Robert Goulet

d. October 30, 2007

Robert Goulet, 73, singer and actor who became one of the world’s most popular performers after his Broadway debut in “Camelot,” died Oct. 30 in Los Angeles. He suffered from a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis diagnosed only a month earlier, and was awaiting a lung transplant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center when he died.

Goulet shot to fame in 1960 for his role as Sir Lancelot in “Camelot,” becoming a stage, supper club and television favorite, but his only TV series role was a straight acting job in the 1966 ABC spy show Blue Light.

He was born in Lawrence, Mass., but his parents originally were from Quebec. His father died when Goulet was 11, forcing him to move with his mother and sister to Alberta, Canada, to live on his grandparents’ farm. He sang with the Edmonton Symphony and in summer stock, winning a scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music. Appearances on Canadian television brought him some fame and an invitation to audition for “Camelot.”

With Richard Burton and Julie Andrews starring, “Camelot” was a smash from its opening night in December 1960, making Goulet an instant star and giving him a lifelong signature tune, “If Ever I Would Leave You.” He quickly became a fixture of TV variety hours, nightclubs, records and Las Vegas casinos. He joined Judy Garland in lending his voice to the animated musical “Gay Purr-ee” (1962) and made a few forgettable movies (“I’d Rather Be Rich,” “Honeymoon Hotel”).

Goulet’s first non-singing, straight dramatic role was in a 1964 episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre titled “Operation Greif,” in which he played a World War II GI suspected of being a German spy. In 1965, 20th Century-Fox Television and producer Walter Grauman offered him the lead in Blue Light, an adventure series that joined the spy trend while bucking it somewhat with its World War II setting and dead serious approach to espionage.

Goulet played David March, an American war correspondent who denounces his country and defects to Nazi Germany — but who’s actually part of an Allied intelligence group code-named Blue Light. After the other 17 Blue Light agents are hunted down and executed, March is left alone to carry on, constantly in danger of exposure and death.

Blue Light premiered Jan. 12, 1966, one hour after the debut of Batman. The caped crusader was an instant sensation but Blue Light never had a chance against The Beverly Hillbillies. The show was not renewed, running only 17 episodes. Several of those were edited together into a movie titled “I Deal in Danger” that played in many countries around the world and even appeared in some U.S. theaters in the fall of 1966.

Goulet never did another series, but continued to host TV specials, often with his second wife, singer-actress Carol Lawrence, who shot to fame as Maria in the original Broadway cast of “West Side Story.” They were divorced in 1981. His other television acting roles included episodes of The Patty Duke Show, The Big Valley, The Name of the Game, Mission: Impossible, Police Story, Cannon, Fantasy Island, Police Woman and Murder, She Wrote.

Goulet was back on Broadway in 1968’s “The Happy Time,” a Kander and Ebb musical that won him a Tony award but ran for only eight months. He frequently toured in shows such as “South Pacific,” “Carousel,” “Man of La Mancha” and “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.”

He started to kid his own image in later film roles such as “Atlantic City,” “Scrooged,” “Beetlejuice” and “The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear.” One of his last performances was in the 2000 low-budget action-comedy “G-Men from Hell” in which Goulet played Satan.


Top, Robert Goulet in “Blue Light’; above, with Julie Andrews in “Camelot”; left, with co-star Christine Carere in “Blue Light”; below, as a top recording star of the 1960s.