind of Fool Am I.” Two years later, his album “My Love Forgive Me” went gold; 17 of his albums between 1962 and 1970 made the charts.

He reached the peak of his popularity in the ’60s. In 1966, he starred in a television adaptation of Brigadoon, which won an Emmy as outstanding musical production. He won a Tony for his performance in the 1968 Broadway musical The Happy Time. And he appeared frequently on popular television programs like The Ed Sullivan Show.

A theatrical agent recommended him to Alan Jay Lerner, the librettist, and Frederick Loewe, the composer, for their new musical, Camelot which would also star Julie Andrews and Richard Burton.

His audition, in September 1960, went so well that everyone applauded, a rarity, Mr. Goulet recalled in an interview with Music Educators Journal in 1998.

Mr. Loewe asked him, “Parlez-vous francais?”

Mr. Goulet answered, “Oui, certainement.”

Variety called Mr. Goulet the “perfect Lancelot.” Richard Burton pronounced that Goulet had “the voice of an angel.”

The public loved Camelot. It ran for 873 performances, closing in January 1963. The cast album, featuring “If Ever I Would Leave You,” topped the charts.

“Robert Goulet was a monumental presence on the stage and had one of the great voices of all time, which often overshadowed his many other talents,” pianist Roger Williams said in a statement Tuesday. “He really could do it all — act, dance and was as funny as hell, especially when he was making fun of himself. Robert always took his craft seriously, but never took himself seriously.”

“Oh, how we will miss this great guy.”

Robert Goulet

Robert Goulet, 1933 – 2007


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