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Reilly, Charles Nelson 1931-2007

Reilly, Charles Nelson 1931-2007


Born January 13, 1931, in the Bronx, NY; died of complications from pneumonia, May 25, 2007, in Los Angeles, CA. Actor. Although best known for his ebullient and campy persona on television game shows and talk shows, Reilly was also a Tony Award-winning Broadway actor and acting teacher. Born in the Bronx borough of New York City, Reilly was the only child of a Swedish mother and an Irish father. His father suffered a severe nervous breakdown and had to be institutionalized when Reilly was still quite young. His mother moved Reilly and herself to New Haven, CT, where they lived with her Swedish relatives. Having developed a love for the stage while still in elementary school, at age eighteen Reilly moved to New York City to study acting alongside classmates Hal Holbrook, Charles Grodin, and Jack Lemmon. Reilly began landing theater jobs and in 1962 won a Tony Award for best supporting actor in a musical for his portrayal of Bud Frump in the original Broadway production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Reilly was again nominated for a Tony Award as best supporting actor in the 1964 staging of Hello, Dolly! starring Carol Channing. Reilly was proudest of his work as director of the 1976 staging of The Belle of Amherst, a one-woman Broadway play based on the life of Emily Dickinson and starring Julie Harris. He directed Harris again in 1997 in a Broadway revival of The Gin Game, a staging that earned Reilly a Tony nomination as best director and Harris a Tony nomination as best actress. Reilly moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s to star in the television program The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. He landed more and more television guest spots, and during the 1970s and 1980s he gained fame as a ubiquitous fixture on television by appearing in game show and talk shows—including more than 95 appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Reilly was a panelist on Hollywood Squares, but his most successful run was on Match Game. Wearing oversize glasses, an ascot, and a captain's hat, he traded barbs, thinly veiled innuendos, and double entendres with other panelists and was a hit with audiences. Reilly continued to work in television and in films, but his career now centered on game-show appearances. During this time, he also ran an acting studio in North Hollywood, and in 1979 he moved to Florida to teach at the Burt Reynolds Institute. Reilly's last project was Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly, an autobiographical one-man show recounting his difficult childhood. The Life of Reilly was made into a television movie in 2006.


Variety, June 4, 2007.

USA Today, May 29, 2007.

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