Robert Goulet, the singer and actor who became inextricably linked with the Broadway show in which he made his debut, “Camelot,” died Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 73.
Goulet had been suffering from interstitial pulmonary fibrosis and had been hospitalized since Oct. 13, breathing through a ventilator while awaiting a lung transplant. He had taken ill while flying home to Las Vegas after performing a Sept. 20 concert in Syracuse, N.Y. He was hospitalized 10 days later.
Born Nov. 26, 1933, to French-Canadian parents in Lawrence, Mass., he was raised in Edmonton, Alberta, and in his late teen years became a national star on Canadian television. He moved to New York to look for acting work– his job as a stationery salesman at Gimbels paid the rent — and in 1960 he made his Broadway debut portraying Lancelot in “Camelot” opposite Richard Burton and Julie Andrews. His song in the tuner, “If Ever I Would Leave You,” became his signature piece.
The show received its tryout in Toronto where Variety declared that Goulet was the actor who “stands out.” “He has the looks and the speaking and singing voice of the ideal Lancelot,” the reviewer wrote.
A favorite on the “Ed Sullivan Show” during the musical’s run, Goulet made his recording debut for Columbia Records in 1961, which earned him the Grammy for best new artist, topping Peter, Paul and Mary and the Four Seasons. He was pegged as the next matinee idol, arriving in between Elvis Presley and the Beatles, but his stately style of music quickly went out of favor with the increasingly younger record-buying public. Goulet did have 17 albums make the charts between 1962 and 1970, when he gave up recording, but only two minor hit singles, “My Love, Forgive Me (Amore, Scusami)” and “What Kind of Fool Am I?”
He won a Tony for his perf in the 1968 musical “The Happy Time” and starred in the 1966 television version of “Brigadoon,” which won an Emmy as outstanding musical production. He also starred in televised productions of “Carousel” and “Kiss Me, Kate.”
In 1970 he gave up on his recording career to focus on television and concerts and, eventually, touring Broadway shows. In 1982, he was named Las Vegas entertainer of the year.
In 1993, Goulet returned to Broadway in “Camelot,” switching to the role of King Arthur. He starred in the 1997-98 U.S. tour of “Man of La Mancha” and in 2000, appeared in a road revival of “South Pacific.” He returned to Broadway to star in “La Cage aux Folles” in 2005 near the end of the show’s run.
Although he never had much of a film career, Goulet voiced characters in 1962’s “Gay Purr-ee” and “Toy Story 2” (1999) and did a well-known commercial for Emerald Nuts.
Goulet was married three times; from 1963 to 1981, his wife was the actress Carol Lawrence. He is survived by his wife, Vera, sons Christopher and Michael, daughter Nicolette, and two grandchildren.