Charles Keating, Goodnight Sweet Prince
“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” —Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
My world got a little sadder recently with the passing of actor Charles Keating. When he said “Hello, my dear,” I’d melt.
Charles Keating was a sweet prince. Which is funny, because the role he was most famous for was the villainous Carl Hutchins on the soap opera Another World. He won a Daytime Emmy for that role.
Charles told me how fans would come up to him at restaurants and yell at him for being mean to other characters on the show. They weren’t quite able to separate fiction from reality. But it’s understandable, because Charles played Carl like one mean S.O.B. I got scared just looking at him with his silver hair and intense black eyebrows.
But the truth was, Charles was very kind, very generous, and was always a gentleman. Performing and acting meant everything to him, as did his family. He was a devoted husband and father. Even as he grew weaker from the ravages of cancer, he performed benefits at local venues in Connecticut with his wife Mary and two sons, singing, and telling wildly raucous stories. The family that plays together, stays together.
At his last public performance, a benefit for the Weston Public Library, it was noticeable that Charles was starting to lose some strength in his voice. The audience didn’t mind. At one point in the show, after Charles recited a poem by W.B. Yeats, my husband whispered in my ear, “Now I see why you like this guy so much.”
It’s true. Charles was a romantic and was hard to resist. Whatever he was doing, you just wanted to be with him.
I’ll always remember the time Charles invited me to his home to have tea with him and actor James “Jamie” Cromwell. The two had been close friends since the 1960s, while working at the Charles Playhouse in Boston. Each had struggled for years in show business before finding success. Jamie credited Charles for giving him his big break.
In this video below, Jamie tells the story about how a “friend from Connecticut” advised him to take the part of Farmer Hoggett in Babe because it would give him a free trip to Australia, and if the film bombed he could blame the pig.
Taking his friend’s advice was the turning point in James Cromwell’s career. He was nominated for an Oscar for Babe, and has never looked back.
Many people are going to miss Charles Keating terribly. Our collective solace is being fortunate to have had him, for a brief time, in our lives.