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Also Known As: Died: May 27, 2007
Born: January 13, 1931 Cause of Death: complications from pneumonia
Birth Place: Bronx, New York, USA Profession: director, actor, voice actor, comedian, game-show panelist, acting teacher, singer, hospital orderly, mail clerk, stock boy, usher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

While many TV viewers will recall Charles Nelson Reilly and his zany humor from numerous appearances as a panelist on game-shows. most particularly "The Match Game". more than a few may not be aware of his distinguished stage career as both actor and director. The Bronx-born, Connecticut-raised performer got his start in summer theater in 1950. Honing his craft in numerous productions and under the tutelage of Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen, Reilly was more than prepared when he made his NYC in a 1956 revival of the musical "Best Foot Forward". In 1960, he was featured in the Jerry Herman revue "Parade" and later went on to understudy both Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde in the hit musical "Bye Bye Birdie". The following year, Reilly had his breakthrough musical role, earning a Tony Award as Bud Frump, the insidious nephew of a corporate head (Rudy Vallee) in the Pulitzer-winning "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". Now an established Broadway player, he was cast as the ambitious office clerk Cornelius Hackl in the Jerry Herman musical "Hello, Dolly!" (1964), for which he picked up a Tony nomination. While Reilly has been vocal about the problems of the production (particularly with...

While many TV viewers will recall Charles Nelson Reilly and his zany humor from numerous appearances as a panelist on game-shows. most particularly "The Match Game". more than a few may not be aware of his distinguished stage career as both actor and director. The Bronx-born, Connecticut-raised performer got his start in summer theater in 1950. Honing his craft in numerous productions and under the tutelage of Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen, Reilly was more than prepared when he made his NYC in a 1956 revival of the musical "Best Foot Forward". In 1960, he was featured in the Jerry Herman revue "Parade" and later went on to understudy both Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde in the hit musical "Bye Bye Birdie". The following year, Reilly had his breakthrough musical role, earning a Tony Award as Bud Frump, the insidious nephew of a corporate head (Rudy Vallee) in the Pulitzer-winning "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". Now an established Broadway player, he was cast as the ambitious office clerk Cornelius Hackl in the Jerry Herman musical "Hello, Dolly!" (1964), for which he picked up a Tony nomination. While Reilly has been vocal about the problems of the production (particularly with director Gower Champion and star Carol Channing), he did have the benefit of playing opposite Eileen Brennan with whom he performed a cabaret act. After the quick closing of the ill-fated musical "Skyscraper" (which introduced him to star Julie Harris), Reilly more or less abandoned the stage for the small screen.

Because he was seen as more of a personality, Reilly found few outlets in features: he debuted in a small role in the superb "A Face in the Crowd" (1957) but was virtually wasted in the uneven musical "Two Tickets to Paris" (1962). By the time he was an ascendant Broadway player, he found more opportunities in TV. After a brief run on the short-lived variety series "The Steve Lawrence Show" (CBS, 1965), Reilly found a niche as the modern-day descendant of a sea captain whose spirit is haunting a rental property in the sitcom version of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" (NBC. 1968-69; ABC, 1969-70). He went on to become a frequent guest on "The Dean Martin Show" and hosted the 1970 NBC summer variety program "The Golddiggers in London". Throughout the next decade, he lent his unique presence, wicked wit and sense of humor to a variety of roles, including the evil magician Who Doo on the kids' series "Lidsville" (ABC, 1971-73; NBC, 1973-74) and the titular host of the spoof "Uncle Croc's Block" (ABC, 1975-76). Simultaneously, Reilly delighted fans as a panelist on "The Match Game" (CBS, 1973-79).

