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Richard Chamberlain

George Richard Chamberlain (born March 31, 1934) is an American actor and singer, who became a teen idol in the title role of the television show Dr. Kildare (1961–1966). He subsequently appeared in several TV mini-series, such as Shōgun (1980) and The Thorn Birds (1983), and was the first actor to play Jason Bourne (in the 1988 film The Bourne Identity). Chamberlain has also performed classical stage roles and worked in musical theatre.

Early life

Chamberlain was born in 1934 in Beverly Hills, California, the son of Elsa Winnifred (née von Benzon; later Matthews) and Charles Axiom Chamberlain, who was a salesman. In 1952, Chamberlain graduated from Beverly Hills High School and later attended Pomona College (class of 1956).

Career

Chamberlain co-founded a Los Angeles–based theatre group, Company of Angels, and began appearing in television series in the 1950s. He was cast as Lt. Dave Winslow in "Chicota Landing", a 1960 episode of the series Riverboat. In the story, Juan Cortilla, a Mexican bandit played by Joe De Santis, is stormed from jail. Chamberlain, as United States Army Lieutenant Winslow, asks Grey Holden (lead series character played by Darren McGavin) to transport Cortilla and his men to a military garrison. Instead, Cortilla takes over Holden's vessel and its gunpowder. Connie Hines appears with Chamberlain as Lucy Bridges, and Ted de Corsia is cast as another bandit.

Less than a year later, in 1961, Chamberlain gained widespread fame as the young intern, Dr. Kildare, in the NBC/MGM television series of the same name, co-starring with Raymond Massey. Chamberlain's singing ability also led to some hit singles in the early 1960s, including the "Theme from Dr. Kildare", titled "Three Stars Will Shine Tonight", which struck No. 10 according to the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Dr. Kildare ended in 1966, after which Chamberlain began performing on the theatre circuit. In 1966, he was cast opposite Mary Tyler Moore in the ill-fated Broadway musical Breakfast at Tiffany's, co-starring Priscilla Lopez, which, after an out-of-town tryout period, closed after only four previews. Decades later, he returned to Broadway in revivals of My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music.

At the end of the 1960s, Chamberlain spent a period of time in England where he played in repertory theatre and in the BBC's Portrait of a Lady adaptation, becoming recognized as a serious actor. In 1969, he starred opposite Katharine Hepburn in the film The Madwoman of Chaillot. While in England, he took vocal coaching and in 1969 performed the title role in Hamlet for the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, becoming the first American to play the role there since John Barrymore in 1925. He received excellent notices and reprised the role for television in 1970 for the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

In the 1970s, Chamberlain enjoyed success as a leading man in films: The Music Lovers (1970), Lady Caroline Lamb (playing Lord Byron, 1973), The Three Musketeers (1973), The Lady's Not for Burning (1974), The Towering Inferno (in a villainous turn as a dishonest engineer, 1974), and The Count of Monte Cristo (1975). In The Slipper and the Rose (1976), a musical version of the Cinderella story, co-starring Gemma Craven, he displayed his vocal talents. A television film, William Bast's The Man in the Iron Mask (1977), followed. The same year, he starred in Peter Weir's film The Last Wave.

Chamberlain later appeared in several popular television mini-series (earning him a nickname of "King of the Mini-Series"), including Centennial (1978–79), Shōgun (1980), and The Thorn Birds (1983) as Father Ralph de Bricassart with Rachel Ward and Barbara Stanwyck co-starring. In the 1980s, he appeared as leading man with King Solomon's Mines (1985), and played Jason Bourne/David Webb in the television film version of The Bourne Identity (1988).

Since 1990

Since the 1990s, Chamberlain has appeared mainly in television movies, on stage, and as a guest star on such series as The Drew Carey Show and Will & Grace. He starred as Henry Higgins in the 1993–1994 Broadway revival of My Fair Lady. In the fall of 2005, Chamberlain appeared in the title role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Broadway National Tour of Scrooge: The Musical. In 2006, Chamberlain guest-starred in an episode of the British drama series Hustle as well as season 4 of Nip/Tuck. In 2007, Chamberlain guest-starred in episode 80 (Season 4, Episode 8, "Distant Past") of Desperate Housewives as Glen Wingfield, Lynette Scavo's stepfather.

