Actor and singer Robert Goulet dies at 73

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Singer-actor Robert Goulet, whose rich baritone voice made him an instant success when he played Lancelot in the original 1960 Broadway hit “Camelot,” died on Tuesday at age 73.

Actors Robert Goulet (L) and Robert Morse are shown in a scene from their 1964 film "Honeymoon Hotel" in this undated publicity photograph. Goulet, who shot to overnight international fame by playing Lancelot in the original 1960 Broadway production of "Camelot" with Julie Andrews and Richard Burton, died on October 30, 2007 at age 73. REUTERS/MGM/Handout

The performer, who suffered from the lung disease pulmonary fibrosis, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was awaiting a decision on whether he could receive a lung transplant, his wife, Vera Goulet, told Reuters.

His physician, Dr. David Kipper, said Goulet failed to meet the criteria for the operation and died surrounded by his family.

Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts of French-Canadian parents, Goulet moved to Canada when he was an infant and began singing as a young child, though he had to overcome a severe case of stage fright to make it in show business.

Known for his powerful baritone, handsome chiseled features and self-deprecating sense of humor, Goulet gained attention in later years for a series of TV commercials and guest spots lampooning his own earlier image as a stage idol.

Goulet started out in Canadian television and stage roles during the 1950s. His big break came when the musical team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe chose him to play Lancelot in “Camelot,” which also starred Richard Burton and Julie Andrews.

In addition to the show-stopping song “If Ever I Would Leave You” from “Camelot,” Goulet scored a hit with his version of “The Impossible Dream” from his turn as Don Quixote on Broadway in “Man of La Mancha.”

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Two years after his Broadway debut in “Camelot,” Goulet won a Grammy in 1962 as best new recording artist, having released three albums that year. He earned a Tony Award as best actor in 1968 for his role in Broadway’s “The Happy Time.”

Recording more than 60 albums in all, Goulet became a popular Las Vegas attraction and fixture on television variety shows, including 17 appearances on the “The Ed Sullivan Show,” where he was introduced as “The American singer from Canada.”

He also performed in such musical productions over the years as “Carousel,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” and “The Pajama Game.” In revivals of “Camelot” in the 1990s, he played King Arthur.

His film credits included “Atlantic City,” “Beetle Juice,” “Scrooged” and the computer-animated “Toy Story II.”

Born on November 26 1933, Goulet began singing when he was 5 at family gatherings. But according to his Web site, the sound of applause frightened him and for many years he was terrified of performing. At age 11, two nuns at his school ordered Goulet to sing at a church function and when he refused, one of them grabbed him by the hair and said, “Yes, you are.”

He did and after the show, his father told him how proud he was of him and urged him to continue singing.

His first professional appearance was at 16 with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. After a two-year stint as a radio announcer, he was awarded a singing scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music at the University of Toronto.

Goulet, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993, had three children from his three marriages, including one with actress-singer Carol Lawrence.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Vera Goulet said her husband was under sedation while awaiting a decision on a lung transplant that never came.

“His life is hanging on the edge, but he is a very strong man,” she said last week. “He is being kept sedated because he is on a respirator and if he wasn’t, he might try to rip it out.

“It is hard to watch him like that. I can’t tell you how much I want to see his smile and hear his booming voice again,” she said.