While he had begun to gravitate to the director's chair in the 60s, Reilly achieved a breakthrough with his staging of the one-person play "The Belle of Amherst" (1976), with Julie Harris portraying poet Emily Dickinson. He and Harris would go on to collaborate as director and star on over ten more productions spanning some twenty years, culminating in the 1997 Broadway revival of "The Gin Game" for which both earned Tony nominations. The busy hyphenate (who could make a case for the title as one of "the hardest workers in show business") managed to squeeze in time to teach at both the HB Studios in NYC and the Burt Reynolds Institute in Florida. A personal friend of Reynolds, Reilly also acted with his pal in the film "Cannonball Run II" (1983) and helmed episodes of the CBS sitcom "Evening Shade" in the early 90s.

Another turning point for the actor came in 1996 when he was tapped to create the character of author Jose Chung in a memorable episode of Fox's "The X-Files". Appearing without his trademark toupee, Reilly reminded audiences that he was a capable actor. The success of that particular performance led to a string of guest appearances and a film with Julie Harris and Joe DiMaggio ("First of May" lensed 1997). He reprised the character of Jose Chung for laughs in a little-seen episode of the CBS sitcom "Meego" and again to much greater effect in an segment of Fox's "Millennium". The latter performance netted him a 1998 Emmy nomination as Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series. The following year, he earned his third Emmy nomination for a guest appearance on the ABC sitcom "The Drew Carey Show".

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 First of May, The (1999) Dinghy
3.
 Babes in Toyland (1997)
4.
 Boys Will be Boys (1997) Mr Rudnick
5.
 Troll in Central Park, A (1993) Voice Of King Llort
6.
 Rock-a-Doodle (1991) Voice Of Hunch
7.
 Grand Theft Hotel (1990) Harmon Potter
8.
 All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989) Voice Of Killer
9.
 Wind in the Willows, The (1987) Voice Of Mr Toad
10.
 Three Kings, The (1987) Clerk
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Born and raised in the Bronx
:
After his father suffered a nervous breakdown, moved with family to Hartford, Connecticut; sent to live with grandparents; lived in 2 1/2 room apartment with six other people and no heat or hot water
1944:
Attended a circus where a fire broke out that eventually killed 167 members of the audience; Reilly was unharmed
:
After college, moved to NYC to pursue acting career
1950:
Stage debut in summer stock production of "Broken Dishes" in Tiverton, Rhode Island
1951:
Often performed in summer stock productions in New Jersey, Missouri and upstate New York
1956:
Made NYC stage debut in the revival of "Best Foot Forward"
1957:
Film acting debut "A Face in the Crowd"
1960:
Understudied both Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde in the Broadway musical "Bye Bye Birdie"
1961:
Breakthrough stage role as Bud Frump in the award-winning musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"; won Tony Award
:
Made TV debut on the CBS variety series "Talent Scouts"
:
Worked in cabaret in Manhattan partnered with Eileen Brennan as "Brennan and Reilly"
1964:
Had major supporting role of Cornelius Hackel in "Hello, Dolly!"; played opposite Eileen Brennan as Irene Malloy; received Tony Award nomination
1965:
Played supporting role in the short-lived musical "Skyscraper", starring Julie Harris
1965:
TV debut as series regular on the short-lived CBS variety program "The Steve Lawrence Show"
1967:
Last film for over 15 years, "The Tiger Makes Out"
1968:
Co-starred as Clayton Gregg, the owner of a haunted cottage, on the sitcom version of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" (NBC, 1968-1969; ABC 1969-1970); received Emmy nomination in 1970
1970:
Hosted the summer variety show "The Golddigers in London" (NBC)
1971:
Was a regular on the syndicated "The Golddiggers"
1971:
Joined the cast of the CBS sitcom "Arnie" as a TV chef, 'The Giddyap Gourmet'
1971:
Played the evil magician Who Doo on the children's series "Lidsville" (ABC, NBC)
1973:
Appeared as a regular panelist on the CBS game show "The Match Game"
1975:
Had title role in "Uncle Croc's Block" (ABC), a spoof of children's programming
1976:
Stage directing breakthrough, the one-person show "The Belle of Amherst", starring Julie Harris
1980:
Appeared opposite Uta Hagen in "Charlotte" on Broadway
1980:
Voiced Fran Frankenstone on the NBC animated show "The Flintstone Funnies"
1983:
Returned to films in "Cannonball Run II"
1988:
Hosted "Sweethearts", a syndicated game show
1989:
First collaboration with animator Don Bluth, providing character voice for "All Dogs Go to Heaven"
1990:
Acted in the ABC TV-movie "Grand Theft Hotel", an installment of "B.L. Styker", starring Burt Reynolds
1990:
Made guest appearance on an episode of Reynolds' sitcom "Evening Shade"
1990:
Helmed episodes of the CBS sitcom "Evening Shade"
1991:
Directed Piper Laurie in the one-person show "The Last Flapper", about Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald
1996:
Introduced the character of author Jose Chung in an episode of the Fox series "The X-Files" written by Darin Morgan
1997:
Staged Broadway revival of the Pulitzer-winning "The Gin Game", starring Julie Harris and Charles Durning; received Tony nomination as Best Director
1997:
Played Jose Chung in an episode of the short-lived CBS sitcom "Meego"
1998:
Reprised role of Jose Chung in an episode of the Fox drama "Millennium" written and directed by Darin Morgan; received Emmy nomination
1998:
Directed Ruby Dee's solo show "My One Good Nerve--A Visit With Ruby Dee"
1999:
Acted with Julie Harris in the children's film "First of May", also featuring Jo Di Maggio (filmed in 1997); screened at the Cleveland Film Festival
1999:
Received third Emmy nomination for guest appearance on "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC)
1999:
Voiced 'The Dirty Bubble' on the animated series "SpongeBob SquarePants" (Nickelodeon)
2000:
Headlined one-man show "Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly", marking his 50 years in show business
2001:
Appeared in the Reprise! staging of "Strike Up the Band" in L.A.
2007:
Appeared in "The Life of Reilly," a feature documentary based on his stage show; film released after his death
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Herbert Berghof Studio: New York , New York -
P S 53: Bronx , New York -
University of Connecticut: Storrs , Connecticut - 1948 - 1949

