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Richard Chamberlain Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (11) | Personal Quotes (13)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 31 March 1934Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth NameGeorge Richard Chamberlain
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Richard Chamberlain became THE leading heartthrob of early 1960s TV. As the impeccably handsome Dr. Kildare, the slim, butter-haired hunk with the near-perfect Ivy-League charm and smooth, intelligent demeanor, had the distaff fans fawning unwavering over him throughout the series' run. While this would appear to be a dream situation for any new star, to Chamberlain it brought about a major, unsettling identity crisis.

Born George Richard Chamberlain in Beverly Hills on March 31, 1934, he was the second son of Elsa Winnifred (von Benzon) (1902-1993) and Charles Axiom Chamberlain (1902-1984), a salesman. He has English and German ancestry. Richard experienced a profoundly unhappy childhood and did not enjoy school at all, making up for it somewhat by excelling in track and becoming a four-year letterman in high school and college. He also developed a strong interest and enjoyment in acting while attending Pomona College. Losing an initial chance to sign up with Paramount Pictures, the studio later renewed interest. Complications arose when he was drafted into the Army on December 7, 1956 for 16 months, serving in Korea.

Chamberlain headed for Hollywood soon after his discharge and, in just a couple of years, worked up a decent resumé with a number of visible guest spots on such popular series as Gunsmoke (1955) and Mr. Lucky (1959). But it was the stardom of the medical series Dr. Kildare (1961) that garnered overnight female worship and he became a huge sweater-vested pin-up favorite. It also sparked a brief, modest singing career for the actor.

The attention Richard received was phenomenal. True to his "Prince Charming" type, he advanced into typically bland, soap-styled leads on film befitting said image, but crossover stardom proved to be elusive. The vehicles he appeared in, Twilight of Honor (1963) with Joey Heatherton and Joy in the Morning (1965) opposite Yvette Mimieux, did not bring him the screen fame foreseen. The public obviously saw the actor as nothing more than a TV commodity.

More interested in a reputation as a serious actor, Chamberlain took a huge risk and turned his back on Hollywood, devoting himself to the stage. In 1966 alone he appeared in such legit productions as "The Philadelphia Story" and "Private Lives," and also showed off his vocal talents playing Tony in "West Side Story". In December of that year a musical version of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" starring Richard and Mary Tyler Moore in the sparkling George Peppard/Audrey Hepburn roles was headed for Broadway. It flopped badly in previews, however, and closed after only four performances. Even today it is still deemed one of Broadway's biggest musical disasters.

An important dramatic role in director Richard Lester's Petulia (1968) led Richard to England, where he stayed and dared to test his acting prowess on the classical stage. With it, his personal satisfaction over image and career improved. Bravura performances as "Hamlet" (1969) and "Richard II" (1971), as well as his triumph in "The Lady's Not for Burning" (1972), won over the not-so-easy-to-impress British audiences. And on the classier film front, he ably portrayed Octavius Caesar opposite Charlton Heston's _Mark Antony_(1970)_ and Jason Robards' Brutus; composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in Ken Russell's grandiose The Music Lovers (1970) opposite Glenda Jackson; and Lord Byron alongside Sarah Miles_ in Lady Caroline Lamb (1972). While none of these three films were critical favorites, they were instrumental in helping to reshape Chamberlain's career as a serious, sturdy and reliable actor.

With his new image in place, Richard felt ready to face American audiences again. While he made a triumphant Broadway debut as Reverend Shannon in "The Night of the Iguana" (1975), he also enjoyed modest box-office popularity with the action-driven adventure movies The Three Musketeers (1973) as Aramis and a villainous role in The Towering Inferno (1974), and earned cult status for the Aussie film The Last Wave (1977). On the television front, he became a TV idol all over again (on his own terms this time) as the "King of 80s Mini-Movies". The epic storytelling of The Count of Monte-Cristo (1975), The Thorn Birds (1983) and Shogun (1980), all of which earned him Emmy nominations, placed Richard solidly on the quality star list. He won Golden Globe awards for his starring roles in the last two miniseries mentioned.

