Childhood & Early Life
Robert Gérard Goulet was born on November 26, 1933, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, US. He was the only son of laborer Joseph Georges André Goulet and his wife, Jeanette (née Gauthier). He was of French–Canadian ancestry.
At age 13, following his father’s death, Goulet relocated to Girouxville, Alberta, Canada, with his mother and sister. After some years, the family shifted to Edmonton to make use of the performing arts opportunities available there. While there, he studied at the voice schools of Jean Létourneau and Herbert G Turner. He later worked as a radio announcer for the ‘CKUA Radio Network.’
Goulet completed his graduation from the ‘Victoria Composite’ high school and then earned a scholarship to ‘The Royal Conservatory of Music’ in Toronto. He studied voice with oratorio baritones Ernesto Vinci and George Lambert.
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He participated in the ‘CBC’ program ‘Pick The Stars’ in 1952 and made it to the semi-finals. This exposure paved his way for shows such as ‘Singing Stars of Tomorrow’ and the Canadian version of the children’s program ‘Howdy Doody.’
He was associated with the ‘Kenley Players,’ leading to his first US bookings. Among his eight stage productions for the company, the most notable were ‘Pajama Game’ (1959) and ‘Carousel’ (1960).
His breakthrough came when he was introduced to lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, who were searching for a suitable performer to play ‘Lancelot’ in their stage production of the musical ‘Camelot.’ Goulet landed up with the role that eventually marked his ‘Broadway’ debut. He shared the stage with actors Julie Andrews and Richard Burton.
‘Camelot’ premiered at the ‘O'Keefe Centre’ in Toronto on October 1, 1960, and then moved to Boston, before being featured at ‘Broadway.’ Goulet’s performance, particularly his interpretation of the romantic ballad ‘If Ever I Would Leave You,’ earned him instant recognition and favorable reviews. The ballad eventually became his signature song.
His successful stint with ‘Camelot’ was followed by features on the American TV show ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and the American sitcom ‘The Danny Thomas Show’ that made him a household name in the US. He earned the ‘Grammy Award’ for the ‘Best New Artist’ in 1962. The same year, he began his recording career with ‘Columbia Records.’ He eventually released over 60 bestselling albums.
He made his film debut in 1962, lending his voice to the character ‘Jaune-Tom’ in ‘Gay Purr-ee.’ He also did voice roles in the films ‘The Daydreamer’ (1966) and ‘Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade’ (2003).
His starring role of ‘Ross Kingsley’ in the 1964 film ‘Honeymoon Hotel’ marks his first non-singing role, while his cameo appearance in the 1980 film ‘Atlantic City’ earned him critical acclaim. He also appeared in films such as ‘Beetlejuice’ (1988), ‘The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear’ (1991), and ‘The Last Producer’ (2000).
The English adaptation of the song ‘Amore, scusami’ by Goulet, titled ‘My Love, Forgive Me,’ which was recorded in 1964, reached number 16 on ‘Billboard Hot 100’ and the second spot on the ‘Adult Contemporary’ chart.
A controversy evolved after Goulet sang the American national anthem during the opening ceremony of the second Muhammad Ali–Sonny Liston heavyweight championship fight on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine, where he wrongly uttered the lyric “dawn's early light” as “dawn's early night.”
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He starred as an ‘Allied’ spy, ‘David March,’ in the American espionage drama ‘Blue Light’ that ran from January 12 to May 18, 1966. Its first four episodes were compiled and edited to create the 1966 film ‘I Deal in Danger.’
His remarkable performance as ‘Jacques Bonnard’ in the Kander and Ebb musical ‘The Happy Time’ that opened at ‘The Broadway Theatre’ on January 18, 1968, and ran till September 28, 1968, won Goulet the ‘Tony Award’ for the ‘Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.’
Over the years, Goulet cemented his position as a theater actor, with plays such as ‘Camelot’ (1975, 1990, 1992–1994), ‘Carousel’ (1979), ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ (1981), ‘South Pacific’ (1986–1989, 2002), and ‘Man of La Mancha’ (1996–1997).
His company, ‘Rogo Productions,’ produced the ‘Emmy Award’-winning American TV film ‘Brigadoon’ (1966), based on the musical of the same title and also the 1968 TV film version of the musical ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ that had Goulet starring with his then-wife, Carol Lawrence.
He impressed the five finalists at the 1978 ‘Miss Universe’ pageant, singing ‘You Light Up My Life.’
On April 1, 1990, he performed the Canadian national anthem to open ‘WrestleMania VI’ at the ‘SkyDome’ in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
He lent his voice to ‘Wheezy, the Penguin,’ singing a new version of ‘You've Got a Friend in Me,’ in the 1999 American computer-animated comedy ‘Toy Story 2.’
He earned critical acclaim featuring in the ‘Broadway’ revival of Jerry Herman's ‘La Cage aux Folles’ in 2005, marking his last ‘Broadway’ appearance.
The 2007-aired ‘PBS’ special ‘My Music: 50's Pop Parade’ that had veteran singers performing their biggest hits was the last public performance of Goulet. He sang ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’ and ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ on the show.
Family, Personal Life & Legacy
He was married to Louise Longmore from 1956 to 1963. Their daughter, Nicolette, later became a film, TV, and theater actor. His second marriage, with American actor/singer Carol Lawrence, from 1963 to 1981, gave him two sons: Christopher and Michael. In 1982, he married artist and writer Vera Chochorovska Novak.
In 2006, Goulet received a “star” on Canada's ‘Walk of Fame.’
On October 30, 2007, while awaiting an emergency lung transplant, Goulet succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis at the ‘Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’ in Los Angeles. The following day, marquees in theaters in New York and in other cities in North America were dimmed in his memory. Las Vegas closed the ‘Las Vegas Strip’ for his funeral procession on November 9, 2007. His name was posted in marquees of many venues as a final tribute to the legendary actor.
The ‘Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award,’
presented by the ‘American Mustache Institute,’ has been named in his honor.