Notes

Reilly has taught acting for over 35 years at HB Studios and the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre. Among his "pupils" have been Lily Tomlin, Donna McKechnie, Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler, Terri Garr and Peter Boyle.

He directed Julie Harris in 11 stage productions as of February 1998.

Reilly owns a 34-foot boat called "La Boheme" to which he has referred as his home away from home.

In the 1950s, he was told by a TV network executive not to expect to be hired for small screen work, because "they don't allow queers on television." (From TV Guide, March 15-22, 2002)

According to TV Guide (March 15-22, 2002), Reilly was second to Bob Hope for the most number of appearances on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson".

From InTheater, February 27, 1998:

Question: How do you feel about actors?

Reilly: Most of them are crazy. It's all about how they're coming off, and they never leave anything open for the work. Every three years, Miss [Julie] Harris comes along like a nurse and erases all the horror that I have with the Renee Taylors, the Dennis Boutsikarises, the Laura Estermans. They're not involved with doing the play. There's such a thing as craft, but most people don't really want to learn acting. They want to be a success by four o'clock; they want to meet Aaron Spelling."

" ... if I cured cancer tomorrow, they'd still say 'Isn't that the idiot from 'Win, Lose or Draw'? I guess no one ever played 'Celebrity Bowling' and then went on to Northwestern to give a master class in Pinter." --Reilly quoted in the New York Post, May 5, 1997.

On "Hello, Dolly!": "That show was an awful experience. They fired 25 people in a year and I was the Equity deputy. Carol Channing wanted to all by herself on stage, and -- to me -- Gower Champion was a dreadfully rude man." --From InTheater, February 27, 1998.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Patrick William Hughes. Scenic designer. Together since c. 1980.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Charles Joseph Reilly. Commercial artist.
mother:
Signe Elvera Reilly.

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