In later years the actor devoted a great deal of his time to musical stage tours as Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady", Captain Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" and Ebenezer Scrooge in "Scrooge: The Musical". Enormously private and having moved to Hawaii to avoid the Hollywood glare, at age 69 finally "came out" with a tell-all biography entitled "Shattered Love," in which he quite candidly discussed the anguish of hiding his homosexuality to protect his enduring matinée idol image.

Since then, he has accepted himself and shown to be quite a good sport in the process, appearing as gay characters in the film I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (2007), and in TV episodes of Will & Grace (1998), Desperate Housewives (2004) and Brothers & Sisters (2006).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Trivia (11)

Attended Pomona College in California.
Has served as honorary chair of the advisory board of Hawaii Public Television Foundation.
Ranked #7 in TV Guide's list of "TV's 25 Greatest Teen Idols" (23 January 2005 issue).
Played Cyrano on stage in 1973, the same year that The Three Musketeers (1973) was released. This makes him the first actor to play both Cyrano and a Musketeer. Jean-Pierre Cassel, who played King Louis XIII in The Three Musketeers, returned in the sequel The Return of the Musketeers (1989) to play Cyrano, having previously played d'Artagnan in Cyrano et d'Artagnan (1964). José Ferrer played Athos in The Fifth Musketeer (1979), while Gérard Depardieu played Porthos in The Man in the Iron Mask (1998).
Shares two roles with Gérard Depardieu: Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo, and Cyrano de Bergerac. He preceded Depardieu in both roles, but played them both in English. Depardieu played both roles in their original French.
Has appeared in film adaptations of all three of Alexandre Dumas's Musketeer novels. He played Aramis in The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974) and The Return of the Musketeers (1989), and played Louis and Phillippe in The Man in the Iron Mask (1977). The latter film eliminates the three original Musketeers from the book; including his character of Aramis; and includes only d'Artagnan.
Honolulu, Hawaii [2009]
West Hollywood, L.A. California [October 2010]
He was awarded the 1973 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Distinguished Performance for the play, "Cyrano De Bergac," at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
Had an older brother William "Bill" Hayes Chamberlain who was born on November 5, 1927.
Born on the same day as Shirley Jones.

Personal Quotes (13)

When I grew up, being gay, being a sissy or anything like that was verboten. I disliked myself intensely and feared this part of myself intensely and had to hide it and became "Perfect Richard, All-American Boy" as a place to hide.
I actually feel sorry for people who have a lot of illusions in their head about what gay is. I mean, I know some gay people who are really wonderful people.
'Handsome' means many things to many people. If people consider me handsome, I feel flattered - and have my parents to thank for it. Realistically, it doesn't hurt to be good-looking, especially in this business.
I've learned, I think, to be able to distinguish between the necessary and the unnecessary as far as my limited outside time is concerned. Saying 'no' politely is a necessity if one wants to lead any kind of stable life.
Nothing is secret once you tell anyone. If you want to keep it quiet - don't tell a soul.
I suppose everyone tells little white lies. Quite often they're necessary to make someone feel better or prevent feelings from being hurt. Whoppers? No, that's dangerous and they'll boomerang.
Having the focal point of contemporary art right in the middle of Honolulu is an amazing treasure because people are so seldom exposed to that quality of artistic endeavor.
I'm not a romantic leading man anymore so I don't need to nurture that public image anymore.
I pattern my actions and life after what I want. No two people are alike. You might admire attributes in others, but use these only as a guide in improving yourself in your own unique way. I don't go for carbon copies. Individualism is sacred!
Over a long period of time, living as if you were someone else is no fun.
I consider myself a religious person. God is something very personal with me and I don't flaunt religion in conversation with others.
When fans ask me for advice, here's what I tell them: "Trust yourself."
I hated being in the Army... I don't like being ordered around. I don't like ordering people around. I came out a sergeant. It was all just another role for me.

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