Best remembered for his television game show appearances, Charles Nelson Reilly was a television and stage director, drama teacher, as well as a comedian. Although he showed interest in opera during his formative years, he never made it as an operatic singer but rather relocated to New York to work in the theatre. Charles essayed several roles in both Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, some of which earned him some notable nominations and a handful of awards.
Later in life, he became part of the television industry, creating a niche for himself as a talk-show guest, as well as a game show panelist with a difference. His humorous style is what set him aside from his colleagues. He also played leading roles in a good number of children’s shows and television series. As a director, Charles Nelson Reilly had several successful television show episodes and plays to his credit. He will be forever remembered for his role in the game show Match Game. His later years were really eventful as he embarked on a tour of America with his autobiographical one-man show which enjoyed popular acclaim.
Charles Nelson Reilly – Bio
Although he grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, Charles Nelson Reilly was born in The Bronx, New York. His mum was a Swedish Lutheran named Signe Elvera Nelson while his dad Charles Joseph Reilly was an Irish Catholic and a commercial artist. During his formative years, he created his own puppet theatre as a source of personal amusement but he was often told by his mum to save it for the stage.
Charles Nelson Reilly was a survivor of the Connecticut Hartford Circus Fire of 1944 which claimed the lives of 169 people, making him afraid of sitting amongst an audience for the rest of his life. He was just 13 at that time and consequently, he rarely went to the theater because of the trauma, stating that the large crowd at the theaters was a constant reminder of that fatal event.
He loved the opera and genuinely desired to end up as an operatic singer, joining Hartt School of Music where he trained as a voice major. Charles Nelson Reilly had to abandon that career upon the realization that he lacked the innate vocal talent to excel in opera. Nevertheless, opera remained a lasting passion for Charles as he frequently guest-starred on opera-themed radio programs which include the likes of Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts. He had the directorship of so many opera productions to his credit, notable among them were his stints at the Dallas Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Portland Opera, Santa Fe Opera, San Diego Opera, among many others. Many of his friends were famed opera singers among whom were Renée Fleming, Roberta Peters, Eileen Farrell, and Rod Gilfry.
Was He Gay?
Although he failed to reveal much about his sexual preferences during the early years of his career, he became open without hiding anything as he made a mockery of himself on many of his game shows. In an interview, he said that he never intentionally hid the fact that he was gay from the public. In fact, he openly cohabited with his same-sex partner Patrick Hughes (II) in his residence in Beverly Hills. Patrick was a set director and dresser, the duo met behind the stage when Charles made an appearance on the game show Battlestars.
Charles Nelson Reilly was one of those gay people who never bothered to hide their sexual orientation in the closet as he kept a long relationship with Patrick until his death in 2007.
His earnings during his long-spanned career were quite admirable. Though the exact amount of his annual income was never published, his net worth is a healthy $5 million according to reliable sources.
Cause Of Death
While on tour with his acclaimed one-man show during his later years, the veteran comedian let audiences in on his life history. He subsequently developed respiratory problems while the cameras were rolling on an autobiographical independent film titled The Life of Reilly. He was then hospitalized and later died of pneumonia on the 25th of May 2007 at the age of 76. His remains were not buried but put through cremation.
Other Facts About Charles Nelson Reilly
1. Charles Nelson Reilly was, in fact, bald-headed despite sporting what seemed to be a full hair for most of his TV career. Most of his 1970s and 80s appearances were accomplished with a toupee on his head.
2. His role on How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – a hit Broadway musical, earned him a 1962 Tony Award in the category of Featured Actor in a Musical. Two other Tony Awards followed in 1964 for Hello, Dolly! – a Broadway production and in 1997 for the popular play – The Gin Game.
3. The famous comedian also functioned as a teacher of acting, both at the Burt Reynolds Institute and the HB Studio.