Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Birthday Boy: C'est Lui

Today's celebrant falls into a sadly unfashionable category:  the full-throated singing leading man.

Robert Goulet gets a lot of flack, some of it admittedly justified, for being so thoroughly what he brought to his career - a rich, deep, booming, unsubtle voice - and what he made of it, which was something like the Last Standing Operetta Lounge Act.  He had the misfortune, like a number of his contemporaries, to get a toehold on the national imagination just before four heedless British boys touched down at JFK and the whole world (of showbiz, at least) changed.

Before that, though, he got the golden break that sustained his career for the next four decades.  Remarkably, his stint as Lancelot in Camelot, singing "If Ever I Would Leave You," was in some ways his only truly grade-A moment (although his late '60s telefilm editions of musicals like Brigadoon and Carousel are too little seen to really tell*), and the rest a long, slow coast on the golden memories of what increasingly seemed a distant, vanished past.

Here, in this moment from, of all things, The Jack Benny Program, it's eternally the summer of 1963, and Goulet spends a thoughtful moment on a surprisingly lavish Manhattan-terrace set, singing a song miles away from the soaring bombast that was his usual stock in grade.  I mostly associate "This is All I Ask" to an infinitely different singer, dear Miss Mabel Mercer, but Goulet aquits himself quite well.  For a moment, the long years of casinos and guest shots and, I'd wager more than once, the sad entertainment career phase of "Get me a young Robert Goulet" and the inevitable "Who's Robert Goulet?" are all unimaginably far off.  He's young, handsome in the slightly too-much way that then was expected of an up-and-coming Broadway star, and absolutely unaware that the kind of shows and movies he was born for are about to disappear, more or less forever.  Never mind; he carried on, a trouper 'til the end, ready to sing again his big number and do his best to seem in on the joke.  The voice stayed real.

* His very creditable "If I Loved You" in the latter, available here, suggests they may well be worth digging up. 


  1. It is a shame that he came along at the wrong moment. He was attractive, even more so in color with those startlingly blue eyes, and the voice perfect for show tunes but he didn't have that distinctiveness that Streisand did that helped her weather the change at a superstar level. He did himself no favors either when he adopted that glow in the dark heavy tan and open shirt with chains look favored by lounge lizards in the 70's and 80's. The final nail though was his refusal to lay off the black hair dye long after it became obvious that it was dye and bad plastic surgery, it made him creepy no matter how well the voice held up.

  2. i guess that means he's dead.
    i'm so tired, i haven't the strength to google.

    1. Sadly, yes, and for six years now; I was kind of surprised.

      And darling, rest up - the holidays are coming, and you need your beauty sleep (don't we all?)!

  3. I always thought that "Goulet" was the classiest last name...like something you'd get at a fine French restaurant, with lots of cheese.

  4. He really was the Camelot era version of Gable with a baritone, wasn't he? So handsome.

  5. I love Robert Goulet and personally, I think he had a great career. Anyone who's around as long as he was is going to have ups and downs. Even after the Beatles arrived on the scene there were still millions of people who listened to what had only just been popular music and suddenly relegated to the "Easy Listening" aisle at Sam Goody. I saw Robert Goulet on Broadway in "Cage Aux Folles" shortly before his death and he was in marvelous voice, if a little stiff physically. It's not like he was doing dinner theater. What Broadway baritone had a better career than he did? Whose career could have had if he'd been born at a different time? Alfred Drake's?

    I don't think he ever experienced a "Who's Robert Goulet?" in his lifetime. (Not to mentioned being immortalized in the unforgettable "A Chorus Line" lyric: "Robert Goulet, Robert Goulet, MY GOD, ROBERT GOULET!!!"