Robert Goulet, the handsome baritone who appeared in everything from Broadway musicals to movies to commercials, died this past Tuesday, October 30. He had been diagnosed with interstitial pulmonary fibrosis and was waiting for a lung transplant. He was 73.
Goulet was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts to French Canadian family. Following his father's death, his mother and the family moved to Girouxville, Alberta, Canada and later Edmonton. In Edmonton he studied voice with Herbert G. Turner and Jean Létourneau (founders of the light opera of Edmonton). Goulet also became a radio announcer for CKUA in Edmonton. He graduated from Victoria Composite High School and attended Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music on a scholarship. In 1952 he competed on the talent show Pick the Stars on CBC television. Goulet was a regular on the Canadian version of Howdy Doody, appearing as Trapper Pierre (for a time alongside William Shatner as Ranger Bob). From 1955 to 1959 he was one of the co-hosts on the Canadian series The Leslie Bell Singers.
It was in 1959 that there came the turning point in Goulet's career that would turn him into a star. He found himself cast as Lancelot in the Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot, opposite Richard Burton as Arthur and Julie Andrews as Guenevere. The musical opened in Toronto in October 1960 before playing in Boston for four weeks and then on Broadway. Goulet appeared in Camelot from October 1960 to January 1963.
As a Broadway star Goulet appeared regularly on television in the Sixties. He appeared on both The Jack Paar Programme and The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. He made many appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. He also made appearances on The Jack Benny Programme, The Jerry Lewis Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Dean Martin Show, and The Hollywood Palace. He guest starred on the shows The Patty Duke Show, The Big Valley, and The Name of the Game. He appeared in television adaptations of Brigadoon and Kiss Me Kate. He also starred in the short lived 1966 World War II spy drama The Blue Light.
Goulet also had a film career in the Sixties. He was the voice of Jaune-Tom in the animated feature Gay Purr-ee, and appeared in the films Honeymoon Hotel, I'd Rather be Rich, and Underground. He also returned to Broadway in The Happy Time in 1968.
The Seventies saw Goulet's career in film slow down, although he appeared in many TV shows. He made guest appearances on Mission: Impossible, Laugh In, The Flip Wilson Show, The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, Cannon, Police Woman, and Love Boat. In 1980 he would appear in Atlantic City and in 1988 in Beetle Juice as Maxie Dean. He made guest appearances on Police Squad, Matt Houston, Murder She Wrote, and Fantasy Island. The Nineties saw Goulet appear in the films The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear and Mr. Wrong. He provided the singing voice for Wheezy the Penguin in Toy Story 2. He guest starred on the shows The New WKRP in Cincinnati, Boy Meets World, In the Heat of the Night, and Burke's Law. He also returned to Broadway in a revival of Camelot, this time as King Arthur.
The Naughts saw Goulet appear in the films The Last Producer and G-Men from Hell. He provided Mikey's singing voice on the series Recess. He guest starred on The Simpsons, TV Funhouse, Gary the Rat, Las Vegas, and The King of Queens. He also appeared in a very funny Emerald Nuts commercial as someone who plays pranks on unsuspecting office workers. He would appear on Broadway one last time in La Cage aux Folles.
Throughout his career, Robert Goulet recorded over 60 albums.
Later in his career Robert Goulet often parodied himself as the ultimate lounge singer. In truth, however, he was actually a very talented singer and a performer of considerable charm. It was his singing, as much as the writing talents of Lerner and Loewe, that established "If Ever I Leave You" from Camelot as a romantic standard. Aside from a voice that evoked the days of chivalry and love worth dying for, Goulet was a beloved performer because of a remarkable, often self effacing sense of humour. Not many singers of his era would have appeared in that Emerald Nuts advert or gust starred on The Simpsons. They certainly would not have parodied themselves as the ultimate lounge singer. In the end, Goulet was not the ultimate lounge singer, but a man with an impressive voice and considerable talent.