In 2008 and 2009, he appeared as King Arthur in the national tour of Monty Python's Spamalot. In 2010, he appeared as Archie Leach in season 3, episode 3 of the series Leverage, as well as two episodes of season 4 of Chuck where he played a villain known only as The Belgian. Chamberlain has also appeared in several episodes of Brothers & Sisters, playing an old friend and love-interest of Saul's. He also appeared in the independent film We Are the Hartmans in 2011. In 2012, Chamberlain appeared on stage in the Pasadena Playhouse as Dr. Sloper in the play The Heiress.

Personal life

Chamberlain was outed as a gay man at the age of 55 by the French women's magazine Nous Deux in December 1989, but it was not until 2003 that he confirmed his homosexuality in his autobiography Shattered Love: A Memoir.

Chamberlain was involved romantically with television actor Wesley Eure in the early 1970s.

In 1977 at the age of 43, he met actor-writer-producer Martin Rabbett, 20 years his junior, with whom he began a long-term relationship. This led to a civil union in the state of Hawaii, where the couple resided from 1986 to 2010 and during which time Chamberlain legally adopted Rabbett to protect his future estate. Rabbett and Chamberlain starred together in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, in which they played brothers Allan and Robeson Quatermain.

In spring 2010, Chamberlain returned to Los Angeles to pursue career opportunities, with Rabbett staying in Hawaii. At the same time, Chamberlain put his oceanfront Maui home on the market; the property selling in 2011. In a 2014 interview in The New York Times, Chamberlain said Rabbett and he "don’t live together anymore, and we’re much better friends than we’ve ever been.”

Honors and awards

In 1962, Chamberlain won the Golden Apple Award for Most Co-Operative Actor. In 1963 he won a Golden Globe award for Best TV Star – Male for: Dr. Kildare (1961). He won the Photoplay Award for Most Popular Male Star for three consecutive years, from 1962 to 1964.

In 1980, he won the Golden Apple award for Male Star of the Year. In 1981, he won a Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series – Drama for: Shogun (1980). In 1982, he won the Clavell de Plata award at the Sitges – Catalan International Film Festival as Best Actor for The Last Wave (1977). In 1984, he won a Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for: The Thorn Birds (1983). In 1985, he won the Aftonbladet TV Prize (Sweden) for Best Foreign TV Personality – Male.

On March 12, 2011, Chamberlain received the Steiger Award (Germany) for accomplishments in the arts.

Filmography

Film

Television films

Television series

Discography

From Richard Chamberlain Sings: UK #8
  • "Theme from Dr. Kildare (Three Stars Will Shine Tonight)" (1962) – US #10; UK #12
  • "Love Me Tender" (1962) – US #21; UK #15
  • "All I Have to Do Is Dream" (1963) – US #14
  • "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo" (1963) – US #64; UK #20
  • "I Will Love You" (1963) – US #65
  • "True Love" (1963) – US #98; UK #30

    ;From Twilight of Honor
  • "Blue Guitar"/"They Long to Be Close to You" (1963) – US #42

    ;From Richard Chamberlain (aka Joy in the Morning)
  • "Joy in the Morning" (1964)
  • "Rome Will Never Leave You" (1964) – US #99

    ;From The Slipper and the Rose
  • "Secret Kingdom" (1976)
  • "He Danced With Me/She Danced With Me" (1976)
  • "What a Comforting Thing to Know" (1976)
  • "Why Can't I Be Two People?" (1976)
  • "Bride-Finding Ball" (1976)

    ;From Haleakala: How Maui Snared The Sun/Clarinet Concerto
  • "Haleakala: How Maui Snared The Sun (Tone Poem) (1991), composed by Dan Welcher, performed with the Honolulu Symphony"

